Alex Massie

Farewell, Mushtaq Ahmed

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Alas, Mushtaq Ahmed is retiring. Injuries and the grind of the county circuit have taken their toll on the amiable Pakistani spinner, leaving him just 93 wickets short of the magic number of 1,500. Though overshadowed by Shane Warne and (to some extent) Anil Kumble, Mushtaq's role in the revitalisation of wrist-spin should not be overlooked. And he had a better googly than either of his more illustrious contempories. More importantly, he played the game with a joyous enthusiasm that did him great credit. I prefer to remember his Somerset days, even if they were less successful than the six splendid seasons he's enjoyed at Sussex.

Still, even accepting that Mushtaq was vital to Sussex winning the county championship for the first time (securing three titles in all in his time in Hove), modern cricketers' ignorance of history remains depressing. Here's the Sussex captain, Chris Adams:

“Mushtaq’s legacy at the club is that he leaves us statistically, romantically and emotionally the best player to ever pull on a Sussex shirt.

"In view of the impact he's made, it's difficult to think of another cricketer who has achieved or done more for one county. "

Where-oh-where to begin? I cannot speak for this mysterious "emotional" stuff, but the rest of Adams' assessment is terrible tripe. Mushtaq took 600 or so wickets for Sussex. Not bad; even, for the modern era, very good! But not quite up to Maurice Tate's record, is it? And as for romance, no-one in their right mind would put Mushtaq ahead of, say, Ranjitsinhji would they? And I rather seriously doubt you could really elevate him above CB Fry either.

That's no slight against Mushtaq who was, as I say a fine and lovely cricketer. But it would be nice to think first-class cricketers knew at least something of cricket history.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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