Asif Iqbal: Pakistan’s first World Cup Captain
Asif Iqbal was the Pakistan’s captain in the 1st and 2nd Cricket World Cup in 1975 and 1979. The ageless retired cricketer currently provides ARY Sports with his expert opinions. Here I will provide a summary of his extraordinary cricketing career.
Asif Iqbal was born in Hyderabad, India in 1943. His was born into a family of exceptional cricketers. At a young age he was playing for Hyderabad in the Ranji Trophy. In 1961 together with his family, he migrated to Karachi. He quickly established himself into the local cricketing circuit, as an opening bowler and tail end batsman. In 1963 he was picked for the Pakistan Eaglets tour of England, he was the leading wicket taker and competent batsman.
The rising star’s Test debut was against Australia in 1964. The following year he excelled at bowling against New Zealand, taking a personal best 5/48 in the 1st Test and 5/52 in the 2nd. He also contributed well with the bat in the lower order.
In 1967 on the tour to England in the 1st Test at Lord’s, Asif Iqbal reputation became known internationally. With Pakistan collapsing to 139/7, Asif batting at no.9, made 76 runs supporting Hanif Mohammad (187 no) in a partnership of 130. The follow on was avoided and the match drawn.
In the 3rd Test at The Oval, Pakistan once again stumbled to 53/7. Once again Asif Iqbal produced an incredible rear guard action making an extraordinary 146, (his maiden Test century and a record score for a no.9 batsman at the time). The partnership of 190 with Intikhab Alam (51 runs) was also a Test record for the 9th wicket. When Asif completed his hundred the Pakistani fans rushed into the ground and held him aloft. The match was lost, however Pakistan showed immense fighting spirit and gained respect. Asif Iqbal now an accomplished batsman was promoted to the middle order. Due to injury he decided against continuing as an opening bowler and became a medium pacer. He secured his future role as an all rounder. In his whole career he scored 3 centuries against England.
In 1968 Asif Iqbal was named as Wisden Cricketer of the Year, a prestigious honour. His performances attracted the attention of Kent County Cricket Club, for whom he played from 1968 to 1982. He also captained Kent in 1977 and 1981/82. As a youngster I would often arrive at Trent Bridge specially to watch Asif Iqbal play against Nottinghamshire.
Asif was described at the time as a natural athlete and brilliant all rounder. He was confident and performed well under pressure, often holding the tail end together for much needed runs. He came to Pakistan’s rescue on numerous occasions. He thrived on challenges. He was always a gentleman, popular, well spoken and stylish. His elegant batting was known for his quick footwork and lightning running between the wickets. He was a graduate and possessed a quick cricketing brain. He set the standard for other players, he was a role model.
In 1972/73 Dunedin, New Zealand he reached his highest Test score 175, winning the match. He scored 3 centuries against New Zealand in total.
In 1975 Asif Iqbal was made captain for the very first Cricket World Cup in England. Pakistan performed well and could have reached the semi finals. Against West Indies, the match was nearly won at 166/8. However a record 9th wicket stand of 64, pushed the eventual winners West Indies through to the next stage.
With captaincy Asif developed a strong character and was articulate enough not to be intimidated by senior members of the Pakistan Board. He would fight for the benefit of the players.
In 1976/77, in Australia against the world’s premium fast bowlers Lillee and Thompson, Asif’s performance was impressive. Scoring 152 not out in the 1st Test. In the 3rd Test he scored 120, Imran Khan took 12 wickets and the Test was won, series drawn. Asif scored 3 centuries against Australia in total.
In 1977 Asif Iqbal was the first Pakistani player to be approached by Kerry Packer for the revolutionary series. Asif was shrewd, could foresee the commercialisation of cricket and better rewards for players. Not to mention the superstar status. He together with some other high profile Pakistan players joined the squad, much to the disapproval of the Pakistan Board.
After the situation was smoothed over Asif was back as Pakistan’s captain and led them in the 2nd Cricket World Cup in 1979, also in England. This time Pakistan made it through to the semi finals again losing to the eventual winners West Indies. This was Asif’s last one day international.
Asif, aged 37 years played his last Test match against India in Kolkata, in 1980. He played 58 Test matches, scored 3575 runs at an average of 38.9. Highest score 175, 11 centuries and 12 fifties. Also taking 53 wickets. In ten, one day internationals he averaged 55 with the bat, 16 wickets taken.
Dear Asif Iqbal Sahib, finally I have a humble request on behalf of all your thousands of fans around the world, please write an autobiography. I am sure it will be a best seller!