CricketEurope Irish Cricket History logo
Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Saqlain Mushtaq
  • Born 26 December 1976 Lahore
  • Educated Mohammeden Anglo-Oriental College (MOC), Lahore
  • Occupation Professional Cricketer
  • Debut 23 April 2006 v Hampshire at Castle Avenue
  • Cap Number 652
  • Style Right hand bat; right arm off breaks
  • Teams Pakistan International Airlines, Lahore, Islamabad Cricket Association,, Pakistan, Surrey, Sussex

Saqlain Mushtaq was one of the best spin bowlers of modern times. The first really to master the doosra, he bowled his off spin with a fast action from a quick run up. This gave the batsman little time for to respond, but did leave him with an alarming propensity - as a spinner - for bowling no balls. However his record in both forms of the game mark him as a bowler of the highest class. Unfortunately when he signed for Ireland, he was jaded and injury prone. Though Saqlain was a very popular addition to the team, he was barely even a shadow of his former self, failing even to keep runs down with an economy rate of 5.28.

The son of a government clerk, his early cricket development owed much to his two elder brothers, one of whom Sibtain played one first class match for Lahore City. The young Saqlain was denied the opportunity of school cricket, but attributes much of his late success to playing street cricket in the early hours of the morning after a 4.30am visit o the local mosque. " I used a tennis ball bound with electric tape... You can make it go both ways."

Moving to the MOC was a major step. A good coach and a regular place in a victorious College side, saw him ready to make his first class debut in the 1994-95 season. He took 52 wickets at 23.42 with four five wicket hauls. It was an auspicious start to a career which has brought 833 first class wickets at 23.56. That season saw him win a place in the Pakistan A side and his Test Match debut v Sri Lanka at Peshawar in September 1995. His Test career was to bring him 208 wickets in 49 matches at 29.83, including 13 "5 fors" and three instances of taking 10 or more wickets in the match. His best bowling figures in Test cricket 74 - 20 - 164 - 8 were achieved against England at Lahore in 2000-01. England, batting first made 480-8 declared with Graham Thorpe hitting 118, but Saqlain constantly threatened and was never mastered. However his most successful series was on the Pakistan tour of India - the first for 12 years - in the early months of 1999. He took 20 wickets in the 2 match series, achieving a "5 for" in all four innings in which he bowled in the shared rubber. Dismissing Tendulkar three times, he was deservedly man of the series.

He was also a real force in ODIs, reaching 100 wickets faster than any other bowler had in 53 matches. He was also the fastest to 200 and 250 ODI wickets, taking two hat tricks - both against Zimbabwe on his way.

He became Surrey's overseas player in 1997 and until the end of the 2003 season gave sterling service. He topped the first class bowling averages in 1999 taking 58 wickets at 11.37, appearing in only 7 matches because of his World Cup commitments. This performance helped Surrey to the Championship and led to his being featured as one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year.

However he lost his place in the ODI side to Shoaib Malik on account of the latter's superior batting ability even though Saqlain had a Test hundred - 101* v New Zealand at Christchurch in 2000-01 to his credit. He was also unable to withstand the challenge of Dinesh Kiniera to his Test place.

Injury in 2004 also saw him lose his contract with Surrey and he was still suffering problems when he was - with Shahid Afridi - signed as an Irish overseas player for the Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy in 2006. Afridi showed some flashes of his brilliance in a somewhat disappointing performance, but to say that Saqlain disappointed would be an understatement. He took only 4 wickets at 56.75 with an economy rate of almost 6 runs an over. His no ball problem was also very evident. His best bowling 2-39 came against Glamorgan at Sophia Gardens - not then redeveloped as the Swalec Stadium - in a match which Ireland narrowly lost. Perhaps his poor performance was partly explained by a blow to the knee he received while batting in his first match v Hampshire at Castle Avenue as a knee injury had been the cause of his problems with Surrey. However for such a fine bowler his failure to make any impact for Ireland was poor indeed.

Nevertheless the next two seasons saw him back in county cricket, taking 18 wickets for Susses in 2007 and 40 for Surrey in 2008. He was no longer seen as an overseas player and there was talk - from him at least - of a possible Test career with England. However his decision to sign with the "rebel" Indian Cricket League T20 ended his Surrey contract and with it his chances - if there ever were any - of playing for England.

Saqlain was spin bowling coach to New Zealand in 2009, by which time he had begun a very successful six year spell as a professional in League Cricket in the North and Midlands of England, often proving far too good for his opponents. This part of his career culminated in three seasons with West Indian Cavaliers in Nottingham, a powerful side led by the former England batsman Usman Afzal and including one other Test player in paceman Alex Tudor as well as ex Surrey opener Darren Bicknell. The combination of Saqlain and Tudor was often decisive. He also had a sensational season with Syston Town in the Lincolnshire Premier League in 2010, taking 36 wickets in 11 matches at 9.91 with five 5 wicket hauls. He wrought similar havoc while playing in Staffordshire and Lancaster. In 2016 he was appointed as a part time spin bowling coach to the England Test side. At the time of writing (January 2017) it would seem that such an appointment, on a full time basis, is urgently needed!

He is profiled In Wisden 2000 as one of the Five Cricketers of The Year.