The Unpredictables – Part I: 1940s

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The eternal drama of Pakistan cricket never ceases to fascinate the fans of Cricket game. Why would it? There are only few teams in world cricket, rather world sports, as unpredictable and mercurial as Pakistan. They will be a laughing stock one day with their amateur performance and next day exhibit flamboyant performance with ability to beat best in the world. If not for Pakistani cricket team, cricket would have been the most boring sport of the world.

Pakistan as a country has been through a number of highs and lows since traumatic partition in 1947 and its cricket has followed the similar pattern in direct proportion, showing how this sport is embedded in social, political and cultural facets of the country. Initially dispersed, unrecognised, underfunded and weak, Pakistan’s cricket team grew to become a major force in world cricket. In this series of blogs we shall dig into social, political, cultural and sporting history of cricket in Pakistan.

Part I – 1940s: Partition and Foundation Stones of Cricket in Pakistan (1947 – 1950)

The trauma of partition

August 14, 1947 – newly created boundaries of Pakistan and India emerged on the map of the world as a result of partition of the Indian sub-continent. An ambitious young fast bowler, Fazal Mahmood, was not going to let political and social chaos, prevalent at that time, to get in the way of his dreams. He left Lahore and made over a 1000 kilometres journey through Punjab and Sindh to reach Bombay, when millions of Muslim migrants were making the journey in an opposite way i.e. from India to Pakistan. From Bombay, Fazal went to Poona to report at All-India training-camp organised for selecting a squad for the upcoming tour of Australia. The camp was abandoned after few days due to non-stop monsoon rains and chaotic political situation. Fazal had to make a risk journey back to Lahore and very nearly met a bloody end on the train back from Poona to Bombay. Hindu fanatics would have lynched him but for the intervention of his travelling companion, the Indian cricket legend CK Nayudu, who defended Fazal against attackers with his cricket bat.

Fazal Mahmood  (Source: ESPNCricinfo)

Fazal Mahmood
(Source: ESPNCricinfo)

The story of Fazal portrays what inhabitants of two nations went through. Fazal was back in Lahore on September 13, 1947. After immense family pressures and with extreme reluctance, Fazal cabled Lala Amarnath, Indian team’s captain and cricket legend, saying that he would not be able to join the tour. This decision turned out to be one of the most important decisions of his life and one of the greatest blessings for Pakistan cricket. Few years later, Fazal would become the instigator, torchbearer and legend of fast bowling in Pakistan cricket.


The beginnings – Setting up cricket administration body

The official national sport of Pakistan is Hockey but practically it’s the game of cricket. However, this was not the case at the time of partition. Pakistan inherited very little by way of industry and infrastructure when it separated from the rest India. The biggest challenge for the government was to construct the new country’s economic, industrial, social and sports infrastructure.


Development of any sport is directly related to environment in which it evolves – Pakistan cricket has not been different in this respect. The game of cricket was virtually unknown throughout much of rural areas of Pakistan. Even in the urban centres of Lahore and Karachi, cricket was played mainly by upper–middle classes. The game structure was weak with just two turf wickets in the whole country, at Lahore and Karachi. Most of the players who were to represent Pakistan early years came from Lahore – products of Government and Islamia colleges and clubs such as Crescent and Mamdot. Some of them had played in the Ranji trophy, the premier domestic tournament of pre–partition India. The future of Pakistan cricket was looming in dark as it could have become a mere satellite of India. However, Pakistan hung on as a result of sheer hard work and determination.

For quite some time Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) held Pakistan to ransom. Either it could have first class and Test cricket as part of India – or not have first-class cricket at all. Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) indicated to BCCI that it would prefer India to remain, for cricketing purposes, a single country. For Pakistan, to go it alone meant a giant leap in the dark but it was determined to do so.

The idea of a cricket board was first floated in the summer of 1947 and after preliminary work over course of a year; Board of Control of Cricket in Pakistan (BCCP) was formally founded on May 1, 1948 at a meeting in the pavilion of Lahore Gymkhana Cricket Ground.

The first president of the BCCP was Khan Iftikhar Hussain Nawab of Mamdot. It had three vice-presidents: Justice AR Cornelius, Lt Col. Baker and Mr Britto. KR collector was made the secretary of the Board. Hussain provided the much needed social and political strength. Cornelius, a brilliant man who would later become Chief Justice of Pakistan, provided the intellect to organise the daily affairs. He followed cricket on craze basis. Collector’s home at 72 Garden Road, Karachi was the first official address of BCCP. Diversity of the background of these cricket administrators can be judged by the fact that Cornelius and Britto were Christians; Collector was a Parsi and Col. Baker was an Anglican – reflecting the Jinnah’s vision for a liberal Pakistan.

Justice AR Cornelius

Justice AR Cornelius

A key decision that was made at first meeting was to ask Governor-general Jinnah to become patron of BCCP. It might have been a necessity at that time but it certainly paid a heavy price in future. Since inception, the post has been used to accommodate political cronies by the governments in power.

Preliminary structure of first-class cricket

The situations was so grim in early years that throughout the 1947–48 season only one first-class game was played, a traditional fixture between Punjab University and Governor of West Punjab’s XI, at magnificent Lawrence Gardens (now called Bagh-e-Jinnah).The match was hosted by Sir Fancis Mudie, governor of West Punjab, who was one of a handful officials and military officers who had been personally requested by Jinnah to stay behind after independence. All most all of the great cricketers of the time, including Fazal Mahmood, Jahangir Khan, Nazar Muhammad and Mian Mohammad Saeed, played in the match which ended in draw.

Nazar Muhammad (Source: ESPNCricinfo)

Nazar Muhammad (Source: ESPNCricinfo)

Lahore GymKhana Cricket Ground, Bagh-e-Jinnah Lahore

Lahore GymKhana Cricket Ground, Bagh-e-Jinnah Lahore

There were just 5 domestic first-class fixtures in the 5 years after independence whereas India hosted 88 Ranji Trophy fixtures during this period. Cricket in Pakistan was limited to one-day club games and certain school and inter-university fixtures. Although it played an essential role in maintaining a cricket culture, it was not enough. BCCP needed to take immediate steps to set up first-class structure. In the absence of serious domestic cricket, the only way to do this was to attract international teams to Pakistan.

Beginning of international games for Pakistan

The efforts of BCCP finally paid off. West Indies (WI) was the first international team, which toured Pakistan and for Pakistani cricketers it was a portentous occasion. WI had taken a break from their 5 test tour of India to play at Pakistan and considered it just a relaxing break. Infact, Lala Amarnath told WI captian John Goddard, ‘It is just a schoolboys’ team’. This remark got back to the Pakistan players, who were enraged.

West Indian captain John Goddard and Pakistani captain Mian Muhammad Saeed

West Indian captain John Goddard and Pakistani captain Mian Muhammad Saeed

The tour started with a drawn game against Sindh Province in Karachi. Next stop was Rawalpindi where WI payed against General Sir Douglas Gracey’s eleven, then the commander-in-chief. Pakistan’s cricketers were disgracefully dismissed for 96 in their first innings, and lost the match by 9 wickets.

Now came the major event of the tour, Pakistan vs WI at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore. Pakistan was captained by Mian Muhammad Saeed. Mian Saeed, the first captain of Pakistan, had a career that extended from 1930 to 1954. He played for various Indian teams, including Southern Punjab in the Ranji Trophy, in the 1930s and 1940s, and for Punjab cricket teams in Pakistan in the 1940s and 1950s.

The opening pair, Imtiaz Ahmed and Nazar Muhammad put on 148 for the first wicket, but thereafter the team bundled out to a disappointing 241. The opening bowler, Munawwar Ali Khan, regarded as fastest bowler in Pakistan, got his team off to a scintillating start by dismissing George Carew, opening batsman, and skipper John Goddard on first two deliveries of the first over. He broke the stump in to two when he dismissed Goddard who was very annoyed at being misled by Indians. WI, however, then recovered to a total of 308 in first innings.

Imtiaz Ahmad (Source: ESPNCricinfo)

Imtiaz Ahmad (Source: ESPNCricinfo)


Munawwar Ali Khan

Munawwar Ali Khan

In second innings, Imtiaz and Saeed gave a thrashing to WI bowlers by scoring centuries and putting on a stand of 205 for the second wicket. Eventually the game ended out as a draw. However, by giving tough competition to WI, Pakistan cricketers had made a perfect start in their pursuit of Imperial Cricket Conference’s (ICC) recognition as a Test-playing country.

In the following April, Pakistan team toured Ceylon (name changed to Sri Lanka in 1972) for a two match series. Pakistan beat them by an innings in the first ‘unofficial Test’ and by ten wickets in second.

Pakistan was gradually acquiring a settled look with Nazar Mohammad and Imtiaz Ahmad forming a strong opening pair, Mian Saeed and Alimuddin providing solidity to middle order and Khan Mohammad along with Fazal Mahmood forming a deadly bowling partnership.

Khan Muhammad

Khan Muhammad

In November 1949 Commonwealth XI visited Pakistan which majorly composed of players whose careers were nearing an end. It was a humiliating result for Pakistan as its batting failed twice in the match played at Bagh-e-Jinnah. At the end of the game furious crowd threw stones and verbal abuse at Pakistani players. People called for game to be abandoned. Cricket in Pakistan was breathing its last.

Emergence of AH Kardar

Mian Saeed had set the ground work for Pakistan cricket. He deserved to be forgiven for the fiasco at the Bagh-e-Jinnah against the CommonWealth XI and probably would have been but for the fact the Abdul Hafeez Kardar had returned to Pakistan after an absence of almost 5 years.

Brought under controversial circumstances, Cornelius and Kardar then formed a formidable partnership to achieve an uphill task facing Pakistan – to achieve the status of Test-playing country. Kardar, emerging from Oxford, was marked out as a future leader of Pakistan. It has been widely believed by most of Kardar’s fellow cricketers that he was set upon dislodging Mian Saeed, and undermined his standing by refusing to play under his captaincy.

The Oxford University side against MCC in 1948. (Back row) Nigel Bloy, William Davidson, Jika Travers, Christopher Winn, Basil Robinson. (Middle row) Abdul Kardar, Philip Whitcombe, Tony Pawson, Anthony Mallett, William Keighley. (Sitting) Clive van Ryneveld, Hubert Webb. © MCC

The Oxford University side against MCC in 1948.
(Back row) Nigel Bloy, William Davidson, Jika Travers, Christopher Winn, Basil Robinson. (Middle row) Abdul Kardar, Philip Whitcombe, Tony Pawson, Anthony Mallett, William Keighley. (Sitting) Clive van Ryneveld, Hubert Webb.

Kardar had played test cricket having toured England with the Indian team in 1946 and having played both for Oxford and Warwickshire. Kardar took great pride in dressing like an English gentleman, but as he became more confident, “he acquired a post-colonial sensibility.” The English way of running the game no longer appealed. This conversion had consequences for Pakistani cricket, which began to focus inwardly. It learnt to run before it could walk – playing Test cricket before there was a domestic structure in place.

The immediate challenge which faced Kardar after taking over was the task of leading country against MCC, the name under which England team used to tour overseas, which was to tour Pakistan in November 1951.


 Key Players of 40s: Nazar Muhammad, Khan Muhammad and Mian Muhammad Saeed



 Next in ‘The Unpredictables’: Part II – 1950s: Pakistan announces itself to Cricket World (1951 – 60)


  • Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack
  • ‘Wounded Tiger: A History of Cricket in Pakistan’ by Peter Oborne
  • ‘The Pakistani Masters’ by Bill Ricquier
  • ESPNcricinfo archives (
  • ‘Cricket Cauldron: The Turbulent Politics of Sport in Pakistan’ by Shaharyar M. Khan and Ali Khan
  • Imran Khan’s Autobiography ‘Pakistan: A Personal History’
  • ‘All round view’ by Imran Khan
  • ‘Controversially Yours’ by Shoaib Akhtar
  • Cricket Archive (
  • PTV Sports (
  • Pakistan Cricket Board (

This blog was first published on Pak tea House.


MCC vs Rest of the World: A Cricket Extravaganza of Stars and Legends

FIFA World Cup 2014 fever has gripped the whole world since June 12, 2014. From young to old, everyone is following the World Cup with zeal and only talk about the on-going tournament and who will reign supreme in Brazil. Even the biggest Tennis Grand Slam Tournament of the year, Wimbledon, has been overshadowed by football World Cup.

One event which I hope does not get eclipsed by the World Cup is cricket match between MCC XI and Rest of the World XI on July 5, 2014 at Lord’s cricket stadium. For cricket lovers, particularly Pakistani cricket fans who have been starving for cricket for past few months, it is a star studded even not to be missed.

The match is a part of bicentenary celebrations at Lord’s i.e. celebration of 200 years of cricket at Lord’s. The game is to be played as a fifty over contest between a Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) side and Rest of the World side, with both teams comprising some of the former legends of the game as well as current stars.

The captains of the two teams are particularly eye-catching, two of the greatest on field rivals in cricket. MCC XI will be led by leading Test run scorer of all time, the Maestro Sachin Tendulkar. On the other hand Rest of the World XI will be led by one of the greatest bowlers of all time, the Spin Doctor Shane Warne. In late nineties and early twenties, one on one contest between Sachin and Warne was the sight every cricket fan used to relish watching.

The event is being eagerly anticipated by cricket fans around the world, with the match being a unique chance to watch the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara play together versus the genius of Shane Warne and Muttiah Murlidharan. The match boasts of a total Test experience of 1,764 caps – MCC XI with 937 and Rest of World XI with 827 Test appearances respectively. Representation of each country in this game will be as follows: Australia:6; India:4; Pakistan: 3; England:3; West Indies:3; SriLanka:1; New Zealand:1 and Bangladesh:1.


Let’s have a look at the two teams who will compete with each other in this mouth-watering contest:


The side is packed with some great legend and stars of the game. The team will be led by Sachin Tendulkar who will have fellow legends like Brian Lara, Rahul Dravid and Shivnarine Chanderpaul for company – a batting line up one can only dream of. Australia’s one day and T20 sensation Aaron Finch will provide fire power to this batting line up by opening the innings.

There can be no doubt that on paper, the MCC XI batting line-up remains superior, however, make no mistake about their bowling line up. The pace battery of the team includes the speedster Brett Lee, the express Shaun Tait and the Gulldozer Umer Gul. All of them are excellent and effective one-day pace bowlers. And to bamboozle the batsmen with spin, Saeed Ajmal and Daniel Vettori will provide the x-factor. Frustrating back injury had kept Vettori out of the New Zealand squad for quite some time. However, the magician Saeed Ajmal is bamboozling the batsmen all around the world with his armoury of spin variations.

Former England wicket keeper, Chris Read, will perform the duties with gloves. All in all the MCC XI is a very well balance side. Here is list of complete team of MCC XI:

MCC XI: Sachin Tendulkar (IND) (capt), Saeed Ajmal (PAK), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (W.I), Rahul Dravid (IND), Aaron Finch (AUS), Umar Gul (PAK), Brian Lara (W.I), Brett Lee (AUS), Chris Read (ENG), Shaun Tait (AUS), Daniel Vettori (NZ).

Rest of the World XI

An equally star studded team will be led by Sharne Warne, perhaps the best captain Australia never had. Warne is the bowler with the second most Test wickets in the history of the game but fear not – the man leading the charge may well be turning the ball the same way but from the other end. Yes, Sri Lankan spin genius Muttiah Muralitharan will be bowling in tandem with the Australian legend as the Rest of the World look to knock out their hosts with a spin bowling master class. The two spin greats will be supported by two very potent pacers: Peter Siddle and Tino Best.

The batting line up of Rest of World is full of fire power. With the bat, the Rest of the World brags the likes of wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist, swashbuckling former Indian opener Virender Sehwag and Kevin Pietersen, who will be eager to serve up a reminder of the talent England are missing out on. Bangladesh’s very talented batsman Tamim Iqbal will further consolidate the batting line up. Paul Collingwood with his all-round skill of batting, bowling provides perfect balance to the side.

But hold on, that’s not all. The Rest of World XI has also got one star player, the crowd puller, the fans’ favourite, Boom Boom Afridi. The firepower of Shahid Afridi will be a perfect impetus to the contest. Here is list of complete team of Rest of World:

REST OF THE WORLD XI: Shaune Warne (AUS) (capt), Shahid Afridi (PAK), Tino Best (W.I), Paul Collingwood (ENG), Adam Gilchrist (AUS), Tamim Iqbal (BAN), Muttiah Muralitharan (S.L), Kevin Pietersen (ENG), Virender Sehwag (INDI), Peter Siddle (AUS), Yuvraj Singh (IND).

It promises to be a fantastic day of cricket, turning Lord’s into memory lane. Although the day clashes with the quarter finals of FIFA World Cup, but I hope no cricket fan will afford to miss out watching this contest.

Ahead of the game, fans from across the world are supporting their favourite team with either #teamsachin or #teamshane on social media. Who are you supporting?