As a young kid growing up in the 1990s, I had two abiding memories of matches involving India and Pakistan – Indian batters’ stumps going for a cartwheel and Saeed Anwar creaming decent deliveries from Indian bowlers to all parts of the field. Anwar played with a silken grace that was matched only by Mark Waugh and Mohammed Azharuddin in his generation. Every time Anwar played, you could not move from your seats. It was a treat watching him in full flow against the quickest of bowlers and the finest of spinners. It was not that I never wanted him to get out – especially against India, I was always hoping he got out soon, but he never did.
Anwar played only 55 tests in a 15-year career and scored 4052 runs at 45.52 with 11 centuries – not a bad statistic when you consider that he opened for Pakistan and there were plenty of good bowlers going around like Walsh and Ambrose for the West Indies, Donald and Pollock for South Africa, Cairns for New Zealand, McGrath and Warne for Australia, Darren Gough for England and not to forget, Srinath and Kumble for India. Vaas and Muralitharan for Sri Lanka and Heath Streak for Zimbabwe were also there. It also needs to be remembered that most of the pitches were still result oriented as compared to the flat decks that we see at most of the centers nowadays. So, all these factors put his modest statistics into a proper perspective.
The hallmark of Anwar’s batting was that he always seemed to have time on his hands like all great players do – he was rarely rushed. He did not move his feet much, at least not more than what he deemed was necessary and let his wrists do all the talking – and some talking they did! However, his running between the wickets was not really good even in the Pakistan team – a team not renowned for athleticism – and his fielding was downright deplorable. However, you do not remember Anwar for these things. Nobody does!
You remember him for the straight sixes, some of which were on show during the innings of 194 not out against India in the 1997 Independence Cup match in Chennai. He thrashed Kumble, at that stage a good bowler in one-dayers due to the control he offered, to all parts of the ground. He also treated Prasad, his favorite opposition bowler, to delectable flicks and drives. That innings stood as the highest in one day matches for several years before Sachin Tendulkar played the innings of 200 against South Africa. A measure of his brilliance can be had from the fact that even during the phase when the 2 Ws – Wasim and Waqar were out injured, Pakistan were not a team to be taken lightly due to the strength of its batting led admirably by Anwar and Inzamam ul-Haq.