Growth of Pakistan cricket

A.H. Kardar

Pakistan's cricket history is contemporary. From humble beginnings, sound progress has been made. This progress is most intriguing when the initial handicaps that we had to face are taken into account. It is the job of a political historian to narrate the state of affairs that prevailed on the wake of independence in Pakistan, but an article on Pakistan cricket would be incomplete without reference to these conditions in so far as they influenced the fortunes of the game in this country.

In the territories now called Pakistan only the western wing, with a population of about 35 millions, has known the game. Our eastern wing, with a population well over 40 millions, has never seen a first-class match. The western wing has turned out many cricketers who brought honour to British India on the cricket field. Wazir Ali, Nazir Ali, Mohammad Nissar, Jahangir Khan, Dilawar Hussain, Baqa Jilani, J. Naoomal and Amir Elahi are known in first-class cricket. These cricketers hailed from the territories which in 1947 constituted the Dominion of Pakistan. They played in England between the two world wars and left a good reputation with the cricket followers there.

On partition Pakistan suffered from the barest economic resources and in cricket she suffered an almost crippling blow through the exit of Hindu players and others holding responsible positions in the various organisations in West Pakistan. The control of cricket was completely disorganised.

It was under the stress and strain of multiple social, political and economic problems that cricket was reorganised in Pakistan. The progress of cricket under these conditions has been remarkable and can be divided into three phases. The year 1948 was a year of initiation and hope. 1949 and 1950 were the bleak years. During this period Pakistan cricket sustained the first heavy blow which pushed it on the downward trend. The next two years, 1951 and 1952, were characterised by a boom in the fortunes of Pakistan cricket which cannot be understood without reference to the high morale of the nation. Chiefly owing to this factor, the country has emerged successfully from the post-independence period.

In the summer of 1948, with characteristic national optimism, the Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan was formed. It had to start from scratch, for the undivided assets were retained by the India Board. The four provincial associations--Punjab, North West Frontier Province, Sind and Bhawalpur in Pakistan, had to reintroduce cricket. The response was slow. The name of Mr. Justice A. R. Cornelius will continue to be associated with Pakistan cricket for the services he rendered to the game at this critical time. Almost single-handed he established the Board and succeeded in popularising cricket. It is not an over-estimation to say that cricket has now become the national sport of Pakistan.

The amazing success of the game can be appreciated when a brief historical sketch of the progress in Pakistan is made available. In the following paragraphs I will strive to do this and also to assess Pakistan's chances on her first England tour.

Within six months of its birth the Board invited the West Indies team touring India for a brief visit to Pakistan. Led by Goddard, the team included Headley, Walcott, Weekes, Gomez, Stollmeyer, Rae and others. Three matches were played. One was lost and the other two, including the unofficial Test at Lahore ended in draws.

Encouraged by this good showing of the Pakistan team, the Board sent three of the leading cricketers, Khan Mohammad, Imtiaz Ahmed and R. N. Dinshaw, to A. R. Gover for coaching in England. Two returned home improved players.

The second visitors to Pakistan were the Commonwealth touring team, raised by G. Duckworth, the famous England wicket-keeper, in 1949. Of the five matches played, two were lost, including the unofficial Test match at Lahore, and three were drawn.

The next season, 1950, was spent in organising the game in Pakistan. School tournaments and University matches were arranged and inter-provincial matches also received due attention. But real interest in cricket was not revived until the visit of the M.C.C. touring team in November 1951.

M.C.C. came to Pakistan for a four-week tour. This was an excellent opportunity. The prestige lost in 1949 was recovered when M.C.C. were led on first innings in three of the five matches played, including the first unofficial Test at Lahore. By winning the second representative match at Karachi, Pakistan went a long way towards gaining admission to the Imperial Cricket Conference. M.C.C. were the first to send their congratulations on the victory and invited Pakistan to tour England in 1954. Pakistan were duly elected to the Imperial Cricket Conference on July 20, 1952.

It is worth while recording the steps by which a cricketer in Pakistan reaches the top and is selected to play for his country. In every important city there are a number of cricketers playing in schools, colleges and clubs. A schoolboy who attracts attention may be picked for the club A XI. The only organised school tournament is staged at Karachi. The rivalry between St. Patrick's and the Sind Madresah has already given Pakistan the boy star opening batsman, Hanif Mohammad.

Club cricket is played throughout the year. During the summer months matches are played over the week-ends. One side bats on Saturday and the other on Sunday for about two and a half hours each evening. While the Summer League is played in the Punjab, Karachi stages a number of knock-out tournaments. If a youngster performs well in these matches, he gets a trial for the provincial team. Once selected for the provincial side, he can steadily work his way up to winning his country's colours. In addition to clubs feeding the provincial associations, we have a large number of college cricketers. Although the standard of cricket in the colleges has gone down, it is hoped that in due course, with the help of coaches and suitable playing facilities, we will once again produce efficient cricketers.

The factors which have contributed to the popularity and prestige of cricket in Pakistan have been the following:--

  • The Pakistan Board's efforts.
  • Early success against the M.C.C.
  • Natural talent.

The first of these factors I have already discussed. I should also add that the Board's policy of pinning faith on the youth of the country has paid dividends.

In the summer of 1952 a coaching scheme was launched and a batch of players under the name of Pakistan Eaglets toured England. The purpose was twofold. They were to receive coaching from A. R. Gover, and to acquire the new technique by playing a number of matches in order to settle down to English conditions under which they would be required to play during the 1954 tour. The scheme was a success. The youngsters benefited and returned home improved cricketers. Out of these, there were at least eight who later toured India on Pakistan's first official visit. No doubt the majority were certain to get into the side, yet the tour in itself served in introducing first-class cricket to our players, who watched the Anglo-Indian Test series.

Pakistan's tour to India had been under consideration for some time. With our election to the membership of the Imperial Cricket Conference during the summer of 1952 our tour to India became official.

The Pakistan Board selected a young team for its inaugural Test matches. The trust placed in the younger players was fully justified by the performance of the team, which played against better equipped elevens. The Indians had wider knowledge and better temperament for the game than the Pakistan players, some of whom had not even represented their provincial associations. The results of the matches were encouraging. We played thirteen games, of which two were won, two lost, and nine drawn. The itinerary of the tour was planned in such a hurry that after the first match at Amritsar we had to play the first two Test matches with only three days' rest between. The result was that we could not experiment, and the choice was naturally restricted to those players who had shown good form in the trial matches held a month earlier. Out of the five Tests played, three were decided. We lost two and won one. The fourth Test at Madras was abandoned owing to heavy rain. The rain intervened at a very interesting stage when we had a good chance of lowering the colours of India for the second time in the series. The final Test match was a draw. Thus Pakistan lost to India on her first visit there, but it was generally agreed that Pakistan were not dishonoured.

On this tour there were three discoveries, Hanif, Waqar Hassan and Mahmood Hussain. Our schoolboy cricketer, Hanif, scored over 1,000 runs. In the twelve first-class matches he made 917, and in the thirteenth match of the tour, a 12-a-side game played against Dr. B. C. Roy's XII at Calcutta in aid of charities, Hanif scored 111, bringing his total runs to 1,028.

Waqar Hassan turned out to be a solid and polished number three batsman. It is remarkable that although he failed in the provincial games, Waqar played superb cricket in the Test matches. The third discovery came about at a time when we were greatly handicapped owing to the recurrence of the groin injury to our fast bowler, Khan Mohammad. He could not participate in any match after the first Test, and we had to include Mahmood Hussain, the young Punjab University fast bowler. Hussain bowled exceedingly well for a man new to Test cricket.

Besides Khan Mohammad's absence our team suffered from the psychological handicap owing to the failure of the stylish and reliable batsmen, Imtiaz Ahmad and Maqsood Ahmed, in the Test matches. In Imtiaz's case it was most unfortunate, for he scored well over 600 runs with an average of 40.7 on the tour.

Along with these handicaps, we fielded badly in crucial matches. In some matches we attained a high standard, but on the whole our fielding remained poor. This can be attributed to the lack of match practice, which goes back to the scarcity of playing centres in Pakistan. At present there are six first-class centres--Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Bhawalpur, Rawalpindi and Sialkot. Of these six centres, only three can produce turf wickets, the rest having matting wickets. There is only one stadium in the country, at Bhawalpur, but there are a number of schemes, which should give a better chance of accommodating the spectators, who are being promised stadia in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Sialkot.

In Pakistan there is a considerable number of first-class cricketers and no dearth of talent. What we lack most is first-class cricket. There have been two major obstacles in organising first-class cricket: firstly, the financial factor, and, secondly, the organisational difficulties connected with the arrangements of leave facilities for players. Both these obstacles are overcome in other countries, specially in England, by means of professional engagements. In British India these difficulties did not exist, for the patronage that cricket received through the State Rulers was a major factor in stabilising the national championship.

In the past, first-class cricket was played in Pakistan only when a foreign team visited our country, but in preparing for the England tour our players were due to go through three major trials before the final team was picked. The first Inter-Provincial championship for the Qaid-e-Azam Trophy was planned for November and a series of trial matches for the final selection was also staged.

Another development, which has had a pleasant effect on sports in this country, is that the Central Government is taking effective steps towards organising sport, and for this purpose a Physical Education Council has been set up. It is hoped that before long active machinery will be in operation as a result of the recommendations, which the Physical Education Council is detailed to forward to the provincial and Central Governments. It is further hoped that these institutions and the Government will encourage sports by placing larger playing areas at the disposal of the Sports Organisations, and also by sponsoring and financing training schemes.

As I write, another batch of Pakistan cricketers, though they are not selected on merit, has been sent for training to England by the Eaglets Society, which has been formed by a group of versatile cricketers, who have in their constitution the ambitious plan of having Club houses all over the world. The office-bearers of this Club are also aiming at arranging international tours of clubs. Though they would do good to cricket, these projects seem out of tune with the limitations that finances are likely to impose on the movements of clubs.

The significance of the 1954 tour lies in two directions. Pakistan is keen to maintain her reputation, justify her recently won election to the Imperial Cricket Conference, and also to prove that she is not far behind her sister Dominions in cricket.

As regards the ability of the Pakistan players, there does not seem to be any doubt. Our young players, Hanif, Waqar and Mahmood Hussain, have proved themselves. Our experienced batsmen, Imtiaz Ahmed and Maqsood Ahmed, are bound to do well with their experience of English wickets. Fazal Mahmood has already earned his reputation, and we class him with Alec Bedser. He is capable of turning the tables in our favour.

Scepticism has already been expressed by a number of experts regarding the ability of our players to bear the strain of a four-month tour. I have already stated the reasons for this fear: lack of match practice, and the number of teams that can be raised in this country.

On the credit side is the fighting spirit of the young Pakistan players. They are all very young and ready to learn and to give fight to the last ball of the match. It can be said with good reason that, given a fair share of luck and weather and the absolute minimum number of injuries, the team touring England in 1954 should perform creditably.

Whatever may be the outcome of the matches, one thing is absolutely certain. It is that Pakistan is to send her first official team to England and we shall need all the encouragement that the mother country of Democracy, of Cricket, and of the Free Association of Nations can possibly give to Pakistan cricketers.

At the time of writing, Kardar was uncertain whether he would obtain leave from the Royal Pakistan Air Force to take part in the tour of England. In the end all difficulties were removed and he was appointed captain of the team. A left-arm slow bowler and an attacking left-handed batsman, he has had considerable experience of cricket in England. He is among the ten cricketers who have played for two countries in Test cricket. In 1946he toured England with India under the name of Abdul Hafeez. Returning the following summer, he announced his correct surname to be Kardar, and he gained his Oxford Blue, playing for the University for three seasons. In addition he played for the Gentlemen against Players at Lord's, and he also appeared for Warwickshire in 1949and 1950. Since then he has done much for Pakistan cricket. After their victory over M.C.C. at Karachi in November 1951he pleaded their case for election to the Imperial Cricket Conference in a letter to The Times, and besides leading the team in that match he was their first official Test captain when they toured India in 1952. His experience of English conditions and his ability should be invaluable to Pakistan.

Pakistan Team For England, 1954

A. H. Kardar (captain) Imtiaz Ahmed Maqsood Ahmed
Fazal Mahmood Khalid Hassan Shakoor Ahmed
Alimuddin Khalid Wazir Shujauddin
M. E. Z. Ghazali Khan Mohammad Waqar Hassan
Hanif Mohammad Mohammad Aslam Wazir Mohammad
Ikram Elahi Mahmood Hussain Zulfiqar Ahmed
Manager: Fida Hussain

© John Wisden & Co