Twenty five years old, 1967

The rise of cricket in Pakistan

Pakistan cricket has had a chequered career spreading over a period of fifteen years. In the year 1952 Pakistan earned merited admission into the Imperial Cricket Conference (now International Cricket Conference) after showing her worth against Nigel Howard's M.C.C. team of 1951.

The period was full of incidents, sometimes cricket soaring to great heights and at other times descending to the depths. Since then, apart from South Africa, we have played against every cricketing country, great or small. And happily, Pakistan have had the proud privilege of winning at least one Test Match against every such country.

English crowds must still remember the young and immature Pakistan team of 1954, then earning the title of babes of International Cricket being thrown against the full might of England. Their initial showings prompted some critics to write them off, but as the tour progressed and the players got used to one of the wettest summers, the team improved beyond recognition.

On Tuesday, August 17, at Kennington Oval, Pakistan covered themselves with glory by being the only side to win a Test match on a first visit to England. That victory enabled Pakistan to draw the rubber.

Over the years Pakistan have suffered from retirements and replacements, inevitable in the course of life. Yet, one is struck by the sustaining power of their present captain, the diminutive Hanif Mohammad, who has survived all these years, maintaining his consistent form.

All his 1954 colleagues, including the captain, Hafeez Kardar, Fazal Mahamood, Imtiaz Ahmad and Khan Mohammad, have thrown in the towel by force of circumstances. Hanif, therefore, forms a happy link between the past and present, and who knows for how many more years he will continue to guide the destiny of Pakistan Cricket?

This will be Pakistan's third tour to the motherland. Since 1954 England have held the upper hand, in England in 1962 and a year earlier in Pakistan. Unfortunately our cricket in those gloomy times had fallen on lean days, for everything went wrong, though good performance were achieved by Pakistan against other countries.

If we flick back the pages of history we find Pakistan on her first Test series in 1952 containing India on her first tour of the country. Considering the odds against Pakistan when playing her maiden Test series, the loss of two Tests against one was, indeed, creditable. Two years later, our maiden tour of England raised Pakistan's status in International Cricket.

Then followed India's barren tour of Pakistan in 1954-55, when not a single match was won or lost, owing to the defensive tactics employed by the Indians and the reluctance on both sides to come seriously to grips with each other.

After that came the hectic activities which saw Pakistan emerge from her shell and beat some of the major cricketing countries of the world. She won a three-Test series against New Zealand and administered the same medicine to the young M.C.C. A team. As if to justify these victories, Pakistan lowered the colours of Ian Johnson's 1956 Australian team in the only Test at Karachi.

Next came a strenuous tour of West Indies in 1958 when tall scoring was the order of the day. Pakistan drew the first Test after having fallen in arrears by 473 runs. Their recovery was due mainly to the monumental innings of 337 by Hanif Mohammad which also, incidentally, won for him a record for the longest stay at the wicket of sixteen hours and thirty-nine minutes.

Then at the height of their power, with the legendary Garfield Sobers emerging as a new star on the cricket horizon, West Indies almost completely overwhelmed Pakistan in the next three Tests. Yet who would believe that Kardar's men fully avenged their defeats and beat West Indies by an innings in the fifth and final Test?

Soon afterwards, the West Indies paid a return visit only to be beaten in two tests while winning one. These victories sent a wave of optimism among Pakistan supporters and showed the world that cricket in Pakistan was of the highest class.

The Australians came in 1959-60, and being then in their peak form under Richie Benaud, unquestionably had the better of the series, winning two of the three Tests. Norman O'Neill and Neil Harvey excelled with the bat and Benaud, 47 victims, and Alan Davidson, 41, were the chief wicket-takers. Only Hanif and Saeed Ahmed shone as run-getters for Pakistan. Fazal alone of the bowlers achieved respect.

The 1960-61 tour of Pakistan in India may well be forgotten. All the five Tests and the nine other matches resulted in draws. It established a world record, for the two countries, India and Pakistan, in thirteen Tests had now failed to come to a decision. This was a dubious distinction that no cricket-playing country could ever be proud of.

For a year or so Pakistan were confronted by England, who not only beat Pakistan in Pakistan (in one out of the three Tests played), but also in England where they dictated terms almost completely in all the five Tests. Pakistan's only consolation was to draw one Test, thus preventing England making a clean sweep.

This tour threw Pakistan cricket in the doldrums again. Gradually the feeling of despondency began to disappear, bringing in a fresh wave of optimism and hope, when Pakistan did well to draw the only Test against Australia at Karachi in 1964.

Pakistan's first tour of Australia and New Zealand served only to add to the genuine confidence in the Pakistan team, as no match in Australia, including the lone Test, was lost. In spite of being sent into bat at Melbourne, Hanif showed his greatness and carried his men with innings of 104 and 93.

In New Zealand the sodden wickets did not permit the Pakistanis to give of their best. The only redeeming feature of the series was that, although they were in a tight corner in three Tests, they managed to hit their way out of trouble.

More than six years had elapsed and Pakistan had not won a Test match. The stalemate was broken in Rawalpindi in March, 1965, when Pakistan beat New Zealand by an innings in the first Test played there. Perhaps it constituted a modern record that a Test was finished in two days and forty minutes. The series went in Pakistan's favour.

Where does Pakistan stand today, after having played 50 Tests of which she has won 10 and lost 14, with the remaining 26 drawn? In terms of wins there may not be anything to boast about. Most of the victories were achieved when she had a string of fighters who could truly be called the pioneers of cricket in our country. Gradually they vanished from the scene and cricket began to deteriorate.

Happily there are encouraging signs of revival. Proof of this was found in the recent showing against foreign teams, including the 1963 Commonwealth team which had such stalwarts as Griffith -- a dreaded bowler -- Kanhai, Butcher and Graveney.

Unfortunately so far Pakistan has not been able to find pacemen like Fazal Mahmood, Mahmood Hussain or Khan Mohammad. In spin, Intikhab Alam has acquired some viciousness and Pervez Sajjad is a medium-slow tight bowler who shuns flight. Salah-Ud-Din is an off-spinner of some promise who has already made a good impression. With Hanif, there is a string of dependable batsmen who have already gone through the ordeal of experience in every country and climate.

One, therefore, hopes that these players in whom the Pakistanis have pinned high hopes will show in England that it is not only the winning or losing that matters, but that there is some such thing as attractive cricket which tickles the appetite of the crowd.

We hope that English spectators will see in action at their best the cricket prodigy, little Hanif Mohammad and his younger brother Mushtaq Mohammad. Both have carved out names for themselves -- the rise to eminence of Mushtaq being more sudden that Hanif's. They belong to a family of five cricketers (in the order of their ages: Wazir, Raees, Hanif, Mushtaq and Sadiq).

In the 1954-55 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final, Wazir, Raees and Hanif scored a century each against Services. Their presence created a world record in 1961 when all of them played in the Ayub Cricket Trophy during a match -- two of the brothers were pitted against the other who played for the opposite side.

A lot of world records have fallen to this cricketing family. Hanif holds the world record for the highest individual score in first-class cricket: 499 against Bahawalpur in the year 1958-59 (which broke Sir Don Bradman's feat of 452). He scored 891 runs that season. He also has the record of staying at the wicket for sixteen hours and thirty-nine minutes in the first Test against the West Indies at Bridgetown in 1958, when he finished with a triple century, 337. Hanif has also scored the largest number of Test centuries (11) by a Pakistani player.

Mushtaq Mohammad is the youngest Test cricketer in the world, for he appeared for Pakistan in the Lahore Test against the West Indies in 1959 when his age was 15 years and 124 days. He has shown maturity and an aggressive approach to batting that has delighted crowds everywhere.

And talking of Hanif, two years back, we in Pakistan had lost all hopes of his staging a come-back to cricket, when he was so very lame -- but he recovered from the operation on his leg, and like a true fighter, he resumed and successfully picked up his bat again after a long period of inactivity. It was most heart-warming. We hope that in 1966, Hanif will again be the Master Batsman.

© John Wisden & Co