One simply cannot take Saeed Anwar’s name without mentioning his magnificent 194. In cricketing lexicon, it’s become a Siamese twin scenario. These are two facets that need one another in order to exist.
That monumental knock, truly epochal in all forms, earned Saeed Anwar his globetrotting, headline-making stardom. But there’s more to 194 than what one commonly observes.
Could there have been a better occasion for the left-hander to carve (what was then) ODI cricket’s highest individual score, against Pakistan’s arch-rivals, in a tournament ably titled Independence Cup?
It was a knock that back then, seemed ahead of its times. Coming at a strike rate of 130 and above, this was a full-moon occurrence in cricketing terms in an age that treasured conservatism and was alien to powerplays and DRS reviews.
Saeen Anwar brought calm to Pakistan’s vulnerable batting
While Sachin’s feats before, including his sparkling counter-attack against Abdul Qadir, gave India an upper hand in its battle against Pakistan, Saeed Anwar’s 194 played the equalizer, of sorts.
In the astonishment and polarising wave of emotions, it sort of drew India and Pakistan closer toward sharing highs, constructed against one another.
Despite the contrasting fortunes, it brought each side, it truly did bring both India and Pakistan closer toward playing more competitive cricket than before in the times ahead.
To this day, there may not be an Indian fan who may not hold his head in despair reminiscing Saeed Anwar’s masterclass, served on Indian soil. And yet, there may be few other innings that are perhaps respected in the same verve of regard as Anwar’s 194.
You didn’t disrespect Saeed Anwar. Few entertained the idea of sledging Saeed Anwar. It was an event that came with a disclaimer.
Watch out; for you might awaken the giant.
The stares that Curtly Ambrose threw at him in Sharjah long before didn’t help the Windies on a few occasions. Yet, Anwar regained a sense of modesty and innocence about him. He wasn’t the one who’d blurt out explosives.
He did like chewing an odd gum.
Maybe, it was advocative of him wanting to relish a better taste than what most batsmen eschewed, only at the cost of getting enraged on 22 yards.
A bit like Mark Waugh, Saeed Anwar both advocated grace and had an absolute disregard for theatrics.
Anwar: A Giant for Pakistan’s Cricket
The images of Saeed Anwar working the wayward delivery hurled at his pads to fine leg for a boundary under Sharjah’s simmering heat are now the stuff of cricket’s sepia-tinted memories of the nineties.
In his pomp, a phrase often used to sketch the persona of batsmen like Lara, Ponting, and Sangakkara, Anwar was a colossus for Pakistan Cricket.
He was unbent in his focus. He liked a great challenge.
But a question still remains.
Has cricket awarded Saeed Anwar his true standing in international cricket?
Has cricket endeavoured to break down the leftie, taking a sojourn into the realm beyond stats to understand who this hitherto less-appreciated modern-great truly was?
This leaves us fans with a job at our hand. Perhaps, there’s a sense to understand a Saeed Anwar that exists in isolation of his 194, a knock on which, his enigma and persona have often been forced to rest.
Who really was Saeed Anwar?
Let’s begin with a small example.
In his description of the great Rahul Dravid, Matt Hayden has shed a new philosophy of sorts, stating if one wanted to see true aggression, one didn’t have to look elsewhere; it could be seen in the eyes of ‘The Wall’.
In a similar vein, it suffices to say, if one wished to understand the most passive form of violence and aggression, it rested in Saeed Anwar’s batting. Where was another more elegant destroyer of the bowler and that white-ball other than Anwar in thick form?
We regard Jayasuriya for shattering the confidence of bowlers. We remember multiple occurrences of a Brian Lara-counterattack. But back in the day, there was no one more admired and feared than Saeed Anwar, who often mastered good deliveries, undeserving of punishment by simply leaning into his shots.
He evoked poetry with the bat just after greats like David Gower and Zaheer Abbas had retired. He painted sterling efforts using his staid charisma even before the likes of VVS and Rohit Sharma arrived.
Grace under pressure
He did that consistently and lovingly as one of Pakistan’s determined sons, whether it was in his 119 at the Gabba where he tamed Fleming and smoked Warne to the covers. If someone wanted to cover an understudy of perseverance, disguising itself in a fluid batting style, one would cite Saeed Anwar’s 169, carved with tremendous grit at Wellington.
It’s both pleasant and graceful to sight in Saeed Anwar, not a man who chased records whining like a petulant child. And at the same time, it’s heartening to uncover a treasure trove of mind-boggling stats he presides over.
For a batsman whose 11 Test hundreds and 68 collective fifties aren’t cited in remembering his best, it’s interesting to note that his maiden Test ton came in the form of that 169.
For any newcomer, it signals a voracious appetite to score.
The batsman with a quiet charisma
During India versus Pakistan games, one remembers the near-blasphemy featuring Aamir Sohail and Prasad, an event that occurred, rather needlessly, with Prasad holding the last laugh. At the same time, one’s glad to note that it wasn’t Saeed Anwar courting the storm, initiating a shenanigan.
At all times, he maintained the decency that one would expect from one of cricket’s most understated batsmen.
After all, Anwar’s penchant for engaging in violence only saw his bat do the talking. There was no place for mind games in his craft.
A pleasant man, Saeed Anwar even seemed ahead of his times, at times looking a gentleman caught in the cacophony of disparaging small talk captured on the middle-stump camera, featuring generous contributions from Indian and Pakistani voices.
This doesn’t imply Anwar was all Zen.
But his quiet dignity paved way for the feats he attained, in both the same respect as many of his great contemporaries, Sachin and Lara included. These were garnered way before poster-boys of Pakistani rebellion arrived in the form of Afridi or the likes.