IN an unprecedented situation we are faced with presently across the globe, things start to come back to you to reminisce and enjoy the very thought of it of being one to have enjoyed a record breaking feat, first hand and to be proud of being one in the crowd to witness a landmark by one of your own who in my estimate was one of the best that Pakistan always feels proud to have.
A gentleman cricketer who having entered the game as a medium-pace bowler, transformed himself into one of the most exhilarating and entertaining batsmen of our time if any to grace the cricket grounds of the world.
Be it Pakistan, England, Australia, Cambridge University, Glamorgan or Queensland or wherever he showed up he left his indelible mark and his stamp of class for people to remember.
He was no other than Majid Jahangir Khan, an unassuming, quiet and dignified individual who as one of the most loved characters of the game was revered as a person as much as he was as a batsman.
Aggressive while in the middle and yet serene and sophisticated in execution, mauling even the finest and the fastest without blinking and eyebrow.
His exploits as the assassin of a batsman are countless. Hitting 13 sixes in an innings against Glamorgan, punishing Roger Davis to his heart’s content and then challenging Wayne Daniel of Middlesex at Lord’s to bounce at him and then flogging him to his right and left with the West Indian crowd shouting in encouragement, ‘Kill him Majid, kill him,’. The West Indians loved that kind of
challenge which Majid had on offer, no matter who bowled at him. I was a witness to this and felt so proud the way Majid in his white floppy hat, hooked, pulled and cut Daniel to entertain the crowd. Became a fan of him that day.
But besides all his exploits in the middle, what I really like most about him was his breathtaking century against New Zealand before lunch — a rare feat indeed -- on the opening day of the 1976-77 Test played at the National Stadium, Karachi. I am glad that I witnessed that match, the third and final Test of the series which Pakistan won 2-0.
It was a special year for me, in fact those were the early days of my professional career. Having had a stint as coach in Holland, training the Hermes DVS Cricket and Football Club in Schiedam, a town from where came the famous World War-I women spy ‘Mata Hari’, I witnessed Tony Grieg’s England
getting demolished by West Indies late in the summer. Michael Holding touring England for the first time bowled with highly penetrating pace and venom in the final Test at The Oval to take 14 wickets in the match was something to behold.
But then not many months later came this great innings by Majid at NSK. Having seen Pakistan win the first Test by six wickets at Lahore in which debutant Javed Miandad scored a brilliant 163, Asif Iqbal 166 and Peter Petherick take a hat-trick which included the scalps of Miandad, Wasim Raja and Intikhab, I had come to my hometown Hyderabad for the second Test which Pakistan comfortably won by 10 wickets with centuries from Sadiq Mohammad and captain Mushtaq Mohammad.
In that Test Majid was stumped off left-arm spinner David O’Sullivan, missing a hundred by two runs. That innings must have given Majid the kind of confidence he required to go all out in the third Test at Karachi.
I was sitting in an open press box in the stands at NSK when Pakistan having won the toss decided to bat with Majid and Sadiq taking strike. What happened next within hours before lunch was something bewitching and incredibly unrealistic as Majid with all his majesty started to strike the ball like a man possessed.
Not sparing either Richard Hadlee, Richard Collinge, Lance Cairns or O’Sullivan who used to play for the same club in London as I did, Finchley.
Hooking, pulling, cutting and driving, the right-handed Majid quickly reached his fifty and then a hundred (108 not out) before the umpire took the bails off for lunch. An exhibition of strokeplay I seldom witnessed for years to come. It was bewildering, overwhelming as he struck 18 fours and two sixes before he was eventually dismissed after lunch for 112 in 74 balls, caught by Mark Burgess off Collinge. With Sadiq, he shared a 147-run opening stand. Though the Test ended in a draw, the memory of Majid punishing the bowlers was something to always remember.
This was the Test in which young Miandad struck a marathon 206 and Mushtaq 107.
It dawned on us then that Majid had written his name in the record books for being the fourth after Australians Victor Trumper, Charlie Macartney and Don Bradman to achieve this feat. Majid’s had come 46 years after Bradman notched up his against England at Headingley in 1930.
Later two more batsmen -- Australia’s David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan of India -- scored Test hundreds before lunch on day one against Pakistan (Sydney) and Afghanistan (Bangalore) in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
As long as I live, Majid’s magical century in Karachi would remain as one of the most memorable innings that I had the privilege to watch.
Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020