Obituary

Abdul Hafeez Kardar

KARDAR, ABDUL HAFEEZ, who died on April 21, 1996, aged 71, may be regarded as the father figure of Pakistani cricket and, as such, an important character in the history of the country as a whole. He captained Pakistan in their First Test match in 1952 and was at the forefront of events from then until he resigned from the Pakistani Board in 1977 in protest against Government interference. But he was a Test cricketer before Pakistan even existed, playing for India on the 1946 tour of England under the name Abdul Hafeez.

After the tour he added the family name Kardar, stayed in England and went to Oxford to read PPE and enhance his reputation as an idiosyncratic and fearless cricketer: a left-handed batsman, whose response to any bowler or situation was to dance down the track first ball and slam it back over the bowler's head, and a left-arm medium-paced bowler, economical on a good pitch, devastatingly effective on a bad one. Kardar had a couple of productive seasons with Warwickshire, where his successes included marrying the club chairman's daughter, then returned to Pakistan to take on the captaincy.

He had learned well under Martin Donnelly and Tom Dollery and, as Test cricket's newcomers, Pakistan at once made themselves worthy of respect rather than anyone's sympathy. In 23 matches as captain, Kardar led his team to victory over all the then Test-playing countries except South Africa, whom they never met. He then became chairman of selectors, and president of Pakistan's Board of Control from 1972 to 1977. In all his positions of authority, he was inclined to be dictatorial and quickly angered, especially by any hint of criticism.

In some ways, his prickly brilliance has become characteristic of his country's cricket. But he was also a visionary. He ruthlessly modernised the organisation of the Pakistani game, and many of the themes he was advocating in the 1970s have become common currency among modern administrators: the need to do away with unwieldy committees, to break the post-imperial dominance of Lord's, and to expand the game in Asia.

He was an early advocate of neutral umpires. Little of this was well received by his colleagues on ICC at the time. In later years he removed himself from cricket and his last public role was as Pakistan's ambassador to Switzerland. Diplomacy may not have come easily to him. Imran Khan said: "After Kardar's retirement, Pakistan cricket was thrown to the wolves, the cricket bureaucrats whose progeny still rule the game."

© John Wisden & Co
 
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