The term born cricketer when applied to Mushtaq Muhammad attains a new dimension. He was born into a cricketing family. A renowned cricketing family which has produced four Test cricketers. For ‘Mush’, as he is popularly known, family and cricket are variations on the same theme. “I always care for the impression people have about my family.
I play cricket not only for myself but also to uphold the inherent family traditions.” All five brothers (there are no sisters!) were born in Junagadh in India. Only the eldest, Raees Muhammad, has not represented Pakistan on the cricket field — a fact which their mother, a sportswoman in her own right, laments.
According to her, Raees Muhammad had greater potential than all the other brothers. However, Mushtaq Muhammad made his Test debut at the age of fifteen (a world record) against the West Indies in 1958. Since then he has come a long way. Today he is a thorough-bred professional. His consistency after a decade of English cricket is admirable and, by virtue, typical.
Mushtaq has that fighting quality, and the desire to tackle difficult situations. The pleasure of cricket is simply staying in the middle and the obvious dislike of getting out. He has also matured considerably. Gone are the days when he would hook anything which lifted. At the cost of the flair and aggression of the Mushtaq Muhammad of the early sixties has come a player of discretion and sound judgment.
A vital member of the Pakistani batting line-up which consists of stroke makers who tend to ‘lose’ their heads — and often throw their wickets as well! Mushtaq’s contribution is not limited to his personal score but also extends to the guidance and confidence he generates among his team members. Zaheer Abbas 274 runs at Edgbaston would hardly have been possible without Mushtaq’s reassuring influence at the other end.
However, Mushtaq’s cricketing abilities do not end with the bat. He is an excellent close-in fielder, especially in the short-leg position. He is also among the finest leg-spin bowlers in the world today. However, the use of his flight leg-spinners has been limited in Test cricket due to the presence of another excellent leg-spin bowler, Intikhab Alam.
This year, Northamptonshire has granted Mushtaq a benefit match. A gesture which is not only an appreciation for him to represent as a sportsman for over a decade of service but the quality and persistence of his endeavors. Mushtaq Muhammad is an essential part of Northamptonshire’s cricket. Apart from his batting consistency, in recent years there has been a deadly spinning alliance with Bishen Singh Bedi.
Perhaps even more important than the benefit match is Northants’ decision to make Mushtaq their skipper for the coming season — one of the few overseas imports to get that honor. It is certainly a well-deserved accolade to a sporting gentleman. Commenting on Mushtaq, John Arlott, the famous English commentator and critic, wrote, “Once the impression of Mushtaq as a light-hearted cricketer is dispelled, he becomes one of the most savored.
Before he faces a ball he gives his bat the Muhammed family twirl and then, stern jutting, he is prepared to face whatever the bowler may deliver. Whether he attacks or defends, he is an entertaining batsman to watch because he is so fluent in movement, so balanced, adroit, and essentially aggressive.
His resistance is never graceless nor lacking in imagination. In the most dogged innings, he will identify the punishable ball and demolish it with a splendid punitive stroke.” The family tradition, it seems, will continue.
Mushtaq Muhammad’s 10-year-old son is already showing signs of talent. I want to give Munaf a sound footing. He is already being groomed. I coach him, and I think he picks up very fast. I hope he’ll represent his, country.” And so it goes on.