When I was selected for Pakistan in 1975, there was no fuss about the fact that I was going to start my international career with the World Cup.
We didn’t know what the World Cup itself was. Actually, I think none of the teams knew what to make of it.
Of course everyone wanted to do well, there was national pride involved, but limited-overs cricket was a brand new concept. The entire playing community was diving into a new world.
Off the field, I remember the scene around the World Cup being festive. The vibes were positive and friendly, far different from the present era of cricket.
For a kid like me, it was a feast to see all the best cricket stars in the world in the same place. I had been picked as an allrounder and because I’d got enough runs, I was confident. I didn’t think the difference between our domestic cricket and the international game was as massive as it is now.
I was almost 18 and excited to meet the big names I had only heard about growing up, and to see them in the same dressing room. Zaheer Abbas, Majid Khan became my team-mates, and as I was the youngest, I got called the “baby” of the squad, like a real nickname. I didn’t bother about it because I was in a dream world and barely understood what a big deal it was to shake hands with the Queen.
All I thought about was facing many of the best fast bowlers in the world. I remember practising with a wet ball using the slide board to practise playing against the bouncer.
I didn’t make the 1st XI in our opening match, which we lost to Australia. The day I made my debut, against West Indies, it was the day before my 18th birthday, and I wanted to make it memorable.
It was memorable but not how I had imagined. We got knocked out of a place in the semi-finals. We had made 266, sent West Indies down to 166 for 8 and 203 for 9 and still we lost. Their last wicket needed 64 runs and we let them get it. We should never have lost that match but we did. It was painful and it still hurts. On my birthday the next day, as I turned 18, I cried.