EXACTLY sixty years ago, on Oct 16, 1952, Pakistan played their first official Test at the Feroze Shah Kotla Stadium against India in Delhi on their inaugural tour. India then had an emphatic victory by an innings and 70 runs against an inexperienced Pakistan side which, except for captain Abdul Hafeez Kardar and the leg-spinner Amir Elahi, had nine debutants in their ranks.
Khan Mohammad, a medium-fast bowler, had bowled the first ball in Test cricket for his country to one of the game’s great all-rounders — India’s Vinoo Mankad. When batting, the tall and good-looking batsman from Lahore, Nazar Mohammad faced the first ball in Test cricket for Pakistan from Gulabrai Ramchand and a seventeen-year-old youngster Hanif Mohammad had become the first batsman from Pakistan to score a half-century in a Test.
It, however, did not take long for Pakistan to avenge their defeat as they struck back in only their second Test when they thrashed India by an innings and 43 runs at the University Ground in Lucknow where Nazar Mohammad scored an unbeaten 124 to carry his bat through an innings, thus becoming the first to make a hundred in Tests for the newly-created country.
Curling and whistling leg-cutters from the tall and handsome medium-fast bowler Fazal Mahmood had accounted for twelve Indian wickets in the match for just 94 runs. Pakistan, though lost the series in the end, it was indeed a grand beginning.
While India, West Indies, New Zealand and South Africa had taken more than two decades to register their first win in a Test, Pakistan triumphed in only their second Test, undoubtedly a proud and memorable feat.
Pakistan, in fact, had inherited a ready-made cricket culture. The parts that became a new country had already established cricket centres. The hub was of course cities like Lahore and Karachi where even before the creation of Pakistan, clubs, colleges, universities and provincial teams played regular matches and also played against the visiting teams.
Sixty years on is a long journey which has had its own ups and downs. It has been in fact worth savouring with trials, tribulations and triumphs being part of it.
With the passage of time Pakistan hosted India, New Zealand, Australia and the West Indies in its year of infancy and performed with distinction against all of them.
In the earlier phase in unofficial Tests against the West Indies, Commonwealth and Ceylon in the late 1940s and early 50s, Pakistan did not lag behind with stalwarts like Mian Mohammad Saeed, Munawar Ali Khan, a genuine fast bowler, Imtiaz Ahmed, Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Waqar Hasan and the teenaged prodigy Hanif Mohammad on call.
Going through the pages of cricket history of this country, one would no doubt feel proud of the cricketers we produced, mostly grown on home soil who over the years honed their skills playing at international level and on the county circuits.
In the mid-1950s and early 60s, I was a part of the scene myself as a cricketer at university and first-class levels and later as a journalist of this game I did have this golden opportunity watching the greats of Pakistan cricket and their achievements around the globe.Fazal Mahmood. -File photo
The first of many greats of this country was indeed Hanif Mohammad and Fazal Mahmood, the first Pakistani to take hundred or more wickets in Tests. Hanif, I still rate as Pakistan’s greatest batsman. In skill, footwork and in concentration no batsman came anywhere near him. I think no batsman in the history of Pakistan or of the world had such endurance, stamina and focus as he had.
He remains the only batsman amongst the triple centurions to have made a triple century (337) after being asked to follow on 473 runs behind in the first ever Tests against the West Indies at Bridgetown, Barbados. He saved the six-day Test having batted for 999 minutes, that is three and a half days — still the longest individual innings in Tests.
Amongst the most elegant and graceful was obviously Zaheer Abbas whose unforgettable 274 and 240 against England in 1971 and in 1974 remain etched in everyone’s mind who witnessed it. Or for that matter his run-spree against the Indian spinners in the home series against India in 1978-79 and 1982-83.
In between was Javed Miandad, a fighter to the core and the most successful batsman of Pakistan who would not give an inch to any bowler whether fast or slow. He was the master of every situation. Once in his element he would destroy a bowler at will with his bullish and cocky approach to the game.