Before Sachin Tendulkar, there was Saeed Anwar
Do you remember Saeed Anwar? If you have forgotten, let me remind you.
Anwar is the only Pakistani left-hander to compile over 10,000 international cricket runs. He’s widely regarded as one of the best One Day International (ODI) openers of the day, but he’s so much more.
Before Sachin Tendulkar happened, Saeed Anwar was the real ODI forerunner.
Southpaw scored his first 1,000 runs as an ODI opener with a whopping 85.03 strike rate at the time. The rate of such an attack was unimaginable in 1993.
The next best openers, with 1,000 or more ODI runs, in that position are Kris Srikkanth (71.74), Brian Lara (71.57) and Navjot Singh Sidhu (68.94).
Anwar launched ODI in January 1989, the same year when Sachin Tendulkar first emerged on the international scene. For most of the next decade, he would continue to dominate the Indian legend in limited cricket.
Anwar was not asked to open batting for Pakistan until the Benson & Hedges three-game series in 1990, where he was also promoted to number three in the batting order. His first innings as an opener, though brief, gave a fair indication of what to expect from him going forward.
He scored 27 runs in 30 deliveries and finished the streak with more boundaries than anyone else. His success rate in the tournament is 105.39. By then, Pakistan knew it had found a new ODI opener.
Saeed Anwar ended the 1990s as the top scorer. He accumulated 6,427 runs in 166 sets, Sachin Tendulkar trailed behind him with 6,270 runs in 139 rounds. Nampaw has 31 fifties and 17 hundred of his names, his total of 48 plus fifty is just better than Tendulkar’s total of 50, which covers 27 fifty and 23 centuries.
He also scored the highest individual score in ODI cricket of that decade – 194 against India in Chennai in 1997. In 1999, Saeed Anwar also became the third Pakistani player and 13th overall to hit 6,000. runs in ODI cricket. He hit the big milestone against host India in the Pepsi Cup. It took him 162 turns to get there – third fastest then in terms of turns played.
He got to the finish line in quicker time than Tendulkar, who did 170 rounds on his own.
In the 1990s, there was a long battle between Saeed Anwar and Sachin Tendulkar to score the most in hundreds of ODIs.
Desmond Haynes of the West Indies retired in March 1994, with 17 tons of ODI – the most of anyone in this format at the time. Gordon Greenidge and Viv Richards, both from the West Indies, are second on the list with 11 centuries each.
However, Anwar’s career was marred by injury, but he still smashed six hundred in just 45 innings. On the other hand, Sachin Tendulkar is still six months away from scoring in his first century. He then went on to score three goals over the course of several months to end the year well.
From his debut until January 1998, Anwar accumulated 5,336 runs in 143 innings with an average of 41.36. Up until that point, Tendulkar was averaging 39.05, but he had scored 6,092 runs in 172 innings.
Pakistan’s opener is also 15 centuries ahead of the Tendulkar 12 average. His average (41.36) is also better than the Tendulkar average of 39.05. Then there is the turning point.
Sachin Tendulkar had his own 1998 and hit 1,894 runs in 33 innings, averaging 65.31 and strike rate of 102.15. He increased his century ODI total to 9 and added 7 years fifty – 16 plus fifty over 33 plays.
On the other hand, Saeed Anwar scored 831 runs in 21 innings with an average of 41.55 – quite modest for what Tendulkar has accumulated. Anwar only had a century in that year, and by April, Tendulkar had balanced his total of 15 hundred in this format. The Indian would then go on to end the year with 21 tonnes bearing his name, 4 tonnes more than Desmond Haynes, who has 17 tonnes.
In 1996, Anwar was named Wisden Cricket of the Year and he accumulated 2,296 runs that year across formats – the most of any pitcher in the world.
From January 1989 to March 2003, Pakistan was scheduled to play 394 ODI matches and Saeed Anwar was just part of 247 of them. He was absent from 147 limited games for the country and injury cut short a career that promised more than it brought.
He also missed Pakistan’s most successful ODI campaign – the 1992 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
According to records, Anwar’s 20 ODIs is still the most by a Pakistani.
Khan is a sports journalist. He tweets at @_FaridKhan
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