The Lahore versus Karachi cricketing rivalry is as old as partition itself.
While Lahore has usually produced the aggressive bowlers, and Karachi the gritty batsmen, cricketers from both major Pakistani cities have often competed for the same positions in the national team. Although this competition has mostly been healthy, it has occasionally led to friction.
This leads to a simple question: What would the all-time elevens for these cities look like? And, if they were involved in a cricketing match, who would win?
Yes, it is a query as loaded as asking who won the 1965 war, if Goku could defeat Superman, and whether biryani is better than pulao. (Please keep in mind that this article is for entertainment purposes only. All complaints, death threats, and the like can be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Naturally, a game between these two proud cities would be a five-day encounter, which is an ultimate test of skill, endurance, and when Hanif Mohammad was batting, the viewers’ ability to stay focussed.
Any player born in Karachi or Lahore automatically qualifies for their respective team. Players born in another city who have adopted either Karachi or Lahore and have played the majority of their cricket for the city in question also qualify.
Some cricketers were chosen ahead of others to balance their team. Sadly, my favorite cricketer, Waqar Younis, could not make the cut as he is too much of a jetsetter to belong to any one city.
(Statistics: ESPN Cricinfo)
1 Saeed Anwar
The greatest opener Pakistan ever produced and a naturally gifted timer of the ball. His most glaring weakness was his tendency to flirt with the moving ball outside his off stump early on in his innings. Although his record is excellent, it doesn’t reflect the true depth of his talents.
2 Hanif Mohammad
A class act, Hanif was sometimes impossible to dismiss, and was the backbone of the team during his time.
3 Zaheer Abbas
Dubbed as the Asian Bradman, he scored heavily against spinners and medium pacers, at a fair strike rate too. He wasn’t perfect though, and developed both a reputation for selfishness as well as a fragility against genuine fast bowling.
4 Younis Khan
Younis is still going strong, and is a contender for the greatest Pakistani Test batsmen of all time. His conversion rate is tremendous, and he can score against the best.
5 Javed Miandad (VC)
Javed was a good unorthodox batsman with a shrewd brain. Although Javed boasted a fine captaincy record, this was somewhat skewed by leading in Imran’s absence against weaker opponents. Alternatively, as Imran Khan’s trusty vice-captain, he provided him with great counsel. Unfortunately, Javed could never quite control his wards as captain, which is why he finds himself in the familiar deputy role in the Karachi XI.
6 Mushtaq Mohammad (C)
Mushtaq was a dependable captain who was occasionally accused of leading overcautiously. Considering that the team lacks in bowling firepower, this suits the Karachi XI just fine. What’s more, his defiant middle order batting, coupled with his leg breaks, googlies, and flippers, should make him a dangerous all-rounder for his team.
7 Asif Iqbal
He began his career as an opening bowler, yet ended up as more of a batsman. Incredibly quick between the wickets, Asif Iqbal was very good when batting with the tail. In the Karachi XI, Asif features in a pivotal role as an all-rounder.
8 Rashid Latif (WK)
Moin Khan may have been a better batsman, while Wasim Bari a shade better keeper, but Rashid Latif had the best of both worlds.
9 Iqbal Qasim
A plucky left-handed batsman, and a miserly left-arm finger spinner, Qasim’s skills could catch a few of Lahore’s more flamboyant batsmen off guard.
10 Mohammad Sami
We aren’t quite sure why Sami is in this team. The city's fastest bowler, Sami never realised his potential.
Sami has had his moments against teams such as India, New Zealand, and Australia, where he has outclassed the world’s best batsmen.
His bowling average, which looks like Younis Khan’s batting average, looks horrible on paper, but it doesn’t tell the true tale of a man brimming with ability, who inexplicably could never fulfill talents other bowlers would die for.
Sami is a mystery worth the mind of Agatha Christie. Yes, plenty of dropped chances off his bowling hurt his confidence, but nothing explains those statistics.
11 Saleem Jaffar
To balance the unpredictable Mohammad Sami, there is the tall and steady Saleem Jaffar.
1 Aamir Sohail
While Karachi has produced some fantastic openers, including Mohsin Khan and a number of Mohammad brothers who didn’t make the cut, Lahore has been home to men like Aamir Sohail. Gutsy, aggressive, and very determined, though unable to carry a side single-handedly.
2 Mudassar Nazar
Not as naturally gifted as his partner Mohsin Khan, Nazar was a steely opener who could produce scores against the best bowlers. He was also an effective medium-pacer; dubbed during a tour in England as ‘the man with the golden arm’.
3 Majid Khan
Like Asif Iqbal, Majid began his career as a bowler, but eventually turned to the other side. An elegant batsman, he earned plenty of fans through his style alone.
4 Mohammad Yousuf
Another contender for the greatest Pakistani Test batsman of all time, the artist formerly known as Yousuf Youhana, was an excellent player of spin bowling, and another elegant stroke maker. Yes, in Yousuf and Majid, Lahore would have one of the prettiest batting partnerships in world cricket.
5 Salim Malik
Malik was as good a player of spin bowling as Yousuf, if not better. Who can forget his 237 where he tamed Shane Warne with ease? (Let’s not talk about what followed).
6 Imran Khan (C)
A great captain, excellent batsman, and a dangerous fast bowler, Imran is undoubtedly one of the three greatest all-rounders of all time. Time and again he led Pakistan to victory in the face of improbable odds.
Under his leadership, Pakistan nearly won a Test series against the mighty West Indies on their turf, while achieving the same result when hosting them later.
His greatest achievement, however, was winning the 1992 World Cup in a comeback that Pakistani fathers narrate to their sons as a matter of tradition.
Imran’s biggest strength was also his weakness: his single-mindedness. So focused was he on winning the World Cup to aid his dream of building a cancer hospital, that he delivered a cringe worthy pitch for donations in the post-match ceremony, instead of thanking his team.
7 Kamran Akmal (WK)
Kamran makes the cut simply because his skills with the willow balance this slightly weaker batting side.
Hopefully, the fear of getting choked by the great Khan will prove as incentive for this notoriously bad keeper.
Don’t drop it Kami, or Imran will drop you… from the pavilion.
8 Wasim Akram (VC)
The greatest left-arm fast bowler of all time, and certainly one of the five best opening bowlers to ever play cricket, Akram was a magician, and could find swing, pace, and seam on any wicket. We aren’t sure how Waz’s statistics would have been affected had he, instead of Rashid Latif and Moin Khan, had the services of an Akmal. Certainly his temper would have been less in check.
9 Abdul Qadir
Before Mushtaq Ahmed and Yasir Shah, there was Qadir; at his time considered the greatest leggie in the world. He had the temperament of a fast bowler, and few captains appreciated him until Imran Khan.
Qadir’s bowling statistics make for good reading, but they would have only been better had the umpires of his time understood his variations.
10 Saqlain Mushtaq
'Saqi boy' was a pioneer of the doosra, and bowled it with a clean action, unlike many off spinners who find themselves outlawed today. Only injury held back this truly humble Pakistani, who in a more just universe would have only retired from Test cricket recently with enough wickets to challenge the best.
11 Fazal Mahmood
Opening this dangerous bowling attack with 'Waz' is one of Pakistan’s all-time greats. Fazal could move the ball off the pitch, and was one of the nation’s earliest poster boys of cricket. We owe Fazal some memorable victories against Australia, England, and India, at a time when Pakistan was but a baby in the world of cricket.
Who would win?
Bowlers win Test matches, and even with Kamran Akmal acting as a handicap; it would be difficult to see Karachi scoring heavily against Lahore. Bowlers such as Fazal, Wasim, Saqlain, Qadir, and Imran, would shake the all-time elevens of nations such as Australia, England, and India, let alone a city eleven.
Karachi XI’s best hope of achieving a positive result is to bat first, and hope that Kamran Akmal drops Saeed Anwar a few times off of Wasim Akram, allowing him to attack the bowlers, and pile on a few runs, with Hanif holding up one end.
Unfortunately, I can’t see Zaheer lasting against the genuine pace of Wasim and Imran, especially with the bad blood between him and the latter, unless the Karachi openers see off the three pacers.
Younis would be the best bet against every Lahore bowler, while Javed, Mushtaq, and company could score against the spinners in the first innings. A lot would depend on these Karachi’s middle order batsmen.
On the other hand, while Lahore’s batting is decidedly weak, their top three are more than capable of handling Karachi’s pace trio of Sami, Jaffar, and the swing of Asif.
Though Mushtaq and Qasim are competent spinners, Lahore’s 'masters of spin' such as Malik and Yousuf would feast on their bowling. Later, big hitters such as Imran, Kamran, Wasim, and even Qadir would heavily punish the now weary Karachi attack.
This is how things would play out unless Sami woke up on the right side of bed, or if Imran was taken into custody for the mysterious disappearance of Kamran Akmal.
In the second innings, with Karachi aiming for a draw, one can imagine the great Hanif batting for time while looking as solid as a rock, but who would support him? The pitch cracking up, even Zaheer and Javed would find it difficult to survive against Saqlain and Qadir, especially with Imran, Fazal, and Wasim reversing the ball.
Sorry guys, though I am a Karachi boy, I find it difficult to see our city beating Lahore.
The only realistic chance for Karachi is if the Lahore team starts fighting amongst themselves. As everyone knows, Aamir Sohail doesn’t like Imran, Majid didn’t like Imran, Imran didn’t like Malik, and no one likes Kamran Akmal.
If anyone can set fire to this bickering, it is Javed Miandad.