Former Test off-break bowler Afaq Hussain died in Karachi in the early hours of February 25, 2002, after a protracted illness. He had been suffering from cancer of the liver for a while and was at the time of his death he was 62. For a period of at least three in the early 1960s, Afaq was one of the prime candidates for the Pakistan Test team’s off-spinner job.
He did play in just two Test matches but his record wasn’t very encouraging. At the first-class cricket level, he had a long and successful career. Although he generally batted lower down the order. But his performances were such that he would be remembered as a fairly decent all-rounder.
It was an 18-year-old young lad, born in Lucknow in India on December 31, 1939. That he was given his first chance to appear at the first-class level. This was a Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Championship match in 1957-58 for Karachi B against Quetta at the BVS Parsi School Ground in Karachi. Afaq batted at number 11 and scored an unbeaten 16.
Earlier as the Quetta side was bowled out for the than Pakistan record low score of mere 30. Afaq Hussain was not called upon to bowl. Quetta crashed to another pathetic total of 55 the second time. Karachi B claimed a big win by an innings and 334 runs. Afaq had bowled figures of 4-0-9-2.
Unfortunately, the Karachi B didn’t make use of his service for the remainder of the season. He didn’t get any chance of playing in 1958-59 either. But he was back with a real bang in the following years in the Pakistan Domestic cricket winter.
This was a time when the Pakistan Test team only had secondary roles for the spin bowlers, which pacemen Fazal Mehmood reigning supreme. Afaq Hussain Karachi teammate the slow left-arm Nasim-ul-Ghani had a highly successful tour of the West Indies. Though, and off-spinner Haseeb Ahsan was showing signs of turning into a potential match-winner.
In the 1959-60 seasons, leg break and googly bowler Intikhab Alam too was discovered. And he started his Test career in Karachi claiming a wicket with his first as he open bowler Australian opening batsman Colin McDonald. Afaq was in the meantime making his presence felt at the domestic level.
He played for the Combined Universities in the 1959-60 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Championship. His comeback with figures was 5-3-5-4 in an innings in the game against East Pakistan at Karachi’s National Stadium. Karachi University then defeated Punjab University in the final of the Pakistan Inter-University Championship. Which was adjudged first-class for a couple of seasons at the Punjab University ground in Lahore and Afaq took 10 wickets 4 for 42 and 6 for 49?
The successful steak continued. In the three matches for Karachi University in the 1960-61 Ayub Trophy competition. He collected as many as 29 wickets at the cost of 12.82 runs apiece. Haseeb Ahsan was bowling his heart out in the five-Test rubbers in India. Afaq Hussain was displaying his prowess at home, giving the selectors a big nudge and telling them that he was on the way to the National side too.
Karachi University dominated their first two opponents in the tournament Afaq Hussain taking 5 for 49 and 4 for 58 against Karachi. Then he took 7 for 34 and 3 for 17 against Hyderabad-Khairpur, and also scored a fine 56 runs batting at number nine in the latter match. He took 10 more wickets in the next encounter.
Karachi University now met the Railways-Quetta team who later went on to win that inaugural competition for the Ayub Trophy. Afaq had figures of 2 for 106 and 8 for 108, but his team couldn’t go any farther. His haul of eight wickets in the second innings remained his career-best return. A Test place now seemed only a matter of time.
Afaq had a return of 6 for 89 and 3 for 22 in the exciting side match for the Governor’s XI against the touring MCC side at Lyallpur early in the 1961-62 season. He was penciled in by the selectors to make his debut in the first Test against England at Lahore, which was starting just a couple of days later.
Three specialist spinners were included in the Pakistan squad. Apart from Intikhab, Afaq as well as Haseeb Ahsan. Afaq bowled his quickish off-spinners economically giving away only 40 runs in 23 overs in the first innings. But his only victim was England captain Ted Dexter who was dismissed hit wicket. That remained Afaq’s only wicket in Test Wicket.
Although Pakistan eventually lost that match by five wickets, Afaq did have something to remember it by. He returned unbeaten in either innings batting at number 10 and made a fighting 35 not out in the second innings. With Haseeb Ahsan 14, his last-wicket stand was worthy 52, which lifted Pakistan from a miserable 148-9 to an exact 200.
The England team then hopped over the border into India where they played five Tests before returning to participate in the remaining two Tests in Pakistan. After a three month gap, Afaq meanwhile got busy playing for Karachi Whites in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, but when the Test series resumed he had lost the favor of selectors.
It was a highly successful season for him though. He later helped Karachi win the Ayub Trophy title, returning figures of 7 for 102 against South Zone. In the final against North Zone, he took 5 for 59 to make this season successful. His 1961-62 season haul was 34 wickets in eight matches at an average of 21.14 runs apiece.
He received a pleasant surprise when he was chosen as one of the members of the national side that undertook the disastrous tour of England in 1962. Both Afaq Hussain and Haseeb Ahsan were picked in the original squad. However, when Haseeb incurred a foot injury much before the first Test and had to return home. Afaq should automatically have donned the first choice off spinner’s mantle. It was not to be so.
Skipper Javed Burki opted for Rawalpindi’s Javed Akhtar to be flown in as Haseeb’s replacement. Afaq was sparingly used and on a tour that comprised 29 first-class matches, his share was a mere six. Needless to say, he was lost in the shadows. But he continued to make waves at the national front.
In the 1962-63 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Championship final, which his team Karachi A won by an innings and 163 runs. He excelled in the role of the batsman. He scored 87 batting at number 11 in this match against Karachi B, and with Wallis Mathias 144 not out helped to add another 135 runs for the 10th wicket stand.
This was the first partnership for the last wicket on Pakistan soil that crossed 100 run marks. Afaq Hussain’s reward for another good season was a place in the PIA-Eaglets team that toured England in the summer of 1963 and played a number of first-class matches their.
In the 1963-64 seasons, he picked up 23 wickets at 16.30 each and helped Karachi Blues to win the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. In the final Karachi Whites were left with a target of 334, but Afaq’s 6 for 104 and 4 for 78 (10 for 182) in the match made sure that the opponents didn’t make more than 315 and Karachi Blues won by the narrow margin of 18 runs.
By the 1964 season, Afaq had also started playing for Pakistan International Airlines. He toured with them to East Africa in July of that year and bowled with great credit. The selectors were not oblivious of his recent accomplishments and Afaq found a place on the first Pakistan team that went on the tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1964-65.
Afaq Hussain played his second and last Test at Melbourne a drawn one-off encounter against Australia that was highlighted by a match double of 104 and 93 by skipper Hanif Muhammad. He again remained not out in either innings with scores of 8 and 13. Afaq finished his brief Test career with an aggregate of 66 runs in four outings without once being dismissed. In his nine eight balls overs, Afaq was hit for 45 runs and got no wicket.
Strangely the Melbourne Test was the only first-class match that he got to play in Australia. In New Zealand, he and fellow off-spinner Masood-ul-Hasan generally stayed in the background as the slow blowing duties were entrusted to Intikhab Alam. Saeed Ahmed who bowled useful off-spin and Nasim-ul-Ghani and the fast-emerging slow left-arm Pervez Sajjad. It was a tour that basically was dominated by the seamers Asif Iqbal and Arif Butt with the likes of Afaq really not required to play a big role.
On his return home, Afaq Hussain found his participation even in domestic cricket. Thus becoming not much of a joy, although he was a PIA regular in the national tournament. In the 1967-68 season, he made a guest appearance for the Public Works Department (PWD) in an exhibition match against the Khairpur Commissioner’s XI at Sukkur and took 4 for 93 and 4 for 62. Then he had his most successful season as an all-rounder in 1969-70.
In the 10 first-class matches he scored 361 runs at an average of 32.81. As a fieldsman, he held seven catches and captured 31 wickets at 19.48 apiece. For PIA against Lahore B in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Championship match at the Bagh-e-Jinnah Ground in Lahore. Here Afaq hit an unbeaten 122 in 281 minutes with 13 boundaries. This was to be his only century in First-Class cricket. In the first Lahore B innings, he had bowling figures of 6 for 38.
Although Afaq played four more seasons, until the end of 1973-74, he appeared only rarely. In 1970-71 he took 10 wickets for 81 runs for PIA in a BCCP Trophy match against East Pakistan Greens in Dacca. But he wasn’t chosen for any more games during the entire remainder of the season.
Afaq Hussain made 66 appearances at the first-class level, scoring 1,382 runs at an average of 23.82. Afaq hit one century in addition to four fifties and held 51 catches as fieldsmen. He gathered 213 wickets in all at an incredible average of 19.15 runs each. Also, Afaq took five wickets in an innings 14 times and 10 wickets in a match five times.
Afaq Hussain served PIA for several years before joining foreign Airlines in Saudi Arabia. He had been inducted into a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) committee that was conducting scrutiny of cricket clubs. Leaving behind a widow, a son and two daughters. Afaq Hussain has become the 12th of Pakistan Test cricketers to have died. But he will be remembered as Pakistan Test Player.