One of my favorite memories growing up is the magnificent century that Saeed Anwar scored against India during the 1997 Independence Cup Semifinal.
22 stylish fours and 5 humongous sixes helped him score a near double century (194 off 146) in Chennai. At that time he had set a record for the highest individual score in ODIs overtaking the great Vivian Richard’s 189.
His demolition of Indian bowlers Venkatesh Prasad and Anil Kumble made it even more special …. mostly because they were Indians.
The Magical Touch
It was not just this innings that defined Saeed Anwar. He is known for his amazing timing, superb placement and classy batting style. His offside technique and style is unmatched and he regularly annihilated bowlers on the off side.
Ramiz Raja, former Pakistan Captain and prolific commentator, said that
‘[Anwar] used an eclectic approach to batting – classical betrothed to unorthodox, footwork against spin as quick as a hiccup supple yet powerful to brush the field like a Picasso.’
Starting his career against the mighty West Indies, Anwar did not impress much on his debut, but the opener was destined for greatness and made a swift comeback.
Upon retirement, he had 247 ODI matches to his name and amassed 8,824 runs at an average of 39.21. His tally of runs makes him the third highest run scorer in ODIs and his tally of centuries – 20 in total – is the most by any Pakistani in the ODI format.
He had a prolific test career as well. With 55 Test matches under his belt he ended up scoring 4,052 at the average of 45.52, making him the seventh highest run scorer in tests for Pakistan.
These 4,052 runs were marked with 11 centuries and 25 half-centuries. What is remarkable is that most of his centuries were scored on away tours which is considered a task for most Asian batsman.
Saeed was also honored with captaining Pakistan in 7 tests and 11 ODIs, but had little success and was subsequently removed from the post. However, he resumed his batting form and continued to score big.
Cricketer of the Year – 1997
In 1997, Saeed was honored by being named one of Wisden’s cricketers of the year along with Mustaq Ahmed, Sachin Tendulkar, Sanath Jayasuriya and Phill Simmons.
Saeed Anwar had risen to be a crowd favorite due to his impeccable timing and smooth shots, with Wisden describing one of his shots as
‘[Saeed] moved his front foot and head well across, then his wrists hovered, hawk-like, over the advancing ball, extending further and further as if they were elastic if the ball was slanted ever more away from him, before the bat flowed into a square-drive to the boundary.’
Saeed Anwar lost his daughter in 2001 after which he took a hiatus from cricket and joined the Tabghleegi Jamaat and began preaching Islam. He returned to cricket after a long hiatus and performed reasonably in the 2003 world cup. His performance however, lost its consistency and he opted to retire from cricket soon after.
An elegant batsmen, we have yet to see an opener of Saeed Anwar’s caliber in the Pakistani ranks. Let’s hope we find one soon as the absence of a good opener is costing Pakistani cricket a lot.
Photo Credit: ESPN Cricket Info