“Maine Muralitharan, Saeed Ajmal, Harbhajan Singh Aur Ashwin ko bahut khela hai lekin…”: Gautam Gambhir Named Ex-Pakistani Spinner As The Best Off-Spinner He Ever Faced

Gautam Gambhir, the celebrated Indian opening batter, has etched his name in the annals of cricketing history. His illustrious career spanned nearly a decade, during which he made invaluable contributions to the Indian cricket team across formats. Gambhir was an integral part of the squad that clinched the T20 World Cup, the ODI World Cup, and achieved the coveted number one Test ranking. Notably, he emerged as the top-scorer in the final matches of both World Cups, solidifying his reputation as one of India’s cricketing legends.

At the peak of his career, Gautam Gambhir stood tall as one of the world’s premier all-format openers. His batting prowess transcended boundaries, and he fearlessly confronted some of the most formidable bowlers in cricket history. The list of bowlers he faced reads like a who’s who of cricketing legends – Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Lasith Malinga, Dale Steyn, Shaun Pollock, and many others. Gambhir’s remarkable adaptability allowed him to thrive against both pace and spin.

Gambhir’s encounters were not limited to pace alone; he also encountered the craftiest spinners in the game. Names like Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne, Saeed Ajmal, and Graeme Swann featured prominently on his list of adversaries. Even in the high-pressure arena of the Indian Premier League (IPL), he squared off against the likes of Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, and Ravichandran Ashwin. Gambhir’s ability to tackle spin bowling further solidified his reputation as a versatile and accomplished batsman.

Recently, Gautam Gambhir was asked to name the best off-spinner he ever faced. His choice may surprise many, as he snubbed some illustrious names such as Muralitharan, Ashwin, and Ajmal in favor of ex-Pakistan spinner Saqlain Mushtaq. Speaking on Star Sports, Gambhir, known for his proficiency against spin, revealed why he holds Saqlain Mushtaq in such high regard.

According to Gambhir, “Mera maanna hai Saqlain Mushtaq se behtar off spinner nahi huye. Maine Muralitharan ko bahut khela hai, maine Saeed Ajmal bhi khela hai, maine Harbhajan Singh aur Ashwin bhi, lekin Saqlain Mushtaq apni peak par was different. Jaise Saqlain Mushtaq ka ball off the wicket nikalta tha, aur doosra agar kisi ne introduce kiya hai toh vo Saqlain Mushtaq.”

“(I think nobody was better than Saqlain Mushtaq. I played Muralitharan a lot and batted against Saeed Ajmal, Harbhajan Singh, and Ashwin as well, but at his peak, Mushtaq was different. He was the one who introduced Doosra),” said Gautam Gambhir.

In essence, Gambhir believes that no off-spinner surpassed Saqlain Mushtaq at his peak. Gambhir recalled facing Mushtaq during an England tour when the Pakistani spinner was far from his prime physical condition. However, even in that state, Saqlain’s ability to extract prodigious turn and variations left Gambhir in awe. In his words, “Us time par kitne aise off spinners the jo last 10 overs mein bowling kar sakte the… mera maanna hai ki peak par Saqlain Mushtaq se bada off spinner mujhe nahi lagta ki world cricket mein koi hua hai.”

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“Us time par kitne aise off spinners the jo last 10 overs mein bowling kar sakte the. Log kehte the ki main spin achi khelta hoon lekin main Saqlain Mushtaq ko England ke tour par gaye the toh Saqlain Mushtaq ko khela. Us time vo bilkul unfit the par tab bhi unke hath se jaisa ball nikal raha tha, mera maanna hai ki peak par Saqlain Mushtaq se bada off spinner mujhe nahi lagta ki world cricket mein koi hua hai.

“(How many spinners were there at that time who used to bowl in the last 10 overs? People say that I play spin bowling well, but when I went on the England tour and played Saqlain Mushtaq, At that time, he was totally unfit, but still, the way the ball was coming out of his hand, I don’t think there was any better off spinner than him at his peak),” he added.

Saqlain Mushtaq’s remarkable legacy in cricket is a testament to his skill and artistry as an off-spinner. Representing Pakistan in 49 Tests and 169 ODIs, he scalped 208 wickets in the longest format and an impressive 288 wickets in ODIs. Saqlain’s mastery of the “Doosra” delivery, a delivery that turns away from the batsman, revolutionized off-spin bowling. His influence on the game endures, as he continues to be revered by cricketing connoisseurs like Gautam Gambhir.

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