IN the passing away of Waqar Hasan who died of a protracted illness on Monday in Karachi, Pakistan cricket has lost not only its last surviving member of the inaugural Test in 1952 against India at the Feroze Shah Kotla ground but also one of the country’s greatest citizens.
A right-handed batsman of impeccable skills and elegance, Waqar was first of a rare breed of stylish batsmen who when in his elements would delight the crowd with his drives in front of the wicket, be it a cover drive, an on drive or a steer past the slips. He timed his shots superbly which raced past the gaping fielders to the fence in a flash. His drives were very similar to what later became the hallmark of another most elegant batsman, Zaheer Abbas.
At a time when Pakistan was struggling with a vastly fragile batting line-up, Waqar and illustrious teammates Hanif Mohammad and Imtiaz Ahmad were the leading lights of the team and their outstanding performances often saved Pakistan from certain defeats.
He would always step into the ground in an impeccably neat playing attire. With a silken scarf under his collars and a tilted to the side white floppy hat, he could be easily spotted on the field no matter where he was fielding. In the covers he excelled with his pick up and throw on either side of the wicket.
Born into a large family of seven sons and four sisters of Mir Khurshid Hasan of Kasmiri stock who was also an educationist, Waqar finished his schooling at the Government Primary School and later went to Government College Lahore where he studied economics and philosophy. He featured regularly for his college, university and province at all levels of cricket before being picked to tour India under Abdul Hafeez Kardar after Pakistan gained its Test status and played a series against India. Years later his younger brother Parvez Sajjad also played Test cricket for Pakistan.
In Pakistan’s inaugural Test at Delhi where Hanif became the first Pakistani batsman to score a fifty in a Test, Waqar’s contribution was not significant. In Pakistan’s defeat by an innings and 70 runs his contribution was only 8 and 5 but by the end of the tour, he finished with 357 runs in Tests with an average of 44.62, the best on tour.
In the fifth and final Test at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta, Waqar saved Pakistan from a certain defeat by scoring a defiant knock 97, adding 64 runs for the seventh wicket with Fazal Mahmood after Pakistan were reduced to 152 for 6 in the second innings and trailed by 140 runs on the first innings.
On the 1954 tour of England, Waqar was in fine form and scored 1263 runs at 32.38 with the help of eleven half centuries and a hundred. His highest in Tests there was 53.
But his long cherished ambition came to fruition when the New Zealand team arrived in Pakistan in 1955-56 for their first Test series. Pakistan won that three-match series by winning the first two Tests.
In the second Test at Lahore, Pakistan in reply to New Zealand’s 348 in the first innings scored 561 with Waqar and Imtiaz Ahmad sharing a monumental stand of 308 for the seventh wicket stand, a record partnership at the time against all countries by Pakistan. In a scintillating display of stroke-making, Waqar scored 189, his only Test century in a career spanning 21 Tests.
Having made his first-class debut in 1948-49 for Punjab v West Punjab Governor’s XI in Lahore, he played in 99 first-class matches between 1948 and 1966 and scored 4,741 runs at an average of 35.65 with 8 centuries and 27 fifties. His highest score was 201* for L.W.Cannon’s XI vs Hasan Mahmood XI. Not only that but as a college student he once scored 337 for Government College against the MAO College, Lahore.
During his playing days, he got involved with the business world, establishing National Food Industries, a reputable concern and a vital foreign exchange earner for the country which is now headed by his only son, Abrar Hasan.
After his retirement from cricket, he also served the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) as the head of its selection committee and in other capacities as well.
I am privileged that I played a lot of cricket at first-class level against Waqar Bhai and also alongside him. A modest, humble, soft spoken and down to earth individual with debonair looks, he was married to Ms Jamila Razzaq, herself a famous face of the celluloid screen of the early fifties.
I also assisted him in writing his autobiography, ’For Cricket and Country’ and will forever cherish his friendship.
Rest in Peace Waqar Hasan.
Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2020