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Spotlight: Mushtaq Mohammad

Cricketers are individuals who live, eat, think and play cricket. There is little else that they like, so talking to them about anything but cricket is as challenging as the game they play.

Mushtaq Mohammad (born November 22, 1943, Junagadh, British India) played in 57 Tests and 10 ODIs from 1959 to 1979. A right-handed batsman and a leg-spinner, he is one of the most successful Pakistani all-rounders and went on to captain his country in 19 Test matches.

He was one of the five Mohammad brothers, out of which four played cricket for Pakistan. He was the first Pakistani to score 25,000 first class runs, ending up with 31,091, more than half of them for Northamptonshire. His record included a highest score of 303 not out. As a wrist-spinner, he bowled the leg-break, googly and flipper. Mushtaq is regarded as one of the first cricketers to use the reverse-sweep. He joined Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket in the late seventies.

He went on to become the coach of Pakistan and led the side which reached the final of the 1999 World Cup. Inspired by all-rounder Gary Sobers, this veteran cricketer does not have a great fondness for reading books.

However, the readable material that does catch his eye is either about the game of cricket or about other sports activities. While travelling, he picks up the sports illustrated magazines and also browses through the sports pages of the newspapers. The late Omar Kureshi's columns were greatly enjoyed by Mushtaq. Like most sportsmen, he is not a bookworm.

Talking about the PTV dramas, he feels that the intense acting of Shafi Muhammad, Uzma Gillani’s emotional dialogue delivery and Talat Hussain’s pauses all brought life to even simple plots, transforming them into masterpieces. Bano Qudsia’s and Ashfaq Ahmed’s plays and the vintage late night serial Eik Haqiqat Sau Afsanay, still hold a special place in his memory.

While talking about Pakistani films, he feels they need to get out of the shackles to which they have confined themselves. Nadeem Baig, being a personal friend and an ardent cricket fan, has played many cricket matches with the Pakistani team. Mushtaq not only finds him a great person to know, but also considers his acting skills as unmatched. The movie Aina, starring Shabnam and Nadeem, is one of this cricketer’s favourites and he feels that a super hit of this quality is not made these days.

He believes that the new generation of actors and actresses have better opportunities and better working conditions, yet they have been unsuccessful in coming up to the standards, both in acting and attitude, of the actors of yesterday. The petite Zeba, the towering Mohammad Ali, the soft Santosh Kumar paired with the demure Sabiha, were masters of an era that is no more.

About the Indian film industry, he feels that after Hollywood it can very clearly be called the runner ups. Not only have they improvised their cinematic facilities but they also have undoubtedly a better selection of actors and actresses.

“A major factor is the presence of acting academies all around India that grooms all the youngsters, shaping them into precious oasis of talent,” opines this sportsman. “Madhubala, Nargis, Nimi, etc., were epitomes of beauty and grace whereas Dilip Kumar sahib, Dev Anand, Manoj Kumar and the show man Raj Kapoor were actors par excellence,” he adds.

Speaking about the new generation of actors, Mushtaq feels that Amir Khan is the best actor when it comes to convincing the audience about a particular subject. Amir Khan’s cricket related Lagaan, is his favorite Indian flick, whereas Rang de Basanti comes a close second.

Hollywood movies like the classics Ben Hur, The Guns of Navarone, An Officer and a Gentleman and James Bond movies are among his favourites. Among the actors there, Mushtaq chooses Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro, Sean Connery and Richard Gere as those who can emote superbly. The beautiful Elizabeth Taylor with her dazzling looks and amazing versatility remains his all time favourite.

Music is the food of the soul and ghazals, classical, and semi-classical geets and raags of Barey Ghulam Ali Sahib, Ustaad Salamat Ali and Nazakat Ali relax him after a hectic day. Abida Parveen, Tina Sani and Farida Khanum are among the females he likes listening to. As for the modern bunch of singers, Sajjad Ali's voice carries intensity because of his close association with the ustads.

When asked about his favourite song, Mushtaq confesses that it is Mohay panghat pay from the blockbuster Mughal-e-Azam. Mushtaq feels, “Music these days is both globally inspired and indigenous, making things easier for upcoming singers, although there are many imitations but the original remains eternal. Tufail Niazi and Mehdi Hassan sahib remain the indisputable maestros.”

The multi-dimensional, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Nida Fazli and the powerful verse churner Faraz, and the late Parveen Shakir are poets whose work enthral him not only due to their distinct style of writing but also by their powerful verse construction that remains unbeatable.

Like most people, this former cricketer enjoys comedy and the gifted Moin Akhter and the slick script of Anwar Maqsood’s Loose Talk amuse him. However, he gives credit to Omar Sharif and considers him undoubtedly the king of comedy.

Art and theatre do not hold much charm for him, “I can’t understand how people spend so money on them? Maybe this is because I’m a man who spends time mostly outdoors and thus am a man of action.”

When asked if Pakistan has a chance of winning the world cup he replies, “I would say about 50-50.”

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