Muhammad Zahid – Extraordinary Talent Who Vanished into Dark
Muhammad Zahid’s extraordinary talent went into the dark. Be it the 19th century or the 21st century, fast bowling has always been at the forefront in different forms. During the last decade of the 19th century, a number of genuine fast-blowers came onto the scene, some of whom stayed for a long time while others vanished almost as soon as they appeared.
Pakistan has had the lion’s share even in this category of tear-way fast bowlers, along with the likes of Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, and Shoaib Akhtar. It has also had Muhammad Zahid as a really speedy bowler. Had he played consistently, he would have definitely been at the highest stage.
Muhammad Zahid was born on August 2, 1976, in a hardly known place called Gaggu Mandi. Zahid always had the passion to bowl fast. He started his Test career in 1996–97, when he devastated New Zealand with 11 wickets, hauling 4 for 64 and 7 for 66 at Rawalpindi. He became the first Pakistani and 14th bowler overall to take 10 or more wickets on his Test debut. Later, he went to Australia, where he stunned the cricketing world with his sheer pace. Muhammad Zahid’s next stop was Sri Lanka, where he went on his feet but returned on a stretcher. He also failed to bring to completion his contract with the English county of Nottinghamshire due to his back injury.
However, the next season passed with Zahid failing to recover, but he eventually made it to the national side. He still impressed many, if not all, with his speed.
But again, he got injured in the Test series against Australia and has failed to bowl at his best since then. Though he tried hard to come back to domestic competition, he bowled aggressively. However, he could not get enough success after that. His impressive performance at the domestic level resulted in his being included in the debut Test against New Zealand.
His junior tour to New Zealand in 1994–95 was the turning point to catching his attention for the first time. He did well on that tour, and whoever saw his performance was looking towards Test cricket after that. He was encouraged by their statements and tried his best to divert national selectors’ attention away from him by bowling extremely fast and accurately wherever he played.
At one point, people were dreaming of Shoaib Akhtar and Muhammad Zahid bowling together. Especially the print media created a lot of hype when Shoaib Akhtar made his entry into the international level as the fastest bowler of all. But unfortunately, he didn’t get so much publicity when he played after his impressive Test debut and realized the extent of speed that he generated.
Due to a consistent series of injuries, he lost his pace. But print media recognized his talents, and he had to work hard to earn his name. In the 1996–97 seasons, his overall performance was quite satisfactory, when he took eight wickets against the touring New Zealand side at Sahiwal in the side game. After that, he took another 10 wickets against PIA in Karachi. His fitness level was quite good to become the first Pakistani bowler to take 10 or more wickets on his Test debut.
It was a dream start, no doubt, but he lost his way after that. He always tries his level best to satisfy his well-wishers and fans, who have great expectations of him. Another big moment came in Australia in 1996–97, when Pakistan won the Carlton and United Series for the first time.
The charm of playing cricket in Australia is completely different for him. He got a lot of praise on that tour, and many considered him the fastest bowler in the world. Zahid bowled a speedy over to Brian Lara, who was then a world-class batsman at that time.
He missed several balls just outside with his raw pace and aggression before edging the ball for a catch. He was having continuous back injuries, eventually cutting short his cricketing career. His last test match was in South Africa in 2003, in which Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs shared a record-breaking 368 opening partnership.
In an interview with Shoaib Akhtar, in which he applauds Muhammad Zahid and credits him as a yard quicker than him when he was bowling in 1997, however, Shoaib Akhtar picks up the pace after that and crosses the 100-mile barrier. Shoaib’s interview was fueling the debate about the fastest bowler in the world and whether he may have been one of the fastest bowlers of all time.
So, the Pakistan Cricket Board dropped him due to his continued injuries and loss of pace. He went into the dark, where he never came back. He played club cricket in England until 2014. Muhammad Zahid represented Pakistan, Multan, Pakistan Customs, PIA, and Rawalpindi teams in domestic cricket. Muhammad Zahid played five Tests for Pakistan, in which he took 15 wickets at an average of 33.47 with a career-best of 7 for 66. Therefore, he represented Pakistan in 11 ODI’s by taking 10 wickets at an average of 39.10, with 2 for 20 as his career-best.