Indian former batsman KC Ibrahim played four Test matches for India against the West Indies in 1948–49. He died at his home in Karachi on November 12, 2007. He was 88, and at the time of his death, he was India’s oldest living Test player. Khan Muhammad Cassumbhoy KC Ibrahim made his Test debut in the first match of the 1948–49 series at home against the West Indies. KC Ibrahim had heaps of runs in the earlier summer, making him into the India side. He was an automatic choice for the Indian batting lineup.
When he opened the innings with Vinoo Mankad, he brilliantly scored 85 and 44. But unfortunately, in the next six innings, he just made 40 runs, and KC had retired by the time England toured in 1951–52. Ibrahim’s Bombay teammate, Madhav Mantri, said he was a rock-hard player and one who believed in staying at the wicket for as long as possible. Under his leadership, Bombay’s side won the Ranji Trophy in 1947–48, and Mantri described his leadership qualities as “a fine captain, someone who believed in backing his players and staying in the middle as long as possible.
KC Ibrahim was a prolific top-order batsman who sometimes opened the innings. KC made his first-class debut in 1938–39 and onwards scored heavily in domestic cricket. He started that season by cracking a double hundred of 230 not out and ended with a sparkling hundred of 117 runs in Bombay’s innings win in the Ranji Trophy final. He reached his career peak in 1947–48, when he scored 1,171 runs with a healthy average of 167.29, including four hundred. That was a rare record at that time, which eventually won him the Indian Cricketer of the Year award for the season.
KC started the season with scores of 218*, 36*, 234*, 77*, and 144, for a total of 709 runs without being dismissed. In the last three innings of the earlier season, his form was very poor, and he had scored just 2, 2, and 4. In 1950, he decided, for some obvious reasons, to move to Karachi, and that marked the end of his first-class cricket career. He was in poor health for the last few years of his life.
In 2006, during India’s tour to Pakistan, a couple of journalists went to visit him. One of them, Jasvinder Sidhu, from the Hindi daily, remembers: We met him at his home, but he rejected any photograph due to some of his health issues. He said I don’t want my friends in Bombay and Delhi to see my current state. Tell them I’m fine in the best of my health.
Overall, he played 60 first-class matches and scored 4,716 runs at 61.24, including 14 hundred, 22 fifties, 4 wickets, and 15 catches. These stats clearly show his class and mastered technique to stay on the wicket. I needn’t say he was a giant of Indian cricket but could not touch the peak he deserved.
A batsman like KC then expects runs to come automatically. KC Ibrahim, the former Indian Test player, died aged 88 in Karachi. Madhav Mantri, India’s former Test wicketkeeper, was his teammate in Bombay, and he remembers his former captain’s phenomenal appetite for runs. KC Ibrahim, as he was known in Bombay circles, studied at St. Xavier’s College in Bombay. He was a very good student in college, and some professors felt he should have carried on in the academic line.
KC was a solid player who always hungered for runs and believed in staying at the wicket for as long as possible. He had a wide range of strokes (a fierce cut, drive, and glance) with solid defense. But he was known to be one who hung in the middle to grind out runs. We used to play a lot of cricket on the turning turf wickets, and then he handled beautifully some hard-sear and spin bowling.
KC was a prime star for the Muslims in the Bombay Pentangular games. Once, in 1944–45, he guided them to victory single-handedly (with a century) against the Hindus. They were chasing a stiff target of 298 on a difficult track, and his sparkling 137 runs were some of the finest innings I saw. He was an insightful strategist and made it a point, along with Vijay Merchant, to always educate us about the game.
At the end of a day’s play, he would urge us to sit on the field and analyze the day’s play. He started his career as a middle-order batsman, and he was proficiently converted into an opener later. Like Sunil Gavaskar and Virender Sehwag after him, he made the transition without any problem. He was a fine-shrewd captain, someone who believed in supporting his players. It was because of him that I got a long run in the side, at a time when wicketkeepers used to be changed after every game.
He was a clever strategist and made it a point, along with Vijay Merchant, to always educate us about the game. At the end of a day’s play, he would urge us to sit on the field and analyze the day’s play. KC Ibrahim captained Bombay to the 1948 Ranji title. In that year, the Ranji Trophy tournament was played in a knockout format, and under his leadership, he gave us the fresh spirit that we had to win every game to stay in it.
We had lost the previous year’s final to Holkar, so KC was under a lot of pressure to win this time. Under his leadership, he ensured we won everything convincingly and didn’t give any chance to the opposition. His magnificent 219 runs in the final were built in 10-and-a-half hours, a study in concentration and patience.
In 1950, KC Ibrahim decided to move to Pakistan for some reason, but his style of play was never forgotten. In the ‘1950s and ‘1960s, young boys used to be told, ‘Bat like KC Ibrahim and stay at the wicket, and the runs will certainly come’. He married a close relative of the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and settled in Karachi.