Ben Stokes’s performances in the 2019 World Cup, contribution of Kapil Dev and Yuvraj Singh in India’s triumph in 1983 and 2011, or Imran Khan’s heroics in 1992 are some of the most celebrated examples of how a player who can play the role of that extra batsman and bowler himself can be a key factor in his team’s success.
Abdul Razzaq was one such player from Pakistan who played international cricket between 1996-2013. This hard-hitting all-rounder was instrumental in Pakistan’s triumph in the T20 World Cup in 2009 and his best performance came in the final where he removed 3 Sri Lankan top order batsmen cheaply, from which they never recovered.
After making his debut in 1996, Razzaq drew everyone’s attention in the 1999 World Cup where he performed brilliantly with both bat and ball, and subsequently became man of the series in a tri-series between India, Pakistan and Australia in 2000. Razzaq took temporary retirement from cricket in 2007 and made a comeback in 2009 after his 2 years stint in the ICL. In a career marred by injuries, Razzaq scored 5080 runs and took 259 wickets in ODIs and is one of 71 players, including 8 who have represented Pakistan, who have achieved the double of 1,000 Test runs and 100 Test wickets.
For a bowler who bowled medium-pace on flat subcontinental wickets, Razzaq was gifted with the ability to bowl it in the right areas as often as he tried. He was a tricky customer with the unusual power to skid a few deliveries into the batsman and leave them flabbergasted. As a medium-pacer, his knack of getting the ball to reverse gave him the edge while bowling on sub-continental pitches where he has picked up a lot of wickets. He was never as quick as Imran, Shoaib, Wasim or Waqar but not many batsmen could understand his pace or his line and length. Razzaq didn’t look like a lethal bowler by any stretch of imagination. But nevertheless, he was a hard worker and had a machine-like mechanism that allowed him to run in and bowl similar deliveries for hours together. His run-up was as simple as it could be and often tricked batsmen into taking him lightly and gifting their wicket to him in the process.
His batting was all about power and brute force. His strong arms allowed him to clear almost every field he stepped onto. What set him apart from other lower-order batsmen has been his ability to assess a situation and play accordingly. In a situation where his team would require just 20 runs off five overs, he would not play a single rash shot and look to take his side through. In that sense, he was an intelligent finisher of the game.
Razzaq’s most memorable performance came against India at Hobart in 2000 where he scored a 57-ball 70 to help his side set a target of 263 for India to chase. After a swashbuckling innings laced with four fours and two sixes, Razzaq came back to run through the Indian batting line-up to end with five for 48 in 10 overs.
Another crucial performance from him came in Pakistan’s game against Sri Lanka at Jaipur in 2006 where he picked up four for 50 in 7.2 overs and struck 38 off just 24 deliveries in a closely-contested ODI. He also became the youngest cricketer to take a Test match hat-trick when he dismissed Romesh Kaluwitharana, Rangana Herath and Ravi Pushpakumara at Galle in 2000. Razzaq, along with his teammate, Nasir Jamshed, holds the record for the highest 3rd wicket partnership (162) in T20 cricket made in 2009.
Razzaq holds a rare record of batting at every position from No.1 to 11. In 2005, his addiction to spinach earned him the name ‘Popeye’. He got infamous for dropping Sachin Tendulkar’s catch at the score of 32 in the 2003 World Cup match where master blaster went on to score the famous 98 runs off 75 balls. Being such a wonderful talent and a true utility player, He never earned the well deserved credit for his versatility and thus Razzaq is arguably one of the most underrated all-rounders in cricket.
By Paramdeep Rathee