The First Decade of Pakistan Cricket

At the outset, let it be appreciated that the task of any historian or chronicler attempting to condense seventy years of Pakistan cricket into a few thousand words is daunting. No matter how well they chose it, it was no less arduous than any of the twelve labors of Hercules, the hero of Greek mythology.
It is simply not possible to shrink 70 years of the game’s history, its development, and its progress into a few words. Even a five-test series takes a whole ebook to cover the matches from a proper perspective. The task can be comparable to that of trying to squeeze the river Indus into a bathtub or the toothpaste back into the tube.
More than plenty is bound to be leftover. But the past cannot be allowed to recede and fade out into limbo on such an auspicious occasion as Pakistan without the present generation, with the glories won and lost and the moments of triumph and disaster. In short, the vicissitudes witnessed and the ups and downs of fortune experienced on and off the field during the past 70 years
Cricket was played in this part of the subcontinent by the new-born independent “Muslim state of Pakistan.”. It will also be appreciated that no half-century was ever scored with one stroke. It takes time, even for the pinch-hitters, to reach that mark. The case of Pakistan’s progress on the cricket field was not much different.
As in everything else, Pakistan started from scratch with her share of birth pangs and teething troubles following partition in mid-August 1947. The British, who had ruled the subcontinent for over two hundred years, departed and left two new-born states, Pakistan and India, to fend for themselves.
Although cricket was played fairly widely all over undivided India, Pakistan’s share of first-class cricketers was a mere handful, not many having played this “game of the flanneled fools” at that level. The majority who fell to Pakistan’s lot were club-level cricketers from Karachi and Lahore. The two recognized centers, which came to be regarded as the nurseries of cricket in Pakistan,
As is always the case, someone had to play the role of the godfather of the new-born state, and that someone was the late Justice A.R. Cornelius, ICS, who had opted for Pakistan and was functioning as a judge of the Lahore High Court at the time of partition. He was elevated to the status of a judge of the Federal Court of Pakistan in 1951.
On the promulgation of the first constitution of Pakistan in 1956, he became a judge of the Supreme Court and later, in 1960, was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a position he held until his retirement in 1968. He left an everlasting impression and impact on cricket, and his memory is treasured in the annals of this country’s cricket.
Syed Fida Hasan, another ICS officer who played for the Muslims in the inter-communal quadrangular contest in Bombay, and Mian Muhammad Saeed, who had played for the Southern Punjab Cricket Association in the Ranji Trophy competition, assisted Justice Cornelius in organizing the game and in getting Pakistan established during the initial stages.
Their services and contribution in the setting up of the Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan (called BCCP for over four decades) must be given due credit, for they were the real founders of Pakistan cricket and rightly regarded as the “forefathers” of the game in this part of the world.
The First Ten Years of Pakistan Cricket
The first five years of Pakistan’s cricket history (1947–1952) saw Pakistan play “unofficial tests” called representative matches against the West Indies (1948) and Ceylon (1949–1955). Sri Lanka was not till then a full-fledged member of the then Imperial Cricket Conference (ICC), for short, whose nomenclature was changed later to the International Cricket Council.
Therefore, the initials remain unchanged Pakistan could not play official Tests against the recognized members of the ICC. Pakistan’s first-ever contact with a foreign team was in 1948. A strong West Indies team that was touring India at the time was invited to make a short “detour” to India’s new neighbor, Pakistan.
The visitors from the Caribbean had in their team such great players as George Headley known as the Black Bradman because of his prolific feats with the willow, Joey Carew, Jeff Stollmeyer, Everton Weeks, Clyde Walcott, Gerry Gomez, and skipper John Goddard himself. The Pakistani team, led by Mian Muhammad Saeed, comprised mostly club-level cricketers from Lahore and Karachi.
The four-day match at Lahore produced an honorable draw for Pakistan, who made quite an impressive showing against the formidable visitors. The match was played at the Lawrence Garden Bagh-e-Jinnah turf wicket, the venue of many first-class and test matches in pre-partition days. Pakistan was given a fine opening stand of 148 runs by Nazar Mohammad and Imtiaz Ahmed. The wicketkeeper batsman, who had scored a triple century in a charity match in Bombay,
He went on to score 131 in the second inning, sharing a second-wicket stand of 205 with skipper Mian Saeed (101). It had been a highly creditable debut at the unofficial level. Even so, it put Pakistan on the cricket scene. Pakistan won her spurs and the right to be a full-fledged member of the ICC. The team was successfully led by Abdul Hafeez Kardar (who had been appointed captain on a long-term basis, replacing a senior cricketer, Mian Muhammad Saeed).
Pakistan, the four-year-old Muslim state, scored the best victory in the world. Over an MCC team that had crossed over from India to play a few matches against the newly-born neighbor of India. The visitors had in their ranks many players who had represented England in official Tests. The MCC played two four-day “unofficial” tests in Lahore and Karachi.
The first at Lahore’s Lawrence Garden Ground was drawn, while the second at the Karachi Gymkhana Ground saw Pakistan record a 4-wicket victory, which paved the way for the grant of Soon after gaining official Test status. Therefore, Pakistan undertook her first-ever official tour of neighboring India by crossing the Wagah Border to play her first-ever official Test against India at the Ferozshah Kotla ground in Delhi.
The official debut of Pakistan was not auspicious, as they lost by an inning and 70 runs. Vinoo Mankad’s left-arm slow spin bowling proved too difficult for Pakistan to bat on a sandy wicket. Vinoo Mankad’s memorable performance was claiming 13 for 131 to rout Pakistan for 150 runs in his first test.
Pakistan made history by beating India in the second test at Lucknow by an innings and 43 runs to avenge the first Test failure. Fazal Mahmood established his claim as a match-winning bowler with figures of 12 for 84. Fazal’s performance was the forerunner of many such feats in the years that followed, branding the medium-pacer as Pakistan’s first-ever superstar.
Opening batsman Nazar Mohammed also lent his name to the historians by carrying his bat for 124 in Pakistan’s only innings and becoming the first-ever century-maker in an official Test for his country. The next landmark in the history of Pakistan cricket came on Pakistan’s first official tour of Britain in 1954.
When the” Babes of the ICC “beat England, ranked among the Gohath’s of the period, in the fourth Test at the Oval by 24 runs. Fazal Mahmood is again the chief bowler to grab victory for Pakistan. The tributes that were showered on the Pakistan team after its triumph could fill a whole volume.
Once again, it was Fazal Mahmood, the “blue-eyed policeman from the Punjab,” as one Fleet Street scribe called the Pakistani star bowler, who “fazalled” England with match figures of 12 for 99. Never before had any member country of the ICC beaten England in a Test on its maiden tour of Britain. That record stands to this day.
From thereon, cricket in Pakistan never looked back but went from strength to strength in the next few years, shedding the “babes” tag in the process. They had established themselves as a respected cricket-playing nation in the world and a force to be reckoned with within the region.
New Zealand was outplayed when the Kiwis toured Pakistan in 1955. The visitors lost the first two tests and, with it, the series. The second Test at Lahore, which Pakistan won by 4 wickets, saw a record 7th wicket stand of 308 between Waqar Hassan (189) and Imtiaz Ahmed (209) after six wickets had fallen for 111 runs only.
The visitors won praise for their sporting spirit by going through the over’s quick, which enabled Pakistan to reach the victory target of 116 in less than 90 minutes. Pakistan made a big impression in 1954 by beating Australia by nine wickets at Karachi in mid-October 1956. This time, Ian Johnson’s star-studded team stopped over on their way back home after a tour of Britain, where they lost the Ashes rubber to their traditional rivals.
The “one-off Test “could have been finished in four days, but, as the Aussie skipper put it” we play Test cricket the hard way,” the Test was extended into the fifth day when only six runs were needed for victory. Fazal Mahmood, who improved on his previous performances by claiming 13 for 114,
At one stage, he had taken the first six wickets for just 26 runs in 16 overs. The victory celebrations had been postponed until the next day because it was the death anniversary of Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s first Prime Minister. But neither Pakistan nor Fazal Mahmood were given full credit for such victories achieved on matting, a surface on which Fazal had few peers.
Even on a turf pitch giving him the slightest help, Fazal Mahmood posed serious problems for the best batsmen of the period. No Pakistan bowler for quite some time after he appeared on the test scene. He had so dominated the game. If we were to single out a player who really put Pakistan on the cricket map of the world during the first decade or so of Pakistan’s history,
Indeed, it was Fazal Mahmood, a match-winner par excellence, who climbed the international cricket ladder in remarkably quick time after attaining Test status. Led by Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Pakistan toured the Caribbean in 1958 for the first time and made headline news in the five-Test rubber Even though the visitors lost the series 1–3,
They earned a lot of praise for their fighting spirit, particularly in the first Test at Bridgetown, Barbados. The right-handed opening batsman, Hanif Mohammad who came to be called Little Master, batted for a record 16 hours and 20 minutes to score 337 after Pakistan had followed with 473 runs in the first inning. Hanif Muhammad’s marathon knock was regarded by the pundits as the greatest team-saving innings played in a Test.
No praise can be too high for Hanif, who established himself as one of the greatest batsmen produced by Pakistan during the first decade. He dominated stands of 152, 112, 154, and 121 runs for the first four wickets, a truly memorable and unprecedented feat. The very same series saw another batsman, the legendary Garfield Sobers, one of the greatest left-handed all-rounders the game has known. He scored 365 not out to break the record of Len Hutton of England.
In 120 years of Test cricket, no two batsmen had scored a triple century each in the same series. He shared a record 476-run second-wicket stand with Conrad Hunte in the third Test at Kingston, Jamaica. No West Indian batsmen had ever dominated a Test series as did Garfield Sobers that year.
Pakistan wiped out the memory of these demoralizing defeats suffered by Kardar’s team in the Caribbean during that 1958 tour Down Under. Fazal Mahmood (who had taken over the reins of captaincy from the retired Kardar) the touring West Indies team under Gerry Alexander were beaten 2-1 in 1959.
The visitors were outplayed by 10 wickets in the first Test at Karachi and by 41 runs within three days in the second Test at Dacca, which was then a part of Pakistan on the east wing. It was a low-scoring match in which Fazal Mahmood once again claimed 12 for 100, confirming his claim as the greatest match-winning bowler of the first decade. See Pakistan cricket history on Wikipedia.
Hanif Muhammad
Hanif Muhammad The Pillar of Pakistan Cricket in 1950’s
Abdul Hafeez Kardar
Abdul Hafeez Kardar, – First Captain of Pakistan Cricket in the 1950s