Book excerpt: 'From Dusk Till Dawn' May 31, 2005

'Fazal ki jai'

Fazal Mahmood

Two stars rub shoulders - Fazal Mahmood and Raj Kapoor, the Indian film legend © Oxford University Press (Pakistan)

The turning point in my cricketing career came in 1944. On 4 March 1944, I played my maiden first-class match representing the Northern India Cricket Association against Southern Punjab in the Ranji Trophy. Dr Jahangir Khan, an All-India Test cricketer, was our captain. My performance in the match was very satisfying, as I got the wicket of Lala Amarnath, the great Indian Test allrounder. Incidentally, that was also my first wicket in first-class cricket. After Amarnath's wicket, the captain took me off bowling, saying "Fazal, you have done your job." I also scored 38 not out, batting at No. 11.

In the next match, which was a semi-final against Western India at Rajkot, I got 6 for 65 and 2 for 59. Kardar, my team-mate, scored an impressive 143 in the second innings. However, we lost the match. Amir Elahi and Gul Muhammad could not play in this match as they were playing professional cricket with the Maharaja of Baroda. They represented the NICA in the first match but the Maharaja refused to release them for this very important match. As a result, we were left with only 11 players, including the manager of the team.

When I started playing first-class cricket, the most important and well-contested tournament in India was the Bombay Pentangular. Four teams - the Muslims, the Hindus, the Britishers, and the Parsis - participated in it. Hindus v Muslims was similar to the India v Pakistan matches of today. Players were invited from all over India to represent either of the two teams. This gave a communal complexion to the matches. The Indian cricket board later substituted the Pentangular with a zonal tournament. India was divided into four zones - North, South, West and East. Each team was to play two matches in Bombay (now Mumbai). North Zone included Karachi, NWFP, and the Northern India Cricket Association. South Zone included Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, and Patiala. However, the most popular tournament in India then, as now, was the Ranji Trophy named after the great Ranji.

Fazal Mahmood on his big day, waving to the faithful from the balcony of The Oval in 1954 © Oxford University Press (Pakistan)

I represented North Zone in the zonal tournament. The first match that I played against the East Zone in Bombay had Nawab Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi as our captain. I took four wickets, including that of Syed Mushtaq Ali, in my opening over. However, in the second innings I received a good hammering from him, and he scored a century. From our side, Kardar scored 99 runs while Inayat Khan scored 70. We won this match but lost the next. Kardar again was unlucky to miss his century by just one run. This tournament was considered to be a trial match for selecting the All-India team to tour England [1946]. My performance in these two matches was satisfactory and I was almost sure that I would tour England with the team. Nawab Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi wanted me in the Indian team as, having played in England, he knew the conditions there and he felt that I would be successful on those wickets. He pressed the selectors to include me in the team, but they felt that I was too young. Kardar, however, was selected for the tour.

In December 1946, Nazar and I were selected to play for The Rest of India against All-India in the England XI. The match was played at the Feroze Shah Kotla ground, Delhi. CK Nayudu was our captain. I took seven wickets in that match. After the match, Vijay Merchant, the captain of the All-India team, publicly admitted that my absence was one of the major causes for their failure in England. The Hindu newspaper Partab printed the story under the headline "Fazal ki jai" (victory for Fazal). A few days after the match, Mr Muhammad Ali Jinnah visited the Islamia College and I was introduced to him by the principal with the words, "Sir, this boy is doing wonders." Mr Jinnah, a follower of cricket, hugged me and said, "Keep it up young man. Keep it up."

This excerpt reprinted with permission from "From Dusk Till Dawn - Autobiography of a Pakistan Cricket Legend" by Fazal Mahmood, published by Oxford University Press (Pakistan), 2003