This day, that year: The story behind Saeed Anwar's magical 194 in India-Pakistan clash

Even Gary Sobers was a big Saeed Anwar fan. (ICC Twitter)
Even Gary Sobers was a big Saeed Anwar fan. (ICC Twitter)

Dubai - Pakistan opener Saeed Anwar didn't score a double century but he showed the current lot of batsmen the way

By James Jose

Published: Fri 21 May 2021, 1:44 PM

Last updated: Fri 21 May 2021, 1:59 PM

International cricket is now littered with at least a dozen or more batsmen who have racked up double hundreds in One Day Internationals but there is one man they perhaps would like to thank.

Pakistan opener Saeed Anwar didn't score a double century but he showed the current lot of batsmen the way.

It was a typical summer evening (May 21, 1997) in Chennai 24 years ago but that Wednesday was special as the India-Pakistan cricket rivalry was being played out.

But as twilight turned into night, the southpaw had left not just the massive crowd that had assembled at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk, in awe but also the entire cricketing world.

Anwar (194, 146 balls, 22 fours, 5 sixes) was heading into what was unchartered territory back then, cutting the Indian bowling attack into smithereens. That wasn't the Playstation era but it sure felt like one as the southpaw not just dictated play, he toyed with the bowlers and made it look so, so easy.

And it took an outstanding catch from Sourav Ganguly off Sachin Tendulkar's bowling, to leave Anwar six runs short and put an end to the mayhem.

The sporting Chennai crowd gave him a standing ovation and for a lot of Indians who witnessed that sparkling innings, most would have actually hoped that Ganguly spilled that catch and Anwar would reach a landmark, which out of the realms of possibility until then.

Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Chris Gayle, Martin Guptill and Fakhar Zaman would all go on to breach that magical mark with Rohit doing it thrice, but it was Saeed Anwar who laid the blueprint for it.

And Anwar's then teammate, the great off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq, the inventor of the 'doosra, gave an insight into that innings and the man that was Saeed Anwar.

"The 194 he scored, I watched his body language a few days before and felt that there is something different that is going on within him. There's some kind of spark. He was spending more time in the nets, he was working on his batting a lot more. He was intense when he went into the nets, as though it was a match situation. I watched him for four or five days and he was bursting with energy and his preparation was immaculate," Mushtaq revealed on his Youtube channel 'Saqlain Mushtaq Show.'

"After seeing his 194, I feel that some nine or days before that knock, he probably had a dream or he had made up his mind that he wanted to create a world record and tell the whole world how you should bat, and how to dominate a opposition, and how to keep your aggression from ball one.

"The way he batted that day, it seemed like he was playing against kids. It was like he could hit wherever he wished to. He showed his strong character that day. He rewrote history that day. Had he not got out, and it was an outstanding catch, he would have scored 200 plus. He showed the world's batsmen that it is possible to score a hundred. But to do that, you have to listen to the voice from your heart, listen to your inner voice, play with a free spirit, play with freedom. Later, players like Rohit Sharma went and scored double hundreds but the legacy is of Saeed Anwar," he added.

Mushtaq also revealed that the defeat to India the World Cup quarterfinal in Bangalore in 1996 had hurt Saeed Anwar a lot.

He also spoke about Anwar's style of play.

"The first ball he plays according to the bowler, the rest five he dictates where he wants the bowler to bowl. His positioning for every shot is such that he knows beforehand what the bowler is going to bowl. And the proof of that came during that innings of 194. If you watch clips of that innings, you could see after the first delivery of the over, it looked like Saeed Anwar knew the next five balls that were to come at him, be it (Anil) Kumble, (Javagal) Srinath or (Venkatesh) Prasad. He has so much of time to play his shots that after the first delivery, the next five balls would come according to how he wants them to or he would make the bowler bowl to his wishes," explained Mushtaq.

"From this you get to know about his class. He was elegant, he had great timing, he was stylish. The amazing thing was he didn't have a great technique but he was mentally strong. He knew how to score runs and score boundaries, how to put pressure on the bowlers, he was a match winner, a game changer," he added.

Mushtaq also revealed that the legendary Sir Garfield Sobers picked out Anwar as one he loved watching and what bowlers had to say about the left-hander.

"Our team would say if Saeed Anwar is at the crease, we are still in the game and the fans too were of the same opinion. And what did our opponents think of him? I once spoke to Murali (Muttiah Muralitharan) and he said that the batsman who gave me a hard time was Saeed Anwar. He could also play against the spin, and I found it tough to bowl against him, said Murali. Even Shane Warne said the same thing and so did (Anil) Kumble. Kumble said Saeed Anwar is such a good player. If it is his day then he can put you in trouble. Sometimes you don't know what he is going to do," Mushtaq said.

About what Sir Garfield Sobers had to say, Mushtaq revealed: "He said that he played fearless cricket. He had his shots and the way he played them, his timing, his elegance, he loved watching him. The cover drive he used to play and the way he used to play the ball from the off-side towards midwicket or play the fast bowlers through square leg, the way he used to play spin, his footwork, his wrist work, the fluency. He was flamboyant and he was great to watch."

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