Javed Miandad or Hanif Mohammad: Who is Pakistan’s best batsman?

Published: August 24, 2013
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Javed Miandad celebrates after winning the match with a six off the last ball. PHOTO: ESPNCRICINFO

The Karachi Parsi Institute lies in the heart of old Karachi. It is hallowed ground, a place where history was made some fifty-four years back. On a sultry Karachi afternoon with a few thousand spectators in attendance, Hanif Mohammad crossed Sir Donald Bradman to record the then-highest first class score of 499, a record which stood for thirty-five years. The swaying trees witnessed much but nothing more precious than that nugget.  

It was there, in the KPI Cricket ground where I raised the question of who is the greatest ever Pakistani batsman.

In the ensuing debate the names of Zaheer, Majid, Inzamam, Anwar, Yousuf and Asif Iqbal came up as the best batsmen for Pakistan. Disagreements abounded, but eventually everyone agreed on two names between which we must decide, names which represent the different eras of Pakistan cricket: Hanif Mohammad and Javed Miandad.

Irresistible force versus immovable object’

The two greatest batsmen from Pakistan and indeed all-time greats were not quite cut from the same cloth.

Prodigiously gifted and precocious, the one thing they had in common was the dogged pursuit of success and an endless appetite for runs.

Hanif was the gentleman of the old school who went about his business with quiet resolve and the temperament of a Himalayan glacier. Immovable, resolute, impregnable. It could be his upbringing in the serene surroundings of pre-partition Junagadh and the uncountable hours of practice on his bungalow’s terrace that gave Hanif his immense powers of concentration.

Javed learned his cricket in the rough-and-tumble world of road cricket and honed his game to become a street fighter in cricketing whites. His abrasive comebacks, panther-like running, swooping upon the cricket ball and tenacity in adversity spoke volumes about the way the game is played in innumerable streets of Pakistan. A mustachioed maharaja, he lorded over the opposition and in his pomp gave no quarter nor expected any.

Pakistani Cricketer Hanif Mohammad. PHOTO: Cricinfo

Vanguard of the willow-wielders

Statistics bewilder and confound. AH Kardar’s “find of the decade”, Javed had a century at debut, the youngest player at the time to do so. He soon became the youngest batsman to score a double, a record held by George Headley for 47 years. Although not from the classical mold, he had all shots in the book and then some. His aggregate of 8,832 Test runs is a Pakistani record. His 23 centuries and 43 fifties were national records, until broken by Inzamamul Haq. His Test batting average never dropped below 50 and 52.57 is highest for Pakistani batsmen, as are his six double centuries. Javed was instrumental in many of the greatest moments of Pakistan cricket. Test wins in England and India in ‘87, drawn series in West Indies in ’88, World Cup ’92, all bear the stamp of Javed’s flashing blade. Then there is the small matter of the last ball six in Sharjah. The innings was a symphony of brutal hits and deft touches and ushered in an era of Pakistani domination over India until Misbah’s miscue in the 2007 World T20. Iftikhar Ahmed’s words “1 ball left, four runs required, …and it’s a six!” are seared upon an entire generation of cricket fans and many reprise it in fantasies.

Dennis Lillee and Javed Miandad clash. PHOTO: Cricinfo

Man of crisis

But if Javed was a master class in snatching victory from the jaws, nay the very innards of crushing defeat, Hanif was a maestro of the rear guard action that would make King Leonidas proud. One of the most exciting things in Tests is a team fighting to save a test match. Think Akmal and Razzaq in Mohali 2006, Brett Lee and McGrath in Old Trafford in 2005 Ashes or Faf Du Plessis’ back-to-the-wall innings against Australia in Adelaide and you realize that a team fighting for survival makes for frightfully compelling cricket. In Bridgetown, Barbados, 1958 Pakistan faced a deficit of 473 runs with over three and a half days of the match to go.

Let those numbers sink in. Run your thoughts over the mountain of runs, an eternity to play, searing heat, uncovered pitches, foreign conditions, moving ball, a fast ball attack to rival any, no limit to bouncers and minimal protective gear.

In this crisis to end all crisis cometh the man who was to break several records over the next 16 hours and 39 minutes of flinty batting. Legend says that a man perched on a palm tree fell down, broke his leg, had it put in a cast and came back to the ground only to watch Hanif bat on and on. He also broke the record for longest innings and runs scored.

Hanif’s record making vigil was only a part of his exploits.

In the Lord’s Test of 1967, Pakistan were in familiar self-destructive territory at 99 for six in reply to England’s first innings 369 when Hanif entrenched himself for nine hours and only ended his stay at 187 when he ran out of partners while single-handedly dragging Pakistan to 354. The writing was on the wall when he announced himself in Pakistan’s very first Test with a 195 minute 20 to draw the match. His first Test century came in a relatively spry nine hours and in Pakistan’s first test against Australia he made 104 and 93 to save his team from certain defeat. In those early days, with no live TV coverage and the barest of media exposure, he seemed like a demi-god hewn out of granite who could face up to the lumbering titans hurling lightning bolts at him all day long.

Indeed, when Bradman met him after his exploits in Australia he expected a giant of a man and was pleasantly surprised to see a diminutive genius with a similar physique. Bradman promptly named him ‘Little Master’ and though there have been a few who have been given that appellation, the 5 feet 6 inch wall of unyielding mind and flesh deserves it the most.

In by a whisker

In the end it comes down to similarities. Both were named Wisden Cricketer of the year, Hanif in 1968 and Javed in 1982. Both are among the four Pakistanis who have been inducted in the ICC’s Hall of Fame. They played for Karachi and had a testy relationship with their captains. Their batting styles and on field aura may have differed, but both had the same fiery competitive spirit and a never-say-die attitude. Many a cricketing fan would want them both in their dream team for with Hanif you couldn’t lose a match and with Javed you knew you would win.

My vote goes to Hanif purely because of the lack of support he had in his time. Javed had the pantheon of Pakistan batting in his corner, artists such as Majid, Zaheer, Asif Iqbal, Wasim Raja to back upon. Hanif, was often the last man on the burning deck and all the remained between Pakistan and ignoble defeat.

Sibtain Naqvi

Sibtain Naqvi

A writer and social commentator who has written extensively for various Pakistani English dailies. An art critic accredited by the AICA and the Royal College of Art, London, he dabbles in music and sports writing and tweets @Sibtain_N (twitter.com/Sibtain_N)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Muhammad Daniyal Rashid

    For me it has to be Mohammad Yousuf.

    Most international centuries by a Pakistani Batsman = 39.

    Major world record :

    Most centuries in a calendar year: 9
    Most runs in a calnendar year: 1788

    The only Pakistani batsman to have average above 40 and 50 in ODI cricket and test cricket simaltaneously i.e. 41 and 52.

    Why not Mohammad Yousuf ? :)Recommend

  • Parvez

    Asif Zardari……………..batting and still not out.
    Recommend

  • haider ali

    . Hanif remains a doyen of Pakistan Cricket, a legend who will never be forgotten.Recommend

  • http://Delhi INDIAN SHIA

    Zaheer abbas is best pakistani batsman toll dateRecommend

  • Rayan

    We cannot compare players from two entirely different eras…Both are legends of pakistan cricket…..Recommend

  • Kamran

    Pakistan has produced one of the best batsman in all times, if one would recollect their artistry, will find Little Master Hanif Mohammad playing master strokes all over, Zaheer Abbass”s famous square cut would glue your eyes to his genius, Majid Khans effortless stokes would lead you ponder how in the world he can play majistically, Mushtaq Muhammads unblieveable reverse sweep would make you jump of the edge of your seat, Mohsin Hassan Khans on drive would make you fall in love with cricket, Wasim Rajas big hits would increase your appetite for cricket,Asif Iqbals quick runs would make you learn the basis of one day cricket,Javed Miandads heave over midwicket would make you conquer any cricket playing team in the world,Inzamam Haqs lazy but lethal shots would take in you another dimension of cricket where Pakistan would still be the winner, Mohammad Yusufs famous inside out off side strokes would make you learn beauty of inside out, Yuonus Khans beautiful athletic upright follow through aftter a stroke would make you desire become a cricketer.
    No doubt Pakistan in all times have seen legends of cricket, but my vote will go for Javed Miandad,he would score runs like a machine, he had the ability to build the foundation of Pakistans innings, he would come to bat when Pakistan would be in severe crisis and he would still fight like a champion, he would improvise whole pakistans innings, he would constantly talk and guide to his fellow batsman at the crease,he would never like to get bogged down by any bowler and would frustrate any bowler with his street fighter instinct, he would run between wickets like a 100 meter sprinter and still not get tired.One would never forget his mind and body game as he would be looking all four corners of the ground like a fighter who would calculate his stroke and make the bowler feel intimated.
    The writer has mentioned big names in Miandads times , but he is oblivious of the fact that Miandads progress and rise started after these big names had retired and had nothing to do with his success, thats the irony when Miandad was Pakistans star batsman he had no big names inPakistan batting line up, he would come one or two down and the single handedly build pakistans innings, once Clive LLoyd from West Indies said if he had Miandad in Westindies”s team his team would have won every match just because of Miandad.Recommend

  • Genius

    If my memory does not fail me, Hanif scored 499 runs in Bahawalpur in 1959 in a First Class Cricket just before being run out. That happened in the afternoon as far as I can remember, while listening to running commentary on the Radio.
    His record was broken 35 years later by the West Indies wonder batsman Brian Lara. For more on Hanif Mohammed please visit: http://www.espncricinfo.com/pakistan/content/player/40373.htmlRecommend

  • LOK

    HanifRecommend

  • vande mataram

    i think for me no batsman comes close to Inzamam-ul-Haq , pakistan needs second inzamam as soon as possibleRecommend

  • http://khatirnama.blogspot.com pashto times

    Muhammad Yousaf …. Do you agree me and @Muhammad Danial Rashid. ???Recommend

  • gujranwala789

    Zaheer abbas was the best batsman pakistan has ever produced.Recommend

  • anon

    Because he’s a Sunni @Muhammad Daniyal Rashid: Recommend

  • anon

    Because he’s a staunchly religious [email protected] Daniyal Rashid: Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad

    Agreed with the writer. Afridi fans cannot understand qualities of a legend. Recommend

  • BlackJack

    The innings was a symphony of brutal hits and deft touches and ushered in an era of Pakistani domination over India until Misbah’s miscue in the 2007 World T20.
    I would say Hanif had far more class but Miandad had indomitable spirit, which helps inspire the team and demoralize competition. However, this line above is ridiculous, Pakistan’s domination of India ended with Akram and Waqar’s departure (apart from the fact that you have lost every single World Cup match even before the 2007 T20). In the 2000s, India was the dominant team on the subcontinent.Recommend

  • Kumar

    Neither of them is the best batsman produced by Pakistan. It has to be Inzamam ul Haq, who’s talent and services for Pakistan cricket cannot be quantified in terms of any averages and stuff. He was a pure pressure absorbent who won numerous games for Pakistan during the teams when its batting was at its weakest.
    – Miandad, on the other hand, had the luxury of having Zaheer Abbas, Majid Khan, Raja, Muddassar Nazar, Imran, Wasim, and many others.Recommend

  • AB

    Great batsmen,both. But the Pakistan batsmen who were a delight to watch for the sheer artistry of their batting were Saeed Anwar,Zaheer Abbas and Yousuf.Recommend

  • AB

    Wasim Raja,of course had the finest record against the West Indian speed merchants.That and the sheer audacity of his stroke play gave him a special place among Pakistani batsmen.Recommend

  • crickitwee

    Good article. Nicely written apart from the unnecessary and incorrect line about Misbah..(Pakistani domination over India until Misbah’s miscue in 2007) . We as a Nation have become accustomed to blaming every cricketing wrong upon one person- Misbah ( and wrongly so !!) For the record. Pakistani domination over India had ended ages ago (before 2007) especially in World Cup matches. 1996 Bangalore a case in point when Jadeja thrashed Waqar Younis and company and again in 2003 Tendulkar dismantled Shoaib Akhter with his masterclass in batting in Centurion. Pakistan had stopped dominating India ages ago before Misbah played that shot. ( had it not been for Misbah Paksitan had lost the match badly and much before and not made it to the last ball) . As for the greatest Pakistani Batsman it is Hanif Mohammed. Recommend

  • crickitwee

    My comment was not published! I like the article but take exception to the authors comment that Pakistan’s domination of India was ended by Misbah’s miscue in t20 2007 world cup final. Misbah keeps getting flak for no reason from some quarters of media who think that all the problems of Pakistan cricket began with his arrival. Pakistan’s domination of India had ended long before when Waqar younis was thrashed by Ajay Jadeja in World Cup 96 and when Tendulkar gave a batting masterclass at centurion to shoaib Akhter and Company in 2003. This was long before Misbah arrived on the scene in 2007. Infact it was only because of Misbah that Pakistan stayed in the game till last ball of the final they seemed to have lost badly .As for the greatest batsman ever produced by Pakistan. Hanif Mihammed should take the honours floowed by Miandad, Inzimam, Yousaf and Zaheer Abbas. Recommend

  • jagjit sidhoo

    Hanif Recommend

  • http://www.ahmadfuad.pk Ahmad Fuad

    Good Analysis indeed…
    However, being a cricketer, I believe both the legends are uncompareable. Miandad’s resilience and Hanif’s consistency were matchless.
    Both the legends left a long list of greats behind them who served Pakistan very well.
    Even Javed was Hanif’s extension who trained people like Salim Malik (not the fixing part) & Inzamam-ul-Haq.Recommend

  • Namaloom Afraad

    It has got to be Inzy. The guy still holds the record for most centuries in success. 17 of his 24 test centuries came in wins. HE was a strong leader too unlike Javed or Hanif. My vote for the big manRecommend

  • Blunt

    Being a young Pakistani cricket follower, I didn’t get to watch live in action the legends like Hanif Muhammad or Zaheer Abbas, while only watched few matches of Javed Miandad when he was in the tail end of his career. As far as recent Pakistani cricket is concerned, I think players like Saeed Anwar, Inzimam and Muhammad Yousuf were our batting heros. Given that M.Yousuf was not discarded in his last few years of career, he would have been ‘Sachin’ of Pakistan. Anyways, why we don’t have such figures at present in our team.Recommend

  • Akoo

    Nicely argued piece, with great historical facts about cricket, the author clearly has a knack for authentic sports journalismRecommend

  • S Naqvi

    Zaheer, Majid, Inzamam, Anwar, and Yousuf are all great batsman but a few considerations need to be taken into account. Zaheer and Majid’s records simply do not match up to Hanif and Javed’s. Weigh in the lack of protected gear, uncovered pitches, bowling laws, great pace attacks and home umpires and you can discount the batsmen of the past two decades. Inzamam and Yousuf have a plethora of runs but their records will always be diluted because batting used to be a much dicer affair in the era before theirs. Recommend

  • Ali HMB

    Love this piece, If there ever were pillars of civilaization, cricket would be paramount in the foundation. A historical sport filled with ethics and traditions. I would go with Hanif anyday, consistent batsmen, holds various crickt statistics to his name, but i’m sure mainstream cricket affectionados would recall Javed’s many feats too, he surely loves to save the day, certainly has a herioc factor within him.Recommend

  • Manoo

    Well documented article with touches upon indepth historical facts and cricket’s anecdotes encompassing the sports hall of fame.Recommend

  • Nouman

    Inzy, Inzy and Inzy. No one either come close to the greatness of Sultan of Multan. He was a Super Hero for me in my childhood. His just one inning (Against Bangladesh Multan Test 2003) ranked him above all the Pakistani Batsmen Recommend

  • http://www.infotainmentmag.wordpress.com Syed Muhammad Naqi Abbas

    Test Cricket, no doubt is the icon of this beautiful game originated from England. Hanif Muhammad Retired before birth of One Day Cricket. So, in my opinion its fair to confine analysis within Test Cricket boundries. And here based on TV prrgrams and reading from cricket magazine i believe Hanif was the greatest Pakistani Test Player. But at the same time we must not forget to include innovations that Javaid Miandad brought into One Day Cricket. He is a true legend in Onde Day International Cricket History of Pakistan. Recommend

  • Ali Tahir

    Zaheer Abbas! The only Pakistani with over 100 first class centuries. Recommend

  • Umair

    M.Yousuf is my all time favourite however we can not compare his average with averages of Hanif n Miandad in last tenures because in last decades facing fast bowling was v difficult with quick n bouncy wickets wid least protection and maximum bouncers allowed….Recommend

  • Talha Sabri

    Very well reviewed facts. Good workRecommend

  • Sebastian Nicolinni

    Woah!! After ages have come across a tremendous display of cricket fanboy love vary to an archeological dig, loads of information about Cricket and the most famous of teams within the realm of the sport, the Pakistani Cricket team! Although i will always cheer for my country but when Pakistan plays its keen curiosity to watch their matches, Recommend

  • Ali Q London

    Good work appreciate the heavy research on Naqvis part though I have an inkling this knowledge of the sport is something he is closely passionate about. Such attributes are important in journalists which separates the men from the boys. Bravo Sibtain! Another spellbinding blog from u!Recommend

  • Omer PURDUE

    I look forward to such readings, brings a certain amount of “feel good” factor to it as well. Sports is a great distraction and a very valuable distraction from all the negativeness in the country. It is the one medium, along the lines of film/TV weather where people for a change can debate on something other than religion/politics/hatred. And as always Sibtain never disappointing us with his blogs, always a pleasure to see your stuff!Recommend

  • Mount Lavinia

    A Debate as to who is the true Titan of Pakistani cricket, after reading your defence for Hanif, I must admit u have given concrete evidence to Hanif. He was the player with finesse, style and debonair. The golden ages of cricket Recommend

  • Zunair Ejaz

    In my opinion, its Inzmam-ul-Haq, the most compact ever batsman produced by Pakistan. Recommend

  • Nazia ABN

    A Profound observation of our cricket history. Ur blogger profile includes vast genres for Nostalgia, International Politics, Religon, and the coverage of sports, sibtains obviously one of the few gifted writers of ET along with Jahanzaib Haque who can create magic. Recommend

  • Veet Expo

    Good cricket anecdotesRecommend

  • Julian Saddar

    Reading this was tantamount on watching a good sports documentary, keep up the good work Mr. NaqviRecommend

  • Julian Saddar

    Reading this was tantamount on watching a good sports documentary, Keep up the good work Mr.NaqviRecommend

  • Fiz

    For the poise:Hanif Mohammad and for the style: Javed Miandad.
    Well I’m a great supporter of green shirts. I like both of them although I never saw Hanif playing.Recommend

  • Rehan Ali

    Both had to face similar pressures and in terms how they dealt with them made them legends. Comparing the likes of Inzimam, Yousuf etc to these spirited titans is blasphemous. What set Hanif and Javed apart is their “never give up” attitude and if I were to chose amongst them I find Hanif to be leading Javed but only by a whisker. Recommend

  • Hanif Samoon

    It will be unfaire to compare these two greats with rest of others. Both were the class of their own.Recommend

  • Zoya

    Love Sibtain’s writing. Very charming and handsome!!Recommend

  • Azmaira

    @Zoya
    hahaha i love how Sibtain’s blogs start a flury of debate, speculation and genuine fanfare amongst its readers, I for one am an ardent follower of his articles,

    Hanif Mohammad was before my time, but regarding Maidad, his appeal still resonates with mainstream cricket fans even today.

    In the authors opinion and i certainly do understand the professional and old school cricket aristocracy of Hanif Mohammad, now i’m certainly having a hard time deciding amongst the two since both of them; Hanif and Javed belong to two different eras of cricket, and stand evenly on their own ground.

    Even though i dont think iv seen a single match played by Hanif, i would go with the statistics and the circumstances and chose Hanif Mohammad as the alltime best Batsmen, with Javed Miadad coming in a close secondRecommend

  • Universal

    I voter for Hanif Mohammad!Recommend

  • Shahwilayat

    The heavy research undertaken here is greatly appreciated, i enjoyed the sports history lesson embedded within the blog, Good Stuff. Hanif Mohammad any day of the week!Recommend

  • Fahad Canadian

    Well written, insightful, amazing cricket facts iv learned by reading thisRecommend

  • Shakaib IBA

    The fragments of unified sports rankings cannot be called into realism.

    This is so since each player within the same sport, which the sample size suggests, then each player has completely different statistics.

    Both hanif Mohammed and javed Maindad are from completely different eras, grading them primarily on their batting styles serves as the more logical approach.

    Since hanif Mohammed in my opinion is a batsmen brimmed with poise, style, professionalism and first and forehand is a consistent and dependable factor in the batting realms of cricket.
    These are the factors which are most important when making a grading score for players in todays “Moneyball” world.

    Todays players although rack up feat-worthy stats like Inzamam, etc but sadly none of them can hold a candle to hanif Mohammed.

    In the end the Federer like respect for the sport shall prevail. And as the author can clearly be leaning towards in his decision, ultimately i shall agree with Sibtain and go for Hanif Mohammed.Recommend

  • Rashid

    Why not Tendulkar? After all India (Delhi throne) belongs to us.Recommend