GHULAM AHMED, who died on October 28, 1998, aged 76, was a harbinger of the great Indian spin bowling tradition. He bowled off-breaks with a high, handsome action, sometimes compared to Jim Laker's, and on the right wicket could be just as effective. Ghulam made his Test debut at Calcutta in 1948-49, when Everton Weekes scored twin hundreds. But Ghulam dismissed him both times, and took four for 94 in the first innings. Against England in 1951-52 he was highly successful, and was instrumental in India's maiden victory at Madras, before becoming by far the most potent member of a weak attack on the 1952 tour of England. "He had days when he looked in the highest world class," said Wisden, "but on other occasions he lacked bite."
Later that year he helped Mankad bowl India to victory in Pakistan's first Test match, at Delhi, and - improbably - scored 50, sharing a last-wicket stand of 109 with H. R. Adhikari, still an Indian record. His subsequent career was deeply involved with shifts in local cricket politics. In 1955-56, Ghulam captained India against New Zealand in his home town of Hyderabad, then mysteriously resigned. A year later, he bowled Australia out at Calcutta, taking seven for 49, only to be eclipsed by Richie Benaud. In 1958-59, against West Indies, he was captain again but, after two hefty defeats, he stood down for reasons that never became clear.
"By his action," wrote one Indian observer, "he strengthened the belief of his critics that he was not a fighter." This belief does not wholly accord with his record: he took four for 245 in 92.3 overs for Hyderabad against Holkar in 1950-51, and bowled 85 overs in an innings three years earlier. Ghulam became a prominent administrator: he was secretary of the Indian Board from 1975 to 1980, and served twice as a selector; when India won the 1983 World Cup he was chairman. Asif Iqbal, who played for Pakistan, is his nephew.