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Off-spinners around the world try their best to master ‘doosra’—a delivery that confuses the batsman, spinning in the opposite direction—invented by Pakistani cricket great Saqlain Mushtaq. He not only blazed a trail in pioneering the delivery, but also coined the name doosra (from Urdu means ‘the second one’) along with the then wicketkeeper Moin Khan.

[caption id="attachment_133" align="alignright" width="221"]Saqlain scored a hat-trick in the World Cup 1999 (Photo: AFP) Saqlain scored a hat-trick in the World Cup 1999 (Photo: AFP)[/caption]

Today is the 36th birthday of Saqqi, as he was nicknamed. Born on December 29, 1976, he had to quit international cricket only at the age of 29.

His unpredictable doosra did not spare anyone, even mystifying great batsmen. He sailed through on the back of the delivery to the peak of his career and clinched many records, including the achievement of getting fastest 100 wickets in One Day Internationals.

He took a total of 496 wickets in his career, including 208 Test wickets in just 49 matches and 288 wickets in 169 ODIs. His one-day bowling average was 21.78 and because of his impressive performance he was named 2000 player of the year by Wisden.

Saqlain also shares a record of scoring hat-trick twice with countryman Wasim Akram. One of his hat-tricks was against Zimbabwe in the World Cup 1999 and he helped Pakistan reach the semi-finals in the tournament. But the record did not last long as Lasith Malinga of Sri Lanka scored a third hat-trick of his career last year.

One of the most memorable wickets of his career was perhaps when on January 31, 1999 he sent Sachin Tendulkar packing in Chennai Test and played a decisive role in Pakistan’s 12-run victory against India. Saqqi sent Tendulkar to the pavilion in both innings of the Test. The “Little Master” got out for a duck in the first inning and in the second, he again fell prey to Saqlain when the India were only 17 runs away from win. It was the same Test when Chennai spectators gave a rapturous standing ovation to Pakistani team.

Among the rare occasions when Saqqi showed brilliance with his bat was when on October 1996 he and Wasim Akram played a record 313-run partnership inning after Pakistan’s eight wickets had been fallen. Saqlain shared 79 runs in the knock. The record sustained for 14 years until Jonathan Trott and Stuart Broad broke it in the infamous 2010 Lord’s Test.

Saqlain also has a Test century under his belt. In March 2001, he scored an unbeaten 101 runs against New Zealand at Christchurch.

In 2004, Multan Test against India proved to be the last match of his career when he failed to counter a stormy Virender Sehwag. Moreover, the emergence of Shoaib Malik, an off-spinner with better batting skills than Saqlain, and Danish Kaneria added insult to injury, pushing Saqqi’s career to an arguably premature end. He took only one wicket in the Test, giving 204 runs in 43 overs. He was 29 at the stage and one can see how unfortunate it was for a bowler like Saqlain that he was never given another opportunity.

After having remained injured for quite a while, Saqlain moved to England where he played county cricket, representing Surrey and Sussex.

Saqlain is associated with coaching these days and has recently left Bangladesh as a spin-bowling coach.

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