Pakistan has perhaps produced more cricketing families in the last six decades than any other country. Some have been low key, like Moin Khan’s brother Nadeem Khan playing a couple of Tests in the 1990s and Imran Farhat’s brother, Humanyun, keeping wickets in one Test.
The Elahi brothers, Manzoor, Zahoor and Saleem played for short periods of time but never together as did brothers Saeed Ahmed (a brilliant batsman who played 41 Tests and also captained Pakistan) and Younis Ahmed, who played three Tests in two series split by some 16 years. Few would know that elder cousin of Danish Kaneria, Anil Dalpat, kept wickets for Pakistan briefly in the mid 1980s.The Rana brothers have a place, too. Azmat played a lone Test 10 seasons after elder brother Shafqat played the last of his five. But they are the only Pakistani cricketing family which produced a Test umpire as well. That was the late Shakoor Rana, famous for an altercation with England captain Mike Gatting for an on field violation in 1987 at Faisalabad that stood up a Test match.
The legendry Javed Miandad’s brothers played first class cricket, but it was only his sister’s son, Faisal Iqbal, who has played for Pakistan among the family. Despite a Test hundred against India at Karachi in 2006, and a near match winning innings against Australia a few years earlier in the Colombo Test, (one of eight fifties in 26 Tests), he still struggles to get back into the side, and not for lack of merit.
His batting style reminds so much of Javed though, for whom a whole book is not enough to bring out the mastermind in him, whether batting or leading. The only batsman in history to have a Test average never drop below 50 throughout his career, he has an undisputed place in world cricket’s hall of fame.
His last ball six against India is etched in cricket’s famed moments and those who saw him come down and drive three successive boundaries off Collinge to reach his hundred on Test debut at Lahore would perhaps have anticipated such a finish. He was a legend if only for his presence and his aura, yet it seemed he was always fighting for recognition from the Board, and was hard done by when captaincy was taken away from him in an appalling manner.
This generation has seen Ramiz Raja appearing on television but when I meet him my mind goes back to his elder brother, the departed Wasim. Many of this generation may be unaware that Ramiz had a brother who also played cricket for Pakistan. Perhaps it is so because, among the family members who have played for Pakistan, Wasim is the only one other than Nazar Mohammad, to be not among us anymore.
And what spectacular cricket he played, at one time probably the most exciting and stylish batsmen on the world circuit. It would perhaps reflect on his genius to reveal that Imran Khan was in awe of him, and surprised he played Test cricket ahead of him, especially when he would often play the raw but still fast Imran in the nets without his pads on. He was a left-handed batsman who hit the ball as hard as he timed it sweetly; and bowled his leg breaks languidly.
Though he’d played in a Test already, Wasim Raja was introduced to the world on the 1974 tour at Lord’s. On a pitch that had absorbed rainwater overnight he curbed his natural instincts for stroke play to fight his way to a half century against the world’s most dangerous spin bowler on rain-affected pitches, Derek Underwood.
He did his Master’s in first degree from Punjab University and came from a privileged background. He captained Pakistan under-19 and went on to play over 100 internationals, split almost evenly in Tests and ODI’s. He was a quiet rebel, temperamental and a loner at times; all the trappings of a genius. Wasim carried a calm and smiling persona on the field but had his altercations with authority, a precursor to someone like Shoaib Akhtar; like him playing less Tests than he should have.
Wasim Raja is one of the few Pakistani batsmen to have a tremendous record against West Indies, the best team in the 1970s from the time Raja began to play as a regular for Pakistan. He hit his first Test century against them in 1975, and then set the Caribbean fields on fire with more than 500 runs on the 1977 tour, including a last wicket partnership that yielded over 151 which eventually led to Pakistan saving the Test. In 11 Tests against them he made over 900 runs at an average of over 57. He would excel more in series where other batsmen failed, and in India in 1979 he scored 450 runs at 56.25, enjoying a good run against them overall.
He walked away from international cricket in his mid 30s to marry and settle in England. He taught in Caterham School for 15 years till the day he collapsed and died on the pitch while batting for Surry over-50s on Aug 23, 2006. His lasting memory for me will be when he walked onto the middle at National Stadium with his foot in plaster after a fielding accident, to allow Sadiq Mohammad, on 98, to complete a century after he had batted all of last day to save the Test. He survived three balls before being bowled by Gibbs the off spinner, his masterful footwork unable to function and was clapped all the way in and back by the West Indians and everyone who was there.
He had been there when Ramiz made his debut in 1984. Though equally stylish the younger Raja was less flamboyant. Even as he played some fine innings for Pakistan and captained the side once, Ramiz always lived under the shadow of his elder brother. Such was the privilege of being Wasim’s brother that perhaps Ramiz would not have minded.