Thursday, 12 April 2007

Saqlain Mushtaq

As the 2007 county season approaches, we will be compiling a list of six men to watch; not necessarily the finest players, but those with particularly significant and interesting seasons ahead.

Saqlain Mushtaq (Sussex)
Saqlain has had an extraordinary career. He is often acclaimed as the first off-spinner to master the doosra; he has also claimed 496 wickets, and was the fastest ever bowler to reach 100 ODI wickets.

In county cricket, his subtle variations and the desperate unease shown by English batsmen playing spin meant he was undeniably the key man in Surrey’s three County Championship wins of 1999-2002. His brilliance was such that he took 124 first-class wickets from just 19 games during ’99 and 2000 – at an average of 13.

But he over-bowled during his heyday, making him susceptible to injuries and reducing his mystique. Batsmen slowly grew accustomed to his bowling, and began picking his variations more readily. Accordingly, his effectiveness diminished; in ’03, he took 41 wickets for Surrey at 33 and, in his last Test, in March 2004, Sehwag and co plundered him for 204 runs.

He has been a sadly peripheral figure since, after an injury-ruined three years. But he is just 30 – and many spinners have peaked at a later age. Saqlain only needs to look at his compatriot Mushtaq Ahmed for evidence of how cricketing careers can be rejuvenated. If Sussex can reinvigorate Saqlain as they have Mushtaq, the sight of the two Pakistanis whirling away in tandem this campaign will be quite something.


Omar said...

Can you imagine him making the English test team (since his wife is British, I believe he also qualifies), and then destroying the Pakistani team in a test match?

How ironic would that be? :D

Also, I just wanted to say that I've enjoyed reading Third Umpire for the past few days, good job guys!

Chrispy said...

Certainly will rival Warne and Udal. Nice to see some of the finest spinners in cricket playing domestically, can only help develop English batsman and bowlers.

Tim said...

Cheers Omar.

Yes, that would be very ironic - and him and Monty could be a great spin partnershop - but there would be outcry were it to happen.

Andy Flower has been qualified for over a year, and is still patently the best keeper-batsman (he averaged about 70 for Essex last season). But, thankfull in my view, the selectors would never dare to pick a player who has played Test cricket elsewhere.

Whinging Pom said...

I had no idea Saqlain was back for Sussex this year. Surely this cements their positions as one of the favourites for the title again. Sussex vs Hampshire could be a game to behold, with the giants of spin going head to head on what I would think to be turning pitches. Wonder how many batsmen will pick the doosra this year?