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Pakistan cricket: Sixty years of trials, tribulations and triumphs

Published Oct 16, 2012 03:24am


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Hanif Mohammad. -File photo

EXACTLY sixty years ago, on Oct 16, 1952, Pakistan played their first official Test at the Feroze Shah Kotla Stadium against India in Delhi on their inaugural tour. India then had an emphatic victory by an innings and 70 runs against an inexperienced Pakistan side which, except for captain Abdul Hafeez Kardar and the leg-spinner Amir Elahi, had nine debutants in their ranks.

Khan Mohammad, a medium-fast bowler, had bowled the first ball in Test cricket for his country to one of the game’s great all-rounders — India’s Vinoo Mankad. When batting, the tall and good-looking batsman from Lahore, Nazar Mohammad faced the first ball in Test cricket for Pakistan from Gulabrai Ramchand and a seventeen-year-old youngster Hanif Mohammad had become the first batsman from Pakistan to score a half-century in a Test.

It, however, did not take long for Pakistan to avenge their defeat as they struck back in only their second Test when they thrashed India by an innings and 43 runs at the University Ground in Lucknow where Nazar Mohammad scored an unbeaten 124 to carry his bat through an innings, thus becoming the first to make a hundred in Tests for the newly-created country.

Curling and whistling leg-cutters from the tall and handsome medium-fast bowler Fazal Mahmood had accounted for twelve Indian wickets in the match for just 94 runs. Pakistan, though lost the series in the end, it was indeed a grand beginning.

While India, West Indies, New Zealand and South Africa had taken more than two decades to register their first win in a Test, Pakistan triumphed in only their second Test, undoubtedly a proud and memorable feat.

Pakistan, in fact, had inherited a ready-made cricket culture. The parts that became a new country had already established cricket centres. The hub was of course cities like Lahore and Karachi where even before the creation of Pakistan, clubs, colleges, universities and provincial teams played regular matches and also played against the visiting teams.

Sixty years on is a long journey which has had its own ups and downs. It has been in fact worth savouring with trials, tribulations and triumphs being part of it.

With the passage of time Pakistan hosted India, New Zealand, Australia and the West Indies in its year of infancy and performed with distinction against all of them.

In the earlier phase in unofficial Tests against the West Indies, Commonwealth and Ceylon in the late 1940s and early 50s, Pakistan did not lag behind with stalwarts like Mian Mohammad Saeed, Munawar Ali Khan, a genuine fast bowler, Imtiaz Ahmed, Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Waqar Hasan and the teenaged prodigy Hanif Mohammad on call.

Going through the pages of cricket history of this country, one would no doubt feel proud of the cricketers we produced, mostly grown on home soil who over the years honed their skills playing at international level and on the county circuits.

In the mid-1950s and early 60s, I was a part of the scene myself as a cricketer at university and first-class levels and later as a journalist of this game I did have this golden opportunity watching the greats of Pakistan cricket and their achievements around the globe.

Fazal Mahmood. -File photo

The first of many greats of this country was indeed Hanif Mohammad and Fazal Mahmood, the first Pakistani to take hundred or more wickets in Tests. Hanif, I still rate as Pakistan’s greatest batsman. In skill, footwork and in concentration no batsman came anywhere near him. I think no batsman in the history of Pakistan or of the world had such endurance, stamina and focus as he had.

He remains the only batsman amongst the triple centurions to have made a triple century (337) after being asked to follow on 473 runs behind in the first ever Tests against the West Indies at Bridgetown, Barbados. He saved the six-day Test having batted for 999 minutes, that is three and a half days — still the longest individual innings in Tests.

Amongst the most elegant and graceful was obviously Zaheer Abbas whose unforgettable 274 and 240 against England in 1971 and in 1974 remain etched in everyone’s mind who witnessed it. Or for that matter his run-spree against the Indian spinners in the home series against India in 1978-79 and 1982-83.

In between was Javed Miandad, a fighter to the core and the most successful batsman of Pakistan who would not give an inch to any bowler whether fast or slow. He was the master of every situation. Once in his element he would destroy a bowler at will with his bullish and cocky approach to the game.

Majid Khan was majestic. He was entertaining as well as serious when it came to open the innings. His historic belligerent century before lunch on the first day of the Test against New Zealand at the National Stadium, Karachi in 1976 still remains fresh in my mind.

The ever-stylish Mohsin Khan, Wasim Raja, the rock-solid Asif Iqbal, Mushtaq Mohammad, Mudassar Nazar and the towering figure of Inzamam-ul-Haq, Salim Malik, Ijaz Ahmed, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan could have been the proud possession for any country.

When the all-rounders like Richard Hadlee, Ian Botham, Kapil Dev ruled, I suppose the best was Imran Khan. Both as a fast bowler, as leader of men and as batsman he could make the difference with his charismatic presence. I rated him high. Before him Hafeez Kardar and Mushtaq Mohammad had as much sharp who also led by example.

Pakistan was also lucky to have produced great fast bowlers. Over the years I have watched Lindwall and Miller, Trueman and Statham, Hall and Griffith, Lillee and Thomson, Holding and Marshall, Croft and Garner. They were all a handful and fearsome but I suppose none at par with Wasim and Waqar while bowling in tandem. They were fast, fiery with all the tricks up their sleeves to bring the downfall of even the greatest of batsmen. Their tally of wickets and strike rate speaks a thousand words.

And Sarfraz Nawaz, the master of swing and reverse swing. The tall bowler’s nine wickets against Australia in an innings at the MCG is still talked about, undoubtedly one of the finest spells of controlled medium-pace bowling. There were not many who could match his skill during his time.

Intikhab Alam was the first amongst the Pakistan spinners to take hundred wickets or more in Tests but then how can you forget near-immaculate Iqbal Qasim, wily Abdul Qadir and their successors Mushtaq Ahmed, Saqlain Mushtaq, Danish Kaneria and Saeed Ajmal.

The best wicket-keeper we had in sixty years was the ever-nimble Wasim Bari who featured in 81 Tests from 1967 to 1984, claiming 228 victims behind the stumps.

A victory in a 1-0 series against India in India in 1987 under Imran Khan and against England (1-0) the same year under and the World Cup victory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1992 I suppose were the crowning moments of Pakistan cricket.

Sadly we also had embarrassing moments as well. The Shakoor Rana-Mike Gatting affair of 1987 and the recent conviction of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamir and their imprisonment dented our pride. They are now convicted criminals and will remain with that tag under their collar for life. The hall of shame is now joined by spinner Abdur Rehman now banned for using drugs.

Despite all the mind-boggling decisions made over the years by those who managed the affairs of this game in the country, Pakistan has managed to maintain a high-profile team in Test cricket, the traditional five-day format. Pakistan’s overall Test record (matches 370, won 115, lost 101, drawn 154) explicitly denotes that.

Admittedly, presently we do not have a star-value team like yester years but there is no lack of fire within the bones even now. It is only a matter of tapping the right talent and channelling them in the right direction.


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Comments (35) Closed

Noway Jose Oct 16, 2012 06:53pm
Excellent article on Pakistan Cricket.
adam Oct 17, 2012 01:01pm
nopes these are pak gr8 ;from a indian point zaheer abbas and imran are the gr8est no need to feature corrupt people
Sreenath Oct 16, 2012 07:25pm
You forgot a very important name. Shoaib Akhtar - the fastest and scariest of them all. Growing up in India in the 90s, it was a grim picture for us from the Sharjah days. And the role Shoaib along with the 2 Ws played in it was immaculate.
Razzaq Oct 16, 2012 07:29pm
Thank you for taking me back to the glorious time of our cricket Qamar Saheb, God bless you.
D.Pramod Oct 16, 2012 07:35pm
Hi Qamar, Pakistan have proved to be a consistently successful side in the youngest format of the game - T20s even winning the World Cup in 2009. And, on the flip side, Pakistani players, along with Indian bookmakers, have consistently featured in the various -fixing episodes. Both should have featured in the above summary.
masroor durrani Oct 16, 2012 02:32pm
very concise and compact infos good to learn thank you
Pakman Oct 16, 2012 10:43am
Agree with everything except the Gatting-Rana affair being an embarrasing moment. That incident should be embarassing for the English side. Following the umpire is the most cardinal tradition of cricket.
Bilal Oct 17, 2012 05:55am
Where is Saeed Anwar? How you can forget him while talking about Pakistan cricket?
Syed Shah Oct 16, 2012 12:16pm
Beautiful and enjoyable. You reminded us of Hanif and Fazal. What great days. Nostalgic. However may I please speak for the fastest bowler in history Shoaib Akhtar. He was extreme talent but we did not have the extreme talent in management to handle extreme talent. When Central Contract was not given he did misbehave. No body asked how a central contract could not be given to man of his stature. But then he apologised and made a comeback when he was the victim of conspiracy by Afridi and Waqar in the last world cup. He still has a few years in him and how I wish he comes back for a while. He is a sight to watch and sends a shiver down the spine of batsmen facing him.
Faisal Oct 17, 2012 09:02am
Actually its not about India's cricket history and, most probably, if India were touring Pakistan then surely would have been defeated. Don't forget that India plays well at home only.
Nasser Ali Khan Oct 16, 2012 03:27pm
Pakistan's record against India and other countries is still superior to that of India. For Vikram to note that this too was "missed out". Let's not be petty ; an article like this can't cover everything. However, what should have been covered is the shambolic and unattractive system of our first class cricket and worse still the PCB, which is appointed by the President of Pakistan, who does not know even the basics of cricket. It is a joke, and a very tragic one. ICC, not significantly more representative, finds it perfectly acceptable.
Hello1 Oct 16, 2012 11:18am
Oh yes one surprising omission by Mr. Qamar Ahmad: Involvement of some umpires in alleged match fixing.
Vikram Oct 16, 2012 11:49am
Like a typical "patriotic" Pakistani, the author has conveniently glossed over other recent "downs" such as the fact that there is no international cricket to speak of (and why), and is unlikely for the foreseeable future, and why was there no mention of India's historic 2-1 (Test series) victory in 2003-04 ? Sure I can understand his sentiments, and the fact that most of the readers will be Pakistanis, but the fact of the matter is that such a series defeat is worth a mention if one is to regard this article as complete. Defeat is part of the game, and being in denial of this shows the general state of mind most Pakistanis are in -- and this pertians to the other matters affecting their society that is well-documented elsewhere. LIttle wonder then that Pakistan (who have yet to win a World Cup match against India -- another notable point made conspicuous by its absence here) are regarded by many as "bad losers" ...
Farooq Oct 17, 2012 06:35am
Very good write up on Pakistan cricket.
Adnan Oct 17, 2012 05:44am
How can you miss Pakistan beating then World No. 1 England 3-0 in test series as one the greatest test victory of all time?
Rameez Moosa Oct 17, 2012 04:26am
Hello Syed Shah. I partly agree with what you have to say about Shoaib Akhtar. He certainly was an extreme talent, but he certainly doesn't have any more years left in him. He can barely bowl 10 overs in and ODI. Perhaps he wouldn't be a bad option for T20s.
balaka1 Oct 16, 2012 11:37pm
Strangely, I was wondering why there is no mention of Nasim-ul-Ghani.
ram Oct 16, 2012 10:10pm
Wasim Raja was a great to reckon with.Superfacial naming do not justify and Ramiz too was elegant
Chaigram Oct 17, 2012 12:24am
Lovely article Qamar, especially your rating Hanif Mohammed as the greatest Pakistani batsmen. I remember watching Hanif facing the great Wesley Hall at Karachi Stadium ( I don't remember the year) with the new ball. I also remember how Hanif out played the WI pace attack with outstanding technique, he showed all the batsmen in the entire world how to face the ball coming at over 95 MPH. Thank you for rating Hanif high, I wish we had the video to show these modern day batsmen.
ram Oct 16, 2012 10:18pm
Crows are black everywhere...sometime lured and many times trapped
umair Oct 16, 2012 08:27pm
Please read carefully before comment.
ahmet abdulaziz Oct 16, 2012 06:04pm
very beautiful write up.
Karim Oct 16, 2012 06:24pm
Good overall summary of Pak cricket during the last 60 yeras. Have to say that Zaheer Abbas's stock would have been much higher if he had score a century against the West Indies. That's a major blot on his record. Others such as Majid and Mohsin did not do justice to their talent. I can only go by the players I've watched and based on that the top 3 would have to Imran, Javed and Wasim Akram. Incidentally what do you mean by 'had as much sharp'?
Mushtaq Gopang Oct 16, 2012 06:37pm
Well, I m being blind or what! Saeed Anwar Missing!
T.Sheikh Oct 16, 2012 05:55pm
Mr Vikram should refresh his knowledge and tone his rhetoric. Among other unpleasant incidents Hanif Mohammed's right hand was slashed by an 'adoring' Indian fan in the then Bombay now Mumbai in the 1962 tour. The treatment meted to Pakistani singers and cricketers suggests that future tours to India should be reconsidered!
Dr. Afzal Subedar Oct 16, 2012 05:44pm
Qamar Ahmed Saheb. Excellent memories and golden era of cricket when there was true passion for the game. i know you are from Hyderabad and living in UK for over 40 years now. I used to play for Hyderabad in the early 70s, then played Pakistan Universities and represented Sind in Penatngular in 1975 that was played in Lahore. I am residing in USA since 1978.
S.S.A Oct 16, 2012 05:23pm
Thank you for a very informative, enjoyable and nostalgic article. I belong to that era of Pak cricket..& fondly remember many, many unbelievable events. I believe, Intikhab Alam took the first wicket with his first ball at Karachi stadium against Australian my memory correct? Also I can't forget the stylish Waqar Hassan's cover drives..a treat to watch! And the day when Pakistan defeated England at Lords, when Fazal Mahmood destroyed the Englishmen...and one of the English bowlers, I believe it was Alec Bedsor, who commented that he'd like to be called the Fazal Mahmood of England! A couple of other greats, whose names were not mentioned were Imtiaz Ahmed and Merry Max (Maqsood Ahmed). I wish the writer had exposed the great flaws of our selection process, the cronyism, the pressure tactics used by the powers that be at the helm of the affairs; particularly the BCCP chiefs and the Selection Committee. Pakistan has no dearth of talent! Only if talent is groomed, and selection is fair..Pakistan cricket could still bring a lot of laurels for the country.
Raz Oct 16, 2012 11:09pm
When this article is about Pakistani cricket in these 60 years, why would someone speak about India's wins or Australia's wins etc. Obviously the writer is talking about the good days of Pakistani cricket. If you are dumb enough not to realize that. On the other hand the writer has acknowledged some of the dark moments such as some Pakistani cricketers involved in match fixing and what not. I guess you are among those people that know only how to whinge no matter how good the other person is...I guess the world is full of such people, thats the reason its not perfect.
S.S.A Oct 16, 2012 05:40pm
My dear is so amusing to read your comments! Why is it that many of our brotherly Indian and Pakistanis have to find flaws ALWAYS for one another! You mentioned the Indian win of 2-1! Well, Pakistan lost 101 tests and won 115..should they all have been mentioned? And, similarly one of the greatest moment of Pak cricket, when they won the World Cup, was not given a whole lot of coverage. And as far as your comment of other matters that are well-documented; do you know or have you read of recent reports of the extent of corruption in India, which includes the top stalwarts of Indian politics? So, my dear friend, instead of always trying to find something, anything, to condemn one another, we should try to find things that would bring two great nations together - I firmly believe that almost all of the peoples of the two countries want to have extremely brotherly relations with respect for one another; but there are those vested interests, and fanatics who just do not want the two countries to live with mutual respect and harmony.
BILAL Oct 16, 2012 05:47pm
Why the legendary, stylish and one the best openers Pakistan has ever produced SAEED ANWAR did not make into your list. I believe he was a treat watch in recent times and I am surprised why he did not came to your mind.
Jaweed Niaz Oct 16, 2012 01:17pm
Very enjoyable read. Please keep writing. Your knowledge of the history of Pakistan cricket is perhaps second to none. And your writing style is very reader friendly.
ABL Oct 16, 2012 12:10pm
Qamar Shahab, very nice article! Nostalgic! But, you covered mostly the heroes of your time. Your article jumped over few cohorts. May be due to limitation of words. I feel our current team is also good. Despite the restrictions of not having to play at home, all our present day cricketers are playing 'abroad'. Remember, in our good old days, even the best of players struggled on foreign soil. hope you agree
Bilal A. Khan Oct 16, 2012 11:57am
Lovely ji. Wonderfully sums every single one of our greats :) It's tough and enthralling to be a Pakistan Cricket fan, though. They take you from the heights of heaven to depths of hell in no time. But still love them <3
Tamilselvan Oct 16, 2012 11:31am
Good reading. Let us keep our hands off sports and let's enjoy true talent of sport stars. With our bickering both India and Pakistan have lost their edge in sports especially hockey.
Hello1 Oct 16, 2012 11:16am
Excellent article recounting the glory years of Pakistan cricket. What great names, what great cricketers.!! However, mention of the likes of Salman Butt & Co left a sour taste in the end.