LAHORE: Former fast bowler Farooq Hamid, an unsung hero of Pakistan cricket history, on Saturday said he left cricket in 1969 at the age of 25 in utter disappointment due to dirty politics which continue to plague Pakistan cricket.
Farooq, who could play just one Test match against Australia, and claimed the only wicket of Ian Chappell in 1964 in Melbourne, in an exclusive interview to Dawn said: “All my colleagues know what sort of treatment I was meted out from my captains, topping that list is great Hanif Mohammad — may God bless his soul — and his brother Wazir Mohammad, who made sure I never played international cricket after the tour to Australia.
“When I took seven wickets for 16 runs against Wellington in a match (on the New Zealand tour), they were dismissed for 53 runs in just ten overs.” recalled Farooq, whose nickname was Tooty. “However, everyone was surprised to see that I was not in the Pakistan team for the Test match that was played at the same venue after a couple of days. And neither was I included for the other two Tests played against New Zealand in that series,” he said.
“In 1963 when I was part of the Pakistan Eaglets team touring England, I had taken five wickets in three overs but my captain Wazir Mohammad did not give me the ball for further bowling against Lancashire at the old Trafford ground,” said Farooq. “Later, Secretary MCC Mr. Howard told my manager that, “today Farooq bowled a yard quicker than Truman at his best.”
“This and much more of the same treatment disheartened and demoralised me so much that I decided to quit cricket at the young age of just 25,” he said. Farooq added that his bouncers during his peak cricketing days were ferocious and quite unplayable that unnerved a lot of fine batsmen. “Wazir, while facing me in a trophy match, was hit right on the mouth by my bouncer and four of his teeth were broken and his lip got ten stitches.
“Hanif, while facing me in 1969 final in Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, was bowled with an out swinging yorker on the very third ball he faced. Many international cricket personalities such as great Sir Don Bradman besides or own Imtiaz Ahmed, Zaheer Abbas and others considered me as the fastest bowler, even faster than Charlie Griffith of the West Indies,” he said.
“Many leading cricketers were scared of my bouncers, but former Test batsman Mohammad Ilyas is one of those who could face my bouncers with better technique. Ilyas also proved a better hooker against Griffith, who toured Pakistan in 1963 with the Commonwealth team ” he recalled.
“On that tour, great batsman Rohan Kanhai was floored by my lethal bouncer. Later, the commentators said that I was much quicker than Griffith. I must have been bowling at around 110-115 miles per hour I think,” he said.
“Even Sir Don Bradman praised me as a fast bowler when I met him during the Australian tour and he also praised Ilyas for his century at Adelaide,” Farooq said.
Asked if his aggressive attitude was one of the reasons behind his short international career, Farooq replied: “Every fast bowler should be aggressive , it was the job of the team management to handle fast bowlers carefully.
“Yes, the same politics is going on and harming our cricket. But we are lucky now that we have legendary all-rounder Imran Khan as Prime Minister and hopefully cricket will improve under him,” observed Farooq. “However, if Imran Khan fails to correct the system then only God can save our cricket.”
Farooq, though, did not seem happy with the appointment of Ehsan Mani as the PCB chairman. “Mani is my old friend but has only theoretical knowledge of the game. I could not understand who advised Mani to appoint Misbah as head coach and chief selector,” said Farooq. “As a cricketer Misbah is okay, but not in his dual role of chief selector and head coach. Both these key posts have their own demands and qualification, so this action of Mani is beyond comprehension” he said.
“And then PCB have brought Wasim Khan from abroad to run the PCB, while many talented persons who know the domestic system of Pakistan very well are available here such as Majid Khan, Ramiz Raja and Wasim Akram and many other,” he said.
The former pacer severely criticized the PCB’s decision of abolishing departmental cricket. “The decision of abolishing departmental cricket will damage the game in Pakistan. Instead of ending the departmental cricket the departments must be asked to also form their Under-16 and U-19 colt teams as they have the system to polish and groom the players in a more professional way, which the LCCA or KCCA cannot do,” he argued. “Departmental cricket is the back-bone of Pakistan cricket and must be resumed.”
He emphasised that PCB must re-introduce inter-school, inter-collegiate and inter-university tournaments. “That is the sector from where fine players were always spotted and their talent was such that they were subsequently groomed into world class players.
“The PCB has hired a huge team of coaches but I can bet not even one of them have ever visited schools and colleges to pick talent,” he said.
Asked to name his favourite fast bowler, Farooq said Glenn McGrath of Australia impressed him a lot.
Farooq disclosed that he also coached Sarfraz Nawaz in the early stage of his career and later they both played domestic cricket together.
He said Pakistan was giving only average performance at international level and he was not expecting it would turn into a world-class team anytime soon. “We have no genuine fast bowlers in the team and though Naseem Shah is quick, he is just an an average bowler when it comes to quality.”
During his early days, Farooq also earned a name as an International athlete, winning gold and silver medals in Pakistan National Games from 1961-1970 and his total points in decathlon were 6700 in National Games when the Asian champion in then Asian Games could muster 6300 points.
As a batsman too, Farooq could do a fair job when in form. He said that he might be the only cricketer who hit maximum big sixes in Sydney and at the Gaddafi Stadium.
“My six at the Sydney cricket ground went out of the stadium over the ladies pavilion into the car park. Approximately over 130 yards,” he said. The Australian newspaper termed him ‘Farooq The king hitter of the world’. The one at Gaddafi Stadium landed on top of the stairs of the stadium.
Farooq also suggested the PCB should make amendments in its pension package for the old cricketers. “I want to suggest that PCB follow the policy of the Defence Forces, where after the age of 72 the pension is doubled automatically,” he said.
He added that very few cricketers are living to 70-plus age, so their pension should be more than doubled,” he said.
Farooq’s sister Tahira Hamid also helped Pakistan in setting up the Women cricket association in 1978 and she was the first secretary of the association.
Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2020