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Basit Ali: The most “what could have been” case in Pakistani Cricket

7 min read

 

Basit Ali follows his heart.

Basit Ali speaks his mind.

Basit Ali pays a very high price for it, but he sticks to his ideas.

(Check Basit’s heart to heart video at Shamsnwags Youtube Channel)

Basit was not a cricket lover in his early days. But now cricket is his life.  It was once when his brother Wajid, who played in Karachi Division league was knocking his new bat with a hanging ball, Basit tried his hand knocking, and the Big Bro found his every hit being middled. Basit was duly taken to nets, and the coaches saw loads of natural batting talent in him. The gum chewing boy could hit the ball a long way, and his home-grown technique was effective. He was immediately drafted in the under 19s Pakistan team for tests against India under-19s. Basit impressed on debut, scoring 189 in the first unofficial test. Then his form trailed off, and he didn’t do very well in the series. Initial years of first-class cricket were inconsistent, but a fine performance in the domestic season of 1992-3 saw him drafted into the Pakistan team to tour the West Indies.

In the fading days of Javed Miandad’s cricketing career, a 22-year-old Karachi lad – Basit Ali, was taken to the West Indies tour of Pakistan in 1992-93. Basit stood firm with an unflinching nonchalance against an attack of Ambrose, Walsh and Bishop. He started the ODI Series with prime confidence, scoring 34. The last two matches showed the world what Basit Ali is made of, when he not only held fort against Ambrose, Walsh and Bishop, but also scored freely off them. He scored 70 in 86 balls, in a match where no one else from both sides crossed thirty.

That very evening he nearly died, but I will leave it to Basit himself to narrate this anecdote to you all some other time.

In the fifth ODI, Basit top-scored for Pakistan again with a 69-ball 57; Pakistan scored 244 for 6, and West Indies responded with 244 for 5, which meant that the match should have been awarded to Windies. However, before the ball was thrown to Wasim at the bowler’s end there was a pitch-invasion; he could not throw it to the striker’s end to attempt a run-out because the pitch had already been overrun. Raman Subba Row, the match referee, ruled it as a tie. The series was drawn.

In the tour match against Jamaica at Sabina Park, Pakistan needed quick scores in either innings, and Basit rose to the occasion in both as he plundered runs. It was not only the dazzling stroke-play that drew eyes but also the indifference with which he played them. He scored 62* and 88*, allowing Mushtaq Ahmed to rout the hosts with an 8-wicket haul. This performance, coupled with the ones in the ODIs, earned Basit a spot for the first Test at Queen’s Park Oval.

In a closely fought contest, West Indies were bowled out for 127 in the first innings; Pakistan managed a 13-run lead, but Desmond Haynes batted through the innings for the third time in his career in the second innings with 143. Pakistan slumped to a 204-run defeat.

Basit’s debut was not too bad.

Basit Ali
Basit Ali in action

He was dismissed leg-before by Bishop for a 4-ball duck, but in the second innings he handled the fast bowlers well, hit 5 fours and a six, and scored 38 off 91 balls. He was the only one in the side to cross 20.

West Indies won the second Test at Kensington Oval by 10 wickets, but once again Basit proved his mettle: his 174-ball 92* included 11 fours and a six and was scored out of the 142 Pakistan managed during his stay; in the second innings, too, he scored 37, but could not stop West Indies from claiming the series.

He also managed 57 in the drawn St John’s test, and finished the series with 222 runs at 55.50, finishing miles ahead of his other teammates. Basit now looked a very promising prospect to replace Miandad.

Then the Pakistan side went to Sharjah and Basit did reasonably there too. He was to reach a Crescendo in the final. We can watch this innings here.

 

Basit reached 50 in 42 balls, swinging Ambrose to the square leg boundary for a maximum.

That itself was fast enough, and then he pushed the peddle to score the next 77 runs only in 37 balls, clearing the boundary repeatedly with nonchalant ease and swagger.

The match, however was snatched away from Pakistan, by Brian Lara, who made 153 off 145 balls.

But by now, Pakistan fans were assured that with Basit and Inzamam doing well, Javed Miandad’s impending exit won’t leave the Pakistani batting handicapped. These two young blokes looked very much ready to take his mantle over. (Ironically, it was Basit who had to make way for Miandad in the 1996 world cup squad, where the Pakistan selectore had strangely chosen Miandad’s experience over Basit’s fliar and consistency. Strange, because Javed was very much past his prime, and his creaking body was nowhere that of a fit cricketer which ODI cricket demands.)

By now, Basit had become a batting mainstay for Pakistan. He proved himself, scoring 85, 103, 67 and 57 In ODI) in the series against the Kiwis, in their own backyard.

 

He also played a crucial role in the Austral-Asia Cup in Sharjah that followed. He started with a match-winning 75-ball 76* against India. In the final, too, Basit tore into the Indian attack with a 58-ball 57, and India ended up losing by 39 runs.

This was his first tete-tete with the great Kapil Dev, and we would hear about it from Basit himself.

Basit’s batting was drawing accolades, and in due course he picked up the nick-name “Master” which was before him owned by the great coach of Karachi, Master Aziz. Master Aziz was Salim Durrani’s father and had chosen to move to Pakistan while his wife and son chose to stay in Jamnagar and settle in India.

Basit played a few cameos in the Singer Cup that followed in Sri Lanka. However, the final would turn out to be more important than it met the eye.

He played only 3 matches in the high-profile Wills Triangular Series (also involving Australia and South Africa) at home but ended up scoring 115 getting dismissed only once. Unfortunately, failed miserably in the Mandela Trophy in South Africa, scored a duck in the Bulawayo Test, and missed the next tests due to a groin strain.

Basit’s career went through a struggling phase thereafter. He scored only one international fifty in the entire 1995-96 season. The 87-ball 71 against West Indies at Sharjah (in a 141-run partnership with Rameez Raja) was, however, crucial in Pakistan’s 15-run victory.

He was dropped from the World Cup squad (made way for an obviously fading Miandad was closer to truth). Following ordinary performances in Singapore and Sharjah, he did not make it to the England tour as well.

 

Was he unfortunate? A day before the England squad was announced, Basit walked out at 76 for 5 in the domestic Pentangular Trophy final. He scored 155 and took United Bank Limited to 353. It probably came too late. Basit Gets the Ticket but Misses the Flight to England, ran a headline after the squad was announced.

Then, the cricket when Basit, along with Rashid Latif,  announced that several Pakistani cricketers had been approached by Malik to “lose a match deliberately”.

Both men also retired subsequently from international cricket. Ali Sibtain Fazli, the lawyer PCB had appointed for the Justice Qayyum Commission that followed later mentioned that “Rashid and Basit refused to play alongside Salim Malik.”

The trial was a farce, and lesser spoken about it, the better. Maybe Basit himself would write/speak about it when he feels like. The verdict was passed when Basit was ill, and the evidences he had produced were not viewed by the court bench.

The Commission then came out with a rather non-trivial verdict against Basit: “Given that Basit retired and has distanced himself from International Cricket, he is not even guilty of bringing the name of the Pakistan team into disrepute. This Commission therefore believes that no strong action needs to be taken against him. Basit has had the dignity and common sense to retire. He should be allowed to be, as long as he stays out of Cricket.”

Basit kept playing domestic cricket in Pakistan, though he was well and truly out of national reckoning, played till 1996-97, and was, for some reason, included in the Pakistan A matches against India A. He did not do anything of note, though he scored a 169-ball 133 in India A’s tour match against Karachi: the Indian team had consisted of Ajit Agarkar, Debasis Mohanty, Murali Kartik and Sairaj Bahutule.

These turned out to be his final First-Class matches.

Thereafter Basit served as a Selection Committee member, a batting consultant for Pakistan men’s and women’s team and was a TV analyser of the game. After speaking his mind during the 2019 world cup, he lost his place in PCB and all the related assignments. Now he operates a video channel, whose link is pasted below. Basit will be talking more to us, and we will be happy to share his thoughts with the readers of Shamsnwags.com from time to time.

 

 

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