KARACHI: It was an evening to remember! Not just for the bevy of sports icons in the audience but for the entire gathering of eminent people who had converged at the auditorium of the imposing HBL Tower on Monday to celebrate the launch of the eagerly-awaited autobiography of acclaimed cricket writer and broadcaster Qamar Ahmed, titled ‘Far More Than A Game’.
The auspicious book launch, hosted by Chairman HBL Sultan Ali Allana, was made memorable by the enjoyable, worthwhile account of his life and career given by Qamar in his own inimitable style.
A veteran analyst of the game who also had a notable stint as a First Class cricketer in the early 1950s and 60s, Qamar has covered more matches in his 50-year journalistic career than any other living cricket reporter or writer — a monumental 450 Test matches, 738 ODIs and nine World Cups.
No wonder he had many stories to tell on Monday relating to class acts on the field, the game’s many controversies and interesting anecdotes, that clearly raised the spirits of his enthused audience.
Earlier, Allana complimented Qamar over his tremendous achievements in his introductory remarks and termed it an honour for his bank to host the launch. Allana’s views were fully endorsed by the book’s publisher Iqbal Saleh Mohammad of Paramount Books in his subsequent address who described his four-month association with Qamar during the book’s publication as ‘enlightening’.
With his vast experience at covering the gentleman’s game and a life well spent comprising a thousand shades, Qamar’s book could easily have contained 2000-plus pages and yet would have had the readers craving for more.
But Qamar, quite remarkably, tells his story with skill and flair in just 294 pages and a few dozen photographs, which makes a compelling read no less. Perception is reality, the saying goes. Modern players can never transcend time to repeat their feats and the fans hardly get a chance to tell it the way they witnessed it.
However, it is credit to a writer of Qamar’s intellect and writing prowess to describe the way it exactly happened, simply because he was there to see things first hand. Be it Zaheer Abbas’ unforgettable 274, Javed Miandad’s whirlwind debut hundred against New Zealand, Imran Khan’s demolition of the Indians at home and abroad, Bhagwat Chandrashekar and Abdul Qadir’s dazzling spin, Sachin Tendulkar’s first Test at Karachi’s NSK, Younis Khan and Hashim Amla’s triple hundreds, Richard Hadlee’s flowing run-up, King Viv’s ruthless reign - Qamar has seen it all.
As captain of the Sindh team, he had the distinction of dismissing all five Mohammad Brothers — Hanif, Wazir, Raees, Mushtaq and Sadiq — while as a freelance reporter who worked for leading dailies around the world, Qamar had the distinction of interviewing the legendary Nelson Mandela, Sir Gary Sobers and Sunil Gavaskar.
While in Australia as a BBC reporter, he rubbed shoulders with cricket revolutionary Kerry Packer, snubbed the fixing mafia in England and elsewhere despite their enticing offers, and upheld the golden rules of journalism and humanity with his honest, hard-hitting coverage of scores of thrilling cricket-related events in dozens of countries.
50 years is a lot of time to accumulate experience and knowledge and the book preserves Qamar’s experiences and memories in a clear, concised format, taking the reader through a fascinating journey. This is a fact well acknowledged by renowned writer Peter Oborne in his brilliant foreword to the book.
The book launch, which was primarily the brainchild of Jamal Mir, CEO Prestige Communications, had many distinguished personalities in attendance from all walks of life including former captains Mushtaq Mohammad, Zaheer Abbas, Moin Khan, Wasim Bari, Sarfraz Ahmed, orator and filmmaker Javed Jabbar, squash maestro Jahangir Khan, HBL president Mohammad Aurangzeb, UBL’s Mansoor M Khan, noted writer Talat Rahim, all-rounder Abdul Razzaq, team owner and tycoon Nadeem Omar besides other prominent bankers, mediamen and intellectuals.
Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2020