DateLine: 14th July 2005
Where would Pakistan cricket have been in the 1990s without the stylish Saeed Anwar and how sore our eyes are now that he has left the cricket arena? Forming a dynamic opening partnership with Aamer Sohail, Saeed at one time was One-Day International cricket’s most prolific century-maker. From his delicate glance off the hips to his flashing cover-drives to his lofty strokes down the ground, Saeed Anwar's strokeplay was chocolate for the eyes. When Saeed decided to dedicate his life to his religious obligations after the 2003 World Cup, Pakistan cricket lost a superb left-hand opening batsman and a national asset.
Saeed's cricket story is one of the most tortuous start and stop careers in world cricket. If it is anything to go by, he started off his international Test career with a pair and ended it with a century. But, in between, so much more happened than numbers can even suggest.
After one of the humbler starts in world cricket in 1989, Saeed, starting off predominantly as a One-Day player, was dropped from the international squad for the West Indies tour in 1993. He made a resounding return later in the year in Sharjah, scoring three successive centuries and becoming only the second Pakistani after Zaheer Abbas to do so. His partnerships with Aamer Sohail were a supporting shoulder for Pakistan's batting order all through the 1990s. After a wonderful World Cup in 1996 which ended with one of the darkest defeats in Pakistan cricket history in Bangalore against arch-rivals India, Saeed continued to hammer the opposition bowlers on English soil and subsequent series in 1996. Saeed's magnificent calendar year earned him the Wisden Cricketer of the Year award in 1997.
An arcane illness plagued him at the end of 1996. After recovery, Saeed once again marked his return to international cricket with a vengeance, racking up 194 in a solitary One-Day innings in Madras in the Independence Cup in India in 1997, the highest score by an individual in a One-Day match. Saeed continued his good run till the 1999 World Cup in England which saw him help Pakistan reach the final. In 2000, a knee injury forced him out of competitive cricket for a year.
Shortly after his third return to international cricket, Saeed Anwar played his last Test match against Bangladesh in Multan during which he learnt of the death of his infant daughter. He turned into a devout Muslim shortly afterwards and later commented that Islam had helped him become a stoic sportsman. He was one of the several veteran players playing for Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup. In his second-last innings against India, he creamed a glorious century to enable Pakistan to reach a competitive total. He officially retired from the game in August 2003 when he cited that his services were no longer required by the team.
Born in 1968 in Karachi, Saeed appeared in 55 Tests and 247 ODIs for Pakistan. He averaged 45.52 in Tests and 39.21 in ODIs. He accumulated more than 12,000 runs in international cricket. Despite scoring 31 tons, the fact that he could not add a double century to his cricketing resume might be his greatest unfulfilled wish. Turning his left arm over, Saeed also took 6 ODI wickets and also snapped up 60 catches during his international career. After retirement, he had a short stint in the National Cricket Academy as batting coach. Saeed Anwar will, no doubt, live long in the memories of those who had the fortune to watch him.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2005 Ateeq Abdul Rauf email:firstname.lastname@example.org)