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Opinion

The best Pakistan Test XI of their early era

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Roar Guru
2nd June, 2020
20

The Pakistan cricket team made their official Test debut in Delhi in 1952.

While they suffered a humiliating innings defeat in Delhi, unable to handle the spin of Vinoo Mankad, they fought back well, winning the next Test in Lucknow.

Before the decade was over, the Pakistanis had Test success against India, England, New Zealand, Australia and the West Indies. Pakistan didn’t play South Africa until the 1990s.

So it was quite a successful time for Pakistan cricket. Their success was built around three pillars: a world-class opener named Hanif Mohammad, one of the best medium-pacers of all eras Fazal Mahmood, and their bold and aggressive captain Abdul Hafeez Kardar, who in many ways was way ahead of his time.

Here, I have formed a Test XI consisting of the Pakistan players of their early era. I have considered the Tests played between 1952 and the England tour in the summer of 1962.

Hanif Mohammad
When he ended his long and successful career in the late 1960s, he held two world records. His record of the highest first-class score (499) was broken by Brian Lara late in the century, but it’s very unlikely that his record of the longest Test innings will ever be broken.

In Bridgetown in 1958, Pakistan took on the Windies in a six-day Test. It was their first ever Test in the West Indies. After the home side declared after the first innings at 9-579, the Pakistanis were bowled out for only 106. Following on, Pakistan recovered to force a draw thanks to Hanif’s 337. In the process he batted for more than 16 hours.

He got good support from the top order. All the first four partnerships contributed more than 100 runs. The Windies captain Gerry Alexander tried seven bowlers but nothing worked. And by the time Hanif was eventually dismissed, the match was safe for Pakistan.

Nazar Mohammad
The Lahore opener had the honour of facing the first ball in Pakistan Test batting history. He was also the first man to be dismissed, run out for 27 following a mix up with Hanif. He scored only seven in the second innings, becoming one of Mankad’s 13 victims in the Test.

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But he made amends in the very next match in Lucknow. He carried his bat through the innings, scoring 124 not out from a team total of 331. Pakistan won the match by innings and 43 runs. So Nazar was a part of the match throughout.

He ended the five-match series with 277 runs at an average of 39.57. But then a domestic accident saw a damaged arm and he never played for Pakistan again. His son Mudassar Nazar made amends by playing 76 Tests for Pakistan.

In Lahore, in 1983, Mudassar scored an unbeaten 152 out of a team total of 323, carrying his bat through. Kapil Dev took 8-85. He also scored a ton in his very first Test on Indian soil, in Bangalore in 1979.

(Wiki Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Saeed Ahmed
A solid right-hander, he was a highly reliable number three. He made his Test debut in that famous Bridgetown Test. He scored 65 in the second innings and shared a 154-run stand with Hanif. His first Test hundred (150) came in Georgetown in the fourth Test. With more than 500 runs in the series, he firmly established himself in the Pakistan team.

While he never had much success in England, he still finished his 41-Test career with almost 3000 runs at an average of 40.

He was a useful off-spinner and had a Test best of 4-64 against England in Lahore in 1968-69.

His Test career ended in controversial circumstances at the MCG in 1973. In his final Test he got in to a heated altercation with a young fast bowler named Dennis Lillee.

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Waqar Hasan
A right-handed top-order batsman, he promised a lot after averaging 44 in the series against India in 1952-53. But he failed to fulfill the promise, ending with a Test average 31.50 from 21 Tests. His only Test ton, 189, came in Lahore against NZ in 1955.

He died in Karachi this February. He was the last surviving member of the Pakistan debut team of 1952.

Imtiaz Ahmed
In Lahore in 1956, Imtiaz Ahmed – the wicketkeeper-batsman from Lahore – got his name in the record books. His 209 against NZ was the first double hundred for a keeper in Test matches. And it remained the only one for almost a quarter of a century.

He shared a 308-run seventh-wicket stand with Waqar as the home side won by four wickets.

His Test batting average of 29 was highly acceptable for a keeper in those days, but it doesn’t tell enough of his batting abilities. The problem was that the selectors were never sure of his batting position and used him in all the positions from one to eight. In fact, his double ton came while batting at eight, but his other two Test tons were as openers.

He also opened the innings during the tour to the West Indies in 1958. In Bridgetown, he scored 91 in the second innings and shared a 152-run opening stand with Hanif that started the Pakistan recovery in the match. He also scored 122 in Kingston.

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Mushtaq Mohammad
Mushataq was a young prodigy as a batsman but a late developer as a leg-spin bowler. In a sense, he was the bridge between two eras of Pakistan cricket. After making his Test debut in 1959, he carried on until 1979. He was the captain of the Pakistan team that won at the SCG in 1977.

Most Pakistan cricket experts consider that victory as the beginning of the modern era in Pakistan cricket. In 1978, he became the first Pakistan captain to win a series against India.

Back to his early days, he scored 101 in Delhi in 1961. He was a rare success story among the Pakistan team that toured England in 1962. The Pakistanis lost the five-match series 4-0, and it was Mushtaq’s unbeaten hundred in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge that helped Pakistan achieve their only draw in the series.

He was quite a useful leg-break bowler, and his 79 wickets came at 29 apiece. Quite remarkably, his first Test wicket didn’t come before 1967.

Wallis Mathias
The first non-Muslim to play for Pakistan, he enjoyed modest success at Test level. A right-hand bat, he averaged only 23 in 21 Tests. But he became a folk hero after his heroics against the Windies in Dacca.

In a low-scoring match where the highest team score was 172, he top scored in both Pakistan innings. His 64 and 45 combined with Fazal’s 12 wickets helped Pakistan win the match by 41 runs.

Abdul Hafeez Kardar
In 26 Tests for India and Pakistan, Kardar – a left-handed bat and occasional left-arm orthodox spinner – scored 927 runs at an average of 23.76 and took 21 wickets at 41 apiece. His records are modest by any standards. But statistics would tell nothing about the contribution of this man to Pakistan cricket. Many experts consider him to be the father of Pakistan cricket.

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His inclusion in my team is in pretty much in the Mike Brearley-type role. In his 23 Tests as Pakistan captain he won six, lost six and drew 11.

After his retirement from cricket as a player, he served as an administrator for two decades. He was an early advocate for neutral umpires. In the 1970s, he ran the Pakistan Cricket Board in pretty much a dictatorial manner.

Brilliant but moody, a great team man yet sensitive to the slightest criticism, Pakistan’s first cricket captain showed the characteristics that would become common among many of his successors.

Cricket generic

(Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Nasim Ul Ghani
He was only 16 when he was picked for the tour to the West Indies in 1958. And he had a memorable end to the series. In the second innings of the fifth and final Test at the Queen’s Park Oval, he took 6-67 with his left-arm spin to lead Pakistan to an innings victory.

This was Pakistan’s first ever Test success against the West Indies. Sadly, wickets dried out for him after this success and he ended his 29-Test career in 1973 with only 52 wickets at 37.

His batting average is only 16, but he got his name on the Lord’s honour board for his only Test hundred in 1962. Pakistan started their second innings late on the second day trailing by 270 runs. They soon slumped to 4-77 as Nasim came out to bat as the nightwatchman. He scored 101 and shared a 197-run fifth-wicket stand with the skipper Javed Burki (101) to avoid the ignominy of an innings defeat.

Nasim was born in Delhi, but after the partition of 1947 he settled in Dacca and played his first-class cricket with East Pakistan teams. Later, he moved to Karachi to play for stronger teams.

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Fazal Mahmood
A right-arm medium pacer, Fazal was described by Shoaib Akhtar as the torch bearer. In his 34 Tests he took 139 wickets at 24 apiece. His first-class record shows 466 victims at 19 each.

While ten-wicket hauls remain a major criteria for judging top Test bowlers, Fazal had four hauls of 12 or more wickets. They were against India in Lucknow, against England at the Oval, against Australia in Karachi and against the West Indies in Dacca, all leading to Pakistan success. His best figures 13-124 came in Karachi in 1956.

It’s a pity that he never played a Test in Australia. In fact, he was selected for the India team to tour Australia in 1947-48. But he had already made up his mind to join Pakistan and withdrew his name from the team.

Khan Mohammad
The Lahore-born fast bowler had the honour of bowling Pakistan’s first ever delivery in Tests. And he also took the first wicket when he bowled the Bengal opener Pankaj Roy.

He did an excellent job as a support bowler to Fazal, taking 54 wickets in only 13 Tests at 24 apiece. In Karachi against Australia, when Fazal took 13 wickets, Khan took the remaining seven wickets. In fact, they were the only bowlers used when the Aussies were bowled out for only 80 in their first innings, batting for 53.1 overs.