The Unpredictables: Part IV – 1970s, 2nd Episode

Fazal Abbas


Pakistan as a country has been through a number of highs and lows since traumatic partition in 1947 and its cricket has followed the similar pattern, showing how this sport is embedded in social, political and cultural facets of the country. Initially dispersed, unrecognised, underfunded and weak, Pakistan’s cricket team grew to become a major force in world cricket. If cricket is known for its glorious uncertainties, our team is even more notorious for its unpredictability. In this series of blogs we shall dig into social, political, cultural and sporting history of cricket in Pakistan.

Read previous parts here:

Part I – 1940s: Partition and Founding Stones of Cricket in Pakistan (1947 – 1950)

Part II – 1950s: Pakistan announces itself to cricket world (1951 – 1960)

Part III – 1960s: The Lost Decade (1961 – 1970)

Episode 1 of the Fourth Part: The Unpredictables Part IV – 1970s: Revival of Pakistan cricket (1971 – 1980), Episode 1

Mushtaq the new captain, players’ revolt, emergence of Pakistan’s greatest batsman and end of Kardar’s era

Kardar’s ambitions suffered a blow after 1975 World Cup setback. He tried to resume cricketing relations with India but it came too soon after 1971 war, and Pakistan was left with an empty international timetable.

Gap was filled by tour of Sri Lanka which proved disastrous. Pakistan, led by Intikhab Alam, lost both ODIs where 2 test series was drawn 1-1. When New Zealand arrived in Pakistan in the autumn of 1976, he was replaced by Mushtaq Muhammad. This moved would be heavy with consequence.

Mushtaq immediately established himself as a more assertive kind of captain. He insisted on getting players he wanted and stood up for them in unimaginable ways. He has been many a time overlooked due to Pakistan’s subsequent achievements but he is one of greatest captains right along with Kardar and Imran.

When New Zealand came to Pakistan and a young Karachi lad made his test debut. His name was Javed Miandad. He announced his arrival by making 163 at Lahore on debut. He followed it up by making 206 at Karachi, the youngest player at age 19 years and 141 days to make the test double hundred. He was described as the batting find of the decade.


A young Javed Miandad on his way to notch his first Test century.

However, the series was overshadowed by the revolt of players led by Mushtaq Muhammad. The key demands of the players were the rise in allowances and match fee which had actually been reduced as compared to last home series against West Indies in 1974-75. Pakistan won the series but no bonus was announced by BCCP. During this period Kardar had also fallen out with Bhutto. His role in Pakistan cricket was nearly over. He was a man out of time. As a player and as an administrator, he had brought the national game he loved with such passion to hitherto unimaginable heights.

Pakistan takes on mighty Australians and West Indians

In controversial circumstances Mushtaq Muhamamd led Pakistani side to Australia in 1976-77. The most striking point was the balance between youth and age. Team had outstanding players of 60s – Majid Khan, Asif Iqbal, Wasim Bari, Zaheer Abbas and Sarfraz Nawaz who were joined by a new generation, of whom Javed Miandad and Imran Khan were soon to turn into giants.

The Pakistanis arrived with possibly the best batting combination in Test cricket, but by the time of their departure the team had in Imran Khan a fast bowler who had established himself as undoubtedly one of the finest in the world. Pakistan drew first test and lost second test badly. However the third test was a turning point.

As Sydney test, Imran unleashed a legendary spell of fast bowling. He had remodelled his action into something classical and fearless. He shot out 6 Australians supported by 3 wickets from Sarfraz. Pakistan were 111-4 when Asif Iqbal played an innings of his life making 120 runs, supported by debutant Haroon Rashid’s 57 and Miandad’s 64. With a lead of 140 Imran took a further 6 wickets to win the match.11

A 19-year-old Javed Miandad gives a 23-year-old Imran Khan a shoulder massage during Pakistan’s Test match against Australia in Sydney in December 1976.

After proving themselves equal to challenge in Australia, Pakistan want to West Indies after 18 years which proved to an interesting series between two evenly matched teams. Each of the five Tests had its particular merit, the West Indies comfortably winning the last to secure a narrow two-one advantage in the rubber. Pakistan’s outstanding performers were the batsmen Majid Khan and Wasim Raja and the fast-medium bowlers, Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz.


A WI feature on Pakistan team’s visit to a WI nightclub during the 1977 Pak-WI tour. Seen from left: Reserve wicketkeeper, Taslim Arif, Stylish Pakistani opener, Majid Khan; Taslim and Pakistan fast bowler, Sikandar Bakht.


Pakistan cricket team in WI in 1977

Of huge imprortance for the future, their overseas victories in Australia and West Indies were watched by viewers in Pakistan for the first time, through state television. Although most of this team had been at odds with Kardar, and ultimately driven him from office, the status they had earned for Pakistan cricket must have given him satisfaction. It was left to his successor to deal with Kerry Packer.

Coup d’etat, The Packer revolution and cricket resumes with India

Two grave crises faced Pakistan cricket. On July 5, 1977 General Zia, Chief of general staff, declared martial law, ordering arrest of Bhutto and his cabinet and promised election in 90 days. This resulted in drastic changes in management of Pakistan cricket.

The coup was accompanied by Packer revolution in cricket. In May 1977, news broke that the Australian businessman Kerry packer was to stage a breakaway competition in defiance of the national authorities. Although his initiatives were short lived, it changed cricket forever. Day-night matches, white balls, coloured kits, floodlights – the brilliance of the Packer packages permanently changed the way the game has been shown on TV and sold to public.


Source: ESPNCricinfo

Key players went to play Kerry Packer series which included Asif Iqbal, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Haroon Rahid, Majid Khan, Mushtaq Mohammad, Sarfraz Nawaz, Taslim Arif and Zaheer Abbas. Packer players were banned. England toured Pakistan in 1977. The three test match series ended 0-0 whereas England won three match ODI series 2-1.




Kerry Packer

After the series lesson was learnt and ban was lifted in order to restore a strong national team. Arif Abbasi was asked to handle negotiations. He would later transform PCB and country’s cricket.

After a gap of 17 years, India led by Bishen Bedi toured Pakistan. Mushtaq Mohammad was Pakistan’s captain; the tradition of changing captains was being maintained. Pakistan won the series 2-0, a series that was dominated by Zaheer Abbas but saw two fantastic run chases at Lahore and at Karachi in which, apart from Zaheer Abbas – Asif Iqbal, Javed Miandad, and Imran were also involved. Bishen Bedi, a great left arm spin bowler is remembered in Pakistan as the bowler who was hit for two consecutive sixes by Imran Khan at Karachi and which enabled Pakistan to win the match. Sadly, Bishen Bedi lost his job as captain of India.


The Ladies stand at the Gaddafi Stadium, Pakistan v India, second Test, Lahore, October 1978-79.(Source: ‘Wounded Tiger’ by Peter Oborne

After the triumph over India, Mushtaq led his team to New Zealand and Australia. Pakistan won the series against New Zealand 1-0. However, the short Australian series was packed with brilliance and controversies which include infamous run out of Rodney Hogg by Javed Miandad, run-out of non-striker Sikander Bakht for backing up too far and handling the ball out of Andrew Hilditch. However, the moment of series was Melbourne Test – Australia was cruising to victory (303-3 on course for target of 382) until Sarfraz produced a sensational spell of 7 wickets for 1 run with an old ball. Later this performance would be ascribed to the fiendish Pakistani invention of reverse swing.

[Sarfaraz Nawaz’s 9 wickets against Australia – Part 1:]


Sarfraz Nawaz 9 86 vs Australia 1st test 1978… by Omaidus

[Sarfaraz Nawaz’s 9 wickets against Australia – Part 2:]

Sarfraz Nawaz 9/86 vs Australia 1st test 1978… by Omaidus

Pakistan falters again in World Cup and defeat in India

Politically the situation was tense in Pakistan. Since taking over General Zia had the former Prime Ministers ZA Bhutto controversially tried executed by Supreme Court on April 4, 1979. This is viewed by many as judicial murder of the most popular and strong civilian leader of Pakistan ever.

ODI was gaining popularity with each passing day. Second Cricket World Cup was held in England in 1979. Asif Iqbal was made captain for the tournament. Pakistan began with easy wins against Canada and still Packerless Australia. However, in third group match Pakistan choked after reducing England to 118-8, Bob Taylor and Bob Willis were allowed to put on 43. Pakistan collapsed to 34 for 6. Asif, Wasim Raja and Imran put on fight but Pakistan lost the match.

They were still through to semi-finals but unfortunately against WI. WI put on 293 but Pakistan got all out on 250 with 4 overs still to go.18

Teams led by their captains in World Cup 1979

Asif was most consistent performer during world cup which ensured he remained captain for tour of India. Pakistan lost the six-test series 2-0. The weakened attack never bowled out India twice and India escaped several times from losing positions. There were news of quarrels and detachment among team members. Asif lost captaincy after the series.

Javed Miandad becomes captain

Defeat by India in 1979-80 was viewed in Pakistan as a national disaster and led to changes at the top. Asif Iqbal was removed from captaincy and General Azhar Khan from BCCP’s presidency. Air Marshal Nur Khan was appointed President of BCCP. Javed Miandad was appointed Pakistan’s new captain. His reign began well; however, unfortunately he was unable to overcome the resentment of senior players later.

Javed Miandad led Pakistan against Greg Chappell’s Australians, an eminently forgettable series played on flat, lifeless pitches apart from Karachi, where Pakistan won. Greg Chappell scored a double century at Faisalabad and so did Taslim Arif for Pakistan. Denis Lille took only one wicket on that tour. A worse advertisement for test cricket was hard to imagine. The next series against West Indies was better but it was lost by Pakistan.

The world cricket had already entered into its golden era. Next task ahead for Javed Miandad was to lead his side on tour of Australia in 1981-82.

Wisden’s Player of Year during decade of 70s: Zaheer Abbas (1972)


Next in ‘The Upredictables’ series: 1980s: The Asian cricket tigers take on the world


  • Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack
  • ‘Wounded Tiger: A History of Cricket in Pakistan’ by Peter Oborne
  • ‘The Pakistani Masters’ by Bill Ricquier
  • ESPNcricinfo archives (
  • ‘Cricket Cauldron: The Turbulent Politics of Sport in Pakistan’ by Shaharyar M. Khan and Ali Khan
  • Imran Khan’s Autobiography ‘Pakistan: A Personal History’
  • ‘All round view’ by Imran Khan
  • ‘Controversially Yours’ by Shoaib Akhtar
  • Cricket Archive (
  • PTV Sports (
  • Pakistan Cricket Board (

The author is a Chartered Accountant from Lahore currently working at one of the leading accountancy firms of the world. His interests include politics, history, sports, music, arts and movies. The views expressed are author’s only. He tweets at @fazalwarraich (