Asif Iqbal is leading the invasion. The present tour of the Pakistani team is the culmination of the desire of millions of cricket lovers in this part of the subcontinent. To Asif Iqbal Rizvi, captain of the Pakistani team, it is the fulfillment of a burning ambition—to lead his country in a Test, and that too against India.
Asif Iqbal was born in Hyderabad in 1943 and received his school and college education there. Nephew of India’s former off-spinner and captain, Ghulam Ahmad, Asif has cricket in his blood. He was barely 17 when he first represented Hyderabad in the Ranji Trophy in the 1959–60 season and then in the 1960–61 season. His performances were barely noteworthy, as he totaled 138 runs and took seven wickets in three matches.
The discerning was hardly given an opportunity to assess his worth as he chose to migrate to Karachi, Pakistan. The cricket he had learned in Hyderabad, India, was honed and developed in Karachi and within four years of his migration, he had donned the Pakistani cap in a test. His debut was against the Bobby Simpson-led Australian team in Karachi in 1964-65.
Since then, this 36-year-old professional cricketer has not looked back and has already played 52 Tests for his country. It has been an illustrious career spanning 15 years during which his batting prowess has seen him amass 3,308 runs at an average of 39.85, with 175 at Dunedin in 1972-73 against New Zealand as his highest score.
Asif Iqbal has hit 11 centuries in Test cricket (the same number as Viswanath), besides 10 other half-century knocks. His medium-pace swing bowling has fetched him 51 wickets at 28.05 runs apiece, with 5 for 48 at Wellington against New Zealand in 1964–65 as his best bowling figures.
Due to a recurrent shoulder problem, Asif has been unable to bowl much but under favorable conditions, his gentle-paced swingers pose many problems. Asif is undoubtedly one of the ‘best all-rounders the game has known and he must rank along with his predecessor Mushtaq Mohammad as the finest all-rounder Pakistan has produced.
Asif is a widely traveled and experienced cricketer who has represented Kent in the English County Championship since 1968. He led Pakistan in the 1975 and 1979 Prudential World Cups but in 1975 he could not participate actively due to an ailment that necessitated an operation.
It is believed that it was during this trip that he got into heated arguments with the then BCCP chief, A.H. Kardar and then masterminded the cricketers’ revolt in Pakistan, which saw the ouster of Kardar. Asif has long been having tiffs with the authorities and it is rumored that his choice as Pakistan’s captain has not been widely welcomed in cricket circles in Pakistan.
Some believe that Mushtaq Muhammad, Sarfraz Nawaz, and Haroon Rasheed belong to the anti-Asif block and have therefore not been selected. At 36, Asif is no longer young, yet he is fit and active. He appears to have a lot of cricket left in him. Right now, he must be feeling a bit tense as he is on trial as a Test captain.
Under Mushtaq Muhammad a year ago, Pakistan won 2-0 in a three-test series. The Pakistani public must be expecting a similar performance from Asif Iqbal and his men, but beating India at home is a different proposition.