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Of fathers, sons and cousins: Playing for a name-II

March 17, 2013

Nazar Mohammad and Mudassar Nazar were the other father and son to have played Test cricket for Pakistan besides Hanif and Shoaib. Again both were opening batsmen and provide the only instance in Test cricket where father and son both carried their bat through an innings in a Test match. Nazar, who had faced Pakistan’s first ball in Test cricket, remained 124 not out in Pakistan’s only (completed) innings of 331 in the second Test match at Lucknow in 1952 while Mudassar returned unbeaten on 152 30 years later out of a score of 323 in Lahore, also against India.

Like Hanif and Shoaib both scoring unbeaten double centuries against the same country (as detailed in part one last week), it’s a feat unlikely to be matched. And if it is, chances that it will be against the same country are about as much as Dave Whatmore passing instructions in Punjabi.

That century by Nazar Mohammad was also the first for Pakistan. In that match he became the first player to be on the field throughout the five days. He got 277 runs at an average touching 40 in the eight innings he played in that series but his promising career was cut short after a freak accident back home. Still he kept contributing to cricket as an administrator and selector off and on. He passed away 17 years ago at the age of 75.

But in early 1978 he had seen his son block his way to the slowest ever Test match century, in 557 minutes or a little over nine hours, at Lahore. It was admittedly a needless innings, 114 in 449 deliveries, targeted it seems at the very record held by South Africa’s D.J. McGlew who reached his in 545 minutes against Australia 20 years earlier. Pakistan was shorn of Packer players and Wasim Bari was content to draw the rubber against the visiting England. So no batsman had any compulsions other than stay in the middle and block away. The pitches, too, were as lifeless as a politician’s speech these days.

Though Gurusinha, Jeff Crowe and Sanjay Manjrekar came close between 12 and 57 minutes to breaking his record, he owns the title Turtle King of batting. The way Test cricket is approached these days it is unlikely to be slowed further down. Maybe someone batting like Hanif Mohammad to save a Test; but then in those days concentration and temperament was not infected at the roots by the Twenty20 virus.

He later on would score at a relatively faster pace and became a useful man to have around. At one time Mudassar Nazar also held the record for highest partnership in Test cricket: 451-runs for the third-wicket with Javed Miandad against India at Hyderabad, Pakistan in 1982–83. In that series he scored over 750 runs with four hundreds, the first of which came batting lower down after he turned up too late on the ground to open the innings due to a reported stomach bug.

Mudassar worked hard on his medium pace swing and twice caused a collapse, against India and England, to put Pakistan in winning position in both those Tests.

Another fine cricketer to start his Test career with Nazar in Pakistan’s very first Test was Waqar Hasan, who went on to play till the end of the decade, leaving cricket early at 27 to start a business that today has gone global. Waqar was a true gentleman and debonair which led to offers of lead roles in films which he refused. A sparkling top order batsman who excelled in crisis; crafting 81 after Pakistan were 60-6 on opening day of the third Test, with another 50 in the second innings. A near century with four wickets left and only 12 ahead, saved the fifth Test. But his supreme feat was with Imtiaz Ahmed against New Zealand when the pair added 308, picking up from 111-6; his contribution 189. His Test average was second only to Hanif (among regulars) while he played for Pakistan.

His younger brother, Pervez Sajjad, entered the Pakistan team as a left arm spinner in 1964. He was a shrewd reader of pitches and bowled to its strengths, finishing with 59 wickets at just over 23 each in 19 Tests, with a best of 7-74 in a nine-year span. Like Waqar, a distinguished man.

The second extended family to play for Pakistan over three generations was the Khan-Burki clan from western India-Lahore. If the Mohammad brothers started their cricket from Jahangir Park, the Khan cousins’ nursery was Zaman Park and Atchison.

Javed Burki, Majid Khan and Imran Khan were the three cousins, sons of sisters, who played for Pakistan. But earlier than that Majid’s father, Jahangir Khan, played four Tests in the 1930s for India; Jahangir’s brother-in-law, Baqa Jilani, also played a solitary Test for India around that time taking no wickets with his medium pace. When Majid’s son, Bazid, played his solitary Test it qualified them as one of two families, along with the Hearnes, to have most family members playing Test cricket. And in both cases four played for one (England) and two for another country (South Africa).

Jahangir Khan bowled fast medium and once bowling in a Test match at Lord’s he famously struck down a sparrow that was flying across the pitch after the six-foot Jahangir had let go of the ball. The dead bird was preserved and is still on display at the museum at Lord’s cricket ground. Though there was the probability that he would lead the first Pakistan team after Partition, he was overlooked in favour of Mian Mohammad Saeed. But both had retired when the time of playing the first official Test came.

All three captained Pakistan, another first in Test cricket, that of three first cousins though both Javed and Majid were thrust into captaincy when they did not merit it considering the other options available.

Imran was the only one among them to live up to the leadership role; Javed and Majid were too aloof and did not have the ability and the team composition to be successful. All three were Oxbridge graduates, Javed and Imran from Oxford and Majid from Cambridge.

Javed Burki was a specialist middle-order batsman who scored three hundreds but didn’t have much to show consistently. It was Majid who caught the eye and not just for blasting 147 not out in 89 minutes for Pakistan against Glamorgan in 1967 including 13 sixes (five in one over). He is remembered more for his fluid, suave and unflustered style whether batting, bowling or fielding.

Like his father before him Majid studied and played for Cambridge University and scored a double hundred against Oxford in the annual game. He is probably one of the rare cricketers who made his debut as an opening bowler (in the mid ’60s) and after establishing himself as a top-order batsman in 1972-73 tour of Australia and New Zealand, settled as an opener on the 1974 tour of England.

His finest hour came in the third Test against New Zealand at Karachi where he scored a hundred before lunch on the very first day, emulating Australians Victor Trumper, Charles Macartney and Sir Don Bradman; it came after a gap of 46 years and hasn’t happened again. Considering the pace at which some of the world’s greatest top-order batsmen have played before and since, yet none having achieved this, speaks of the enormity of the feat.

Majid also scored Pakistan’s first ODI hundred in only their second ODI, a swashbuckling 109 off 90-odd balls at Old Trafford. He was fearless against fast bowling, once scoring over 500 runs in a series in West Indies in 1977, possessing at the time the fastest bowling attack in the world. It included a blistering 167 after starting the second innings with a first innings deficit of 254. But a ball that struck him on the temple while playing in the Packer Series in Australia shook his hand-eye coordination, and though he moved down the order, could never reclaim his lost glory. But he could be temperamental. Once uprooting his leg stump and stomping it in the ground a couple of yards away, to taunt Kapil Dev who kept bowling wide of leg stump, as Pakistan chased 120-odd in about 75 minutes to win the second Test at Lahore against India in 1978.

The Khan family provides the only instance after the Headley family of West Indies and England, where three consecutive generations of a family has played Test cricket; as Majid’s son, Bazid, also played a single Test and five ODI’s for Pakistan. Pakistan perhaps has an edge on families playing for two countries as the father of Khalid Wazir, who played two Tests for Pakistan in the ’50s, was the son of Wazir Ali and nephew of Nazir Ali, both of whom appeared for India.

The most famous member of the family was of course Imran Khan. After candidly admitting he was a beneficiary of nepotism to make it to the Pakistan team when he didn’t even have a bowling run up, he rose to become arguably the greatest all rounder, barring perhaps Gary Sobers, with nearly 3,000 Test runs at an average of close to 40 and over 360 wickets at under 23, (which rose to 50 with the bat and dropped to 19 with the ball in the last 10 years). In the top cricketers of the 20th century he ranked sixth, a few votes down from the top five.

His greatest legacy was that he transformed Pakistan from a cautious mindset to a visibly aggressive side that believed it could win anything. Though he lifted the World Cup in 1992, but I still believe that his fearless leadership was best exemplified on the tours of England in 1982 and 1987, India 1987 and West Indies 1988, the powerhouses of cricket on their home turfs and though he could have won all four series, he lost the first by the thinnest of margins and drew the last when Pakistan were a whisker away from winning it 2-1. Often he played a significant role with the bat or ball in most of Pakistan’s Test victories under his own captaincy, perhaps his best being 40 wickets against India in the 1982-83 series including a spell of high speed, reverse swing at Karachi rarely seen since on such a placid pitch and against a strong batting lineup.

Imran is to be credited for bringing in Waqar Younis, Aaqib Javed and Inzamam-ul-Haq on personal intervention, reinstating Abdul Qadir and grooming Wasim Akram. But he was sometimes quickly dismissive of players he did not think much of, no matter what their performance or potential. He ruled Pakistan cricket like a king, and not many dared to disagree with him. And when they did he still had his way on tour or in the field. This Khan could not be denied for long.

The writer has been writing on cricket since 1979, and has edited The Cricketer International (UK) Asian Edition as well as authored two books on World Cup history.

The third part of the series will talk about the Raja and the Akmal brothers among other family connections in Pakistan cricket.