Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Who would believe that 25 years ago Nawaz Sharif, then chief minister of Pakistan's Punjab province, bowled a googly on the eve of a crucial 1987 ODI World Cup cricket warm-up game against West Indies? Shortly before the starting of the game, Sharif declared himself as the captain of Punjab Chief Minister's XI. And in an act of bravado bordering on foolhardiness, the politician didn't even bother to wear proper protection gear while batting against the most terrifying pace battery in the history of the game.
The bizarre incident is described in great detail and with evident relish by then Pakistan captain Imran Khan in his 2011 autobiography titled, Pakistan: a personal history. He writes, "Just before the World Cup in October 1987, when I was captaining Pakistan, we played a warm-up match against the West Indies at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Moments before the match, the secretary of the cricket board, Shahid Rafi, informed me that the Chief Minister of Punjab, Nawaz Sharif, was going to captain the team that day. I was taken aback but then assumed that he would have a non-playing role and waned to watch the match from the dressing room. Therefore I was shocked to see him walk out to toss the coin with Viv Richards, the West Indies captain, dressed in his cricket whites; but there was a bigger shock to come. He won the toss, and returned to the dressing-room and started putting on his pads. None of the team could believe what we were seeing; he was going to open the innings where with Mudassar Nazar against the West Indies, one of the greatest fast-bowling attacks in cricket history. Nazar wore batting pads, a thigh pad, chest pad, an arm guard, a helmet and reinforced batting gloves, while Sharif simply had his batting pads, a floppy hat — and a smile."
Imran Khan further writes, "For those who are not conversant with cricket history, it is important to know that this was a fast-bowling attack not seen before or since in the cricketing world, such was West Indies' blistering place, with four bowlers bowling above 90 mph. It was the sort of attack that had destroyed the careers of many a talented batsman. International batsmen, professional cricketers would have sleepless nights when they were due to face the West Indies. And here was Nawaz Sharif, who had no experience of playing at this level of cricket, walking out unprotected, to face this deadly attack. Clearly he would not have the reflexes to defend himself if a short ball was aimed at his body, so there was a risk of a serious injury. I quickly inquired if there was an ambulance ready.
"As we watched the ball - by a six feet, six inch West Indian fast bowler - hit the wicketkeeper's gloves even before Sharif could lift his bat, the team sighed with relief that it wasn't straight. Mercifully for Sharif, the second ball was straight at the stumps, and before he could move, his stumps lay shattered. For those who don't understand cricket, Sharif was trying the equivalent in academic terms of a child, having just finished primary school, attempting to write a PhD thesis," concludes Imran, now founder of the political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf.
For the record, the match was played on October 4, 1987 between Punjab Chief Minister's XI and West Indians.