The family Pakistan cannot play without, 1976

The greatly-praised Hanif and his brothers

Basil Easterbrook

That delightful man Robertson-Glasgow once said to me that cricket was known to run in some families like wooden legs in others. It was one of those things for which there was no accounting. The Graces, the Fosters, the Studds spring readily to mind, and in the matter of famous brothers one could begin with the Bedsers, go all the way through the alphabet to the Woolleys and come back again to the Benauds. The Mohammads however are, in a phrase currently much used in the United States of America, something else. It is difficult to translate into words but the je ne sais quoi which these remarkable Pakistanis possess gives them for me at least the same relationship to all other cricket families that great poetry bears to good prose. The odds against their achievements simply do not exist. For the brothers Wazir, Hanif, Mushtaq and Sadiq have all played Test cricket and a fifth, Raees, played first-class. Since Pakistan became a sovereign state and commenced playing Test cricket in 1952 up to the time of writing this article in the autumn of 1975 they have never gone into action without one of the four brothers. Nothing that is unique can be qualified.

Clearly in any appreciation of the Mohammads my efforts must be devoted to those members of the family who have earned global recognition and these must be named in the following order of merit: 1. Hanif, 2. Mushtaq, 3. Sadiq.

So before dealing with them in that order let me pay a short tribute to Wazir, the eldest brother and Raees, the one who did not quite make a Test quintet. Wazir was a good enough batsman to play twenty times for his country. He was a member of the original side to tour England twenty-two years ago and played in two of the four Tests. He made two Test centuries and three scores of 50 or more in his 33 Test innings. Of Raees, another ex-Test cricketer once said: "Allow me to tell you that I had the pleasure to bat with this lesser member of this illustrious family when I flew and played in a flood-relief match in Pakistan some years ago and Raees made one of the finest centuries imaginable. Had I been asked to name a potential Test player it would most certainly have been this one member of the family who just missed out". I propose to add nothing to that except to state that the name of the other ex-Test player I have just quoted was Keith Miller.

In the Australian cricket season of 1929-30 the one and only Bradman, playing for New South Wales against Queensland in a Sheffield Shield match at Sydney, made 452 not out. At that time only three other innings of 400 or over had been played in the history of first-class cricket. The great Lancashire autocrat Archie MacLaren made 424 for Lancashire against Somerset at Taunton in 1895 and the other two innings were both played at Melbourne and both by the same man -- Bill Ponsford. In the 1922-23 season he scored 429 for Victoria against Tasmania and in 1927-28, just two seasons before the innings by Bradman, he made 437 against Queensland. It was a universal belief throughout cricket that Bradman's record like so many of his others would stand for all time. In the event it survived for a generation.

Thirty years later in the 1958-59 season in a Pakistan Trophy match at Karachi, Hanif Mohammad, at the age of 24, scored 499 against Bahawalpur in a Karachi first innings total of 772 for seven declared. He made his runs in ten hours thirty-five minutes and reached the boundary 64 times. The match was the semi-final of Pakistan's Quaid-I-Izam Trophy and was played on a coir matting pitch. Bahawalpur batted first and were all out on the first day for 185. Hanif, already his country's leading batsman and known in Pakistan as the little master, opened for Karachi and made 25 in the closing forty minutes play. Playing time in Pakistan is five hours a day as opposed to six or six and a half in England. In the five hours play on the second day, Hanif added a further 230 runs to his overnight 25. Eight bowlers were used against him and 200 overs were sent down but Hanif batted right on through the third day during which he overtook the record individual scores of over 100 world-famous batsmen, finally passing Bradman's 452. The last over of the day was coming up and Hanif seeing the figures 496 against his name on the scoreboard tried to pinch the bowling in order that he could reach 500. The sharp single did not come off. Hanif, a fraction slow after more than two whole days at the crease, was run out. Only when he returned to the pavilion did he discover that the scoreboard was wrong and that, in fact, he had made 499 and that he would almost certainly have been given the bowling with enough balls to have scored that one run with ease.

Hanif hid his vexation and disappointment with that mask of oriental calm which one has come to know so well in his illustrious successor Majid Khan.

Ever since Hanif made his 499, the English and particularly the Australian cricket fraternity have tended to regard to regard the new record as meretricious. It was an understandable reaction. It was made in a competition few had heard of and, if they had, could not pronounce, on a matting as distinct from a turf pitch against opposition whose name meant nothing. To compare Hanif with Bradman in Australian hearing was regarded as heresy. Yet in some ways Hanif and Bradman were alike. Both were essentially loners. When Hanif led the 1967 Pakistan side to England it was his practice to return to his hotel room and listen to the twelve tapes of sitar music he brought with him from Karachi -- a type of music which is only a meaningless jangle to western ears.

Like Bradman he was below average height. Hanif was at most five feet six inches and his fighting weight was nine stone four pounds. He realised that if he was to be a successful captain of his country he could not hope to succeed by physical presence, that he would, again like Bradman, have to earn respect by being better than every other member of the team with the bat. And like Bradman his figures made Hanif a man apart. His 499 at Karachi fifteen years ago happens to be the world record but it is only one of a long string of remarkable performances by one so small and frail. I first saw him play twenty years ago -- the occasion of the maiden Pakistan tour of England. The only reason Pakistan avoided defeat in their first Test match at Lord's was because Hanif spent three and a quarter hours over 20 runs.

In another Test at Dacca, Hanif once batted all day for 64. Batsmen like Boycott and Barrington had no lessons to offer Hanif in the matters of concentration and defensive determination. His first Test century against India took him eight and a half hours. As a captain he was rigid in his refusal ever to court the tiniest risk of defeat. Hanif's methods and approach made him a target for fans and writers in every country outside Pakistan. As Ian Wooldridge once neatly put it: "The total hours that he has been barracked or slow handclapped around the world may well come close to constituting another kind of record."

Yet, Hanif was a great deal more than an irritating thorn in the side of the most formidable attack. When Pakistan made their first visit down under in 1964-65 the Australian authorities granted them one solitary Test. The Australians were unable to win it and justify this somewhat contemptuous judgement of the strength of their opponents because Pakistan's captain, the little master, scored 104 and 93 to earn his side a draw. These innings however were comparative child's play for Hanif, as any West Indian Test cricketer could have told the Australians.

In our winter of 1957-58 Pakistan under Kardar, the former Warwickshire player, went to the Caribbean for the first time. The first Test was at Bridgetown, Barbados, and it looked like being a sick joke when Pakistan, facing a West Indies total of 579 for nine, were rolled over for 106. The West Indies with 473 runs to play with had three and a half days to dismiss Pakistan a second time. But Hanif scored 337 and it took the West Indies sixteen hours thirty-nine minutes to remove him. So not only does Hanif hold the world record for the biggest innings -- 499; he holds the record for endurance with the longest innings in history -- 999 minutes. How ironic that the gods should in both cases deny him the extra digit. And endurance is the right word, for the glare of the unremitting sun reflecting back off the glassy pitch burnt away three layers of skin beneath Hanif's eyes.

I shall never forget the privilege of seeing this pocket genius in the Lord's Test of 1967. He came in at twenty minutes to five on Friday, July 27, when Pakistan were 25 for two in reply to England's 369. He was unbeaten with 187 to his name at twenty-five minutes past three on Monday, July 30, when the last Pakistan wicket fell at 354. That piece of defiance, lasting nine hours, left England with insufficient time to win the match. In the other two Tests at Nottingham and The Oval, Hanif, being human and as fallible as the next man, was dismissed for 16 and 4, and 3 and 18, leaving England winners by ten wickets and eight wickets respectively.

On that tour Hanif at the age of 32 was hampered by a leg injury which was to cut short his career and by recurring styes on his eyes -- possibly a legacy of his ordeal in Barbados nearly a decade earlier. He was born in India on December 21, 1934, at a place called Junagadh, the third of five sons of professional class Muslim parents. His father was a club cricketer of the first rank, his mother a regional badminton and table tennis champion. When partition came the family moved to Karachi -- founder inhabitants of Jinnah's new Muslim state. Hanif had already acquired the basic skills which were to lead him to cricket immortality, batting under electric light on the concrete terrace in front of the family home in Junagadh. His father shaved the matt off one side of a batch of tennis balls which allowed them to swing appreciably in flight. Later cork balls were used which lifted off the concrete as though sent down by Larwood or Trueman. Hanif and his brothers quickly absorbed the need to keep their heads down and their elbows up.

The Mohammad story represents a fantastic family achievement, and Hanif must have pride of place in any order of merit. He was still two months off his eighteenth birthday when he played the first of his 55 Test matches. An innings of 305 in school cricket won him a chance with Karachi against the Punjab. The 93 not out he made in that match earned him his first trip to England at 17 with the Pakistan Eaglets. Records are always there to be broken but it seems unlikely that Hanif will lose the two which make him truly unique.

If I had for my life to name one of the brothers as my favourite I would pick Mushtaq. After something like a dozen years in English county cricket Mushy has become part of the furniture. He is unfailingly good-natured and courteous and all these things obviously contribute to influencing my selection, but I could put my hand on my heart and say I would still make the choice on his skill alone. Over 25,000 runs, first-class centuries heading for the 60 mark, nearly 800 wickets and 300 catches -- here is one of post-war cricket's leading all-rounders -- never mind the family.

One of the miscellaneous volumes which somehow found its way into my library over the past 20 odd years is Lieut. Colonel A. Locke's The Tigers of Trengganu, the memoirs of a professional peace-time soldier and some of the big cat shoots he took part in during his service in India. When the time comes as it surely will for someone to write the definitive volume on the Mohammad family might I suggest something along the lines of The Bat Twirlers of Junagadh. Everyone in cricket would have no difficulty with identification.

I never saw Raees play and I have forgotten whether Wazir had the habit but Hanif, Mushtaq and Sadiq in varying degrees all have the family trade-mark. As an opponent, for all his ready smile and good manners, Mushtaq can be as deadly as a piranha fish. Watching him wheel away with his leg breaks is always an unfailing joy to me and one not seen often enough. I have seen the stir of apprehension when he is about to come on to bowl in more than one county dressing-room and that is tribute enough to his bowling skill.

When the Pakistan touring team made one of their appearances at Lord's two years ago Mushtaq spun out seven bemused Middlesex batsmen for 59. That is his best bowling performance in the United Kingdom but once at Karachi just about the time he joined Northamptonshire he returned seven for 18. Four winters later, again in Karachi, he made his biggest score -- 303 not out. He made his first-class début just 41 days after his thirteenth birthday, scored 87 and took five for 28. When he made his Test début in the West Indies he was four months past the ripe old age of 15. He scored two Test centuries before the age of 19, the only player ever to do so. With a player of Mushtaq's gifts I tend to find my head spins if I get too deeply involved with statistics.

I remember his two Test centuries in England at Trent Bridge in 1962 and at Edgbaston in 1971 because both totalled exactly 100, and at Nottingham he took out his bat. With his batting as with his bowling I have long taken his expertise for granted but I never fail to respond when occasionally he changes his stance and plays the ball as a left-hander. The great difference between Hanif and Mushtaq is that one was always weighed down by his responsibilities whereas in the other the imp of fun sleeps but lightly just below the surface.

When you have three older brothers who have all played Test cricket it is bound to be a bit inhibiting for the fourth, which goes a long way to explain why Gloucestershire's opening batsman Sadiq is what the educationalists call a late developer.

Sadiq made his first-class début in Pakistan when still three months short of his fifteenth birthday, but it took him ten years to make the grade in his own country and thirteen before his quality was recognised in England by the award of his county cap for Gloucestershire two years ago. The route he travelled to Ashley Down, Bristol, might have been created in the imagination of someone like G. K. Chesterton. He played for a variety of sides in Karachi and then Pakistan International Airways. He tried his luck in the Northamptonshire second eleven in 1967, for Nelson in the Lancashire League in 1968 and subsequently for Poloc, the Glasgow club in Scotland's Western Union Competition. He turned out for D. H. Robins' XI against Oxford University in 1969 and for Essex in a friendly with a Jamaican XI in 1970.

"For a long time," he admits, "I was in the shadow of my famous brothers, Hanif, Mushtaq and Wazir. There were, perhaps inevitably, those who were all too ready to say I was a selling plater in a family that produced thoroughbreds."

It was when Wazir became a Test selector and suggested that his young sprig of a brother should try opening the innings that the seemingly endless years of doing nothing much beyond marking time came to an end. As an opener Sadiq made 69 in his first Test against New Zealand at Karachi. "But after playing in three series I was still being introduced to people as Hanif's youngest brother."

It was the success of Mushtaq in English cricket with Northamptonshire that fired Sadiq into coming to Britain. If Sadiq had read the line from Chesterton "that night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head" he would have grinned in appreciation. He is proud of doing it his own way rather than getting Mushtaq to pull the strings for him. "It gave me confidence and a sense of responsibility in the leagues where everything depends on the pro. If the side wins the pro has succeeded but if it loses the pro is to blame."

Sadiq also acknowledges his debt to English coaches. They discovered that his grip was hindering his progress. His top hand was so far round the back of the bat that his knuckles were facing the bowler as he waited to receive the ball. This meant that he was always playing the ball away from his body and that on English turf and in English conditions was very vulnerable to the ball that moved away from him. In 1970 Gloucestershire engaged him for his potential after their second eleven had tied against Warwickshire seconds at Leamington Spa.

It was the Leeds Test the following year that won Sadiq his spurs in England. Rain had saved England at Birmingham and ruined the second Test at Lord's. So it was all to play for at Headingley where Pakistan began the last day needing 206 to win with all their second innings wickets standing. When Zaheer Abbas and Mushtaq failed, England thought that the main resistance was done with but Sadiq, driving and cutting the leg-spinner Robin Hobbs out of Test cricket, made a superb 91 and in the end England scraped home to take the match and the series by 25 runs.

Sadiq's first season with Gloucestershire brought him fewer than 700 runs. Tony Brown, his new skipper, said: "He still had not fully recognised the virtue of playing straight on English pitches but you only had to see him put away a half volley, the ease of the stroke belying its power, to realise that here was a very good player indeed."

That winter he went off to play for Pakistan in Australia and New Zealand and was the outstanding performer in the touring side, making 1,169 runs at an average of nearly 42 with two Test hundreds, 137 at Melbourne and 166 at Wellington. In 1973 Gloucestershire were well pleased with the decision they took to sign him three years earlier. He made 1,582 runs at an average of 46.50 and made 184 not out against the New Zealanders at Bristol. The neat, compact little left-hander had finally married talent to experience to put himself in the highest company. He has twice won Benson & Hedges Gold Awards, once when he made 122 against Somerset. He can also be a useful bowler of leg breaks, as his five for 37 against Kent at Bristol in 1973 testified.

He is one of those fanatical cricketers who can remember his achievements in detail but he has the saving grace of recalling his failures in the same way. For Sadiq 1973 will always be his Annus Mirabilis. Not only did he top the batting in Australia and New Zealand and get capped by Gloucestershire "but for the first time I noticed that people had stopped introducing me as the brother of either Hanif or Mushtaq. I felt after more than thirteen years I had just about made it on my own."

In May, 1955, just about the time Hanif was beginning to reach out towards global cricket stature there appeared in Readers' Digest for the first time an article by the famous American man of letters James A. Michener, who gave the world Tales of the South Pacific which in turn inspired one of the greatest of all musicals, and best-sellers like Hawaii and The Source. The article was called Islam: The Misunderstood Religion. I take the liberty of quoting a small passage from it. "There are numerous ways of spelling the name of the inspired man who founded Islam. In Turkey he is Mehmet. In Afghanistan, Mahmoud. In Pakistan he is sometimes Mohamad. In the Western world he has usually been Mohammad. The preferred spelling is Muhammad. He was born about A.D. 570 into an Arabian tribe that worshipped idols. Orphaned at birth, he was always particularly solicitous of the poor and needy, the widow and the orphan, the slave and the downtrodden. The name Muhammad means the Greatly-Praised and was often used before the prophet's day."

After thirty years of writing about Indian and Pakistan touring sides I, in common with other Englishmen, know only that there are subtle differences in their names from our own custom of the given or Christian name followed by the surname or family name. The captain of Cambridge University in 1972 has not succeeded in explaining to me why he plays for Glamorgan as Majid, but preferred to be called Khan at Fenner's. And how do you relate or compare in terms of names say Shuja-ud-Din or Nasim-ul-Ghani with say Barry Richards or Fred Trueman?

One day I broached the subject in the company of the Glamorgan captain. "Maj," I said, "I still can't get the hang of this difference between our naming system and yours." He smiled and said: "Why try, it's not in the least important." On reflection I realise he is absolutely right. Hanif Mohammad or Harry Smith. Should we spell Mohammad with a U instead of an O, use one M or two? Does it really matter? I think not. East is East and West is West and in some ways this will never change. What is slowly being proved wrong is that bit about never the twain shall meet. Cricketers like Majid, Mushtaq and Younis Ahmed of Surrey are living proof that men can have the good things of both worlds and be ornaments to their adopted country without giving up the loyalties and customs of their own.

And while the tired waves vainly breaking, Seem here no painful inch to gain, Far back, through creeks and inlets making, Comes, silent, flooding in, the main.

Wazir, Hanif, Mushtaq, Sadiq and Raees. What all cricket lovers in Barbados or Brisbane, at Lord's or Leeds, at Karachi or Kingston, Trent Bridge or Trinidad will not deny is the appositeness of the meaning in English according to Michener of the word Mohammad -- however it is spelt. As long as there is one place left on this planet where bat is put to ball you will be remembered.

TEST CAREER RECORDS OF MOHAMMAD BROTHERS

BATTING

MatchesInns.Not OutsRunsHighest Inns.Average
Wazir2033480118927.62
Hanif55978391533743.98
Mushtaq33575224320143.13
Sadiq15260121116646.57

BOWLING

BallsRunsWicketsAverageBest Bowling
Wazir24150----
Hanif20693193.001-1
Mushtaq229410333827.185-49
Sadiq154740----

© John Wisden & Co