Another bright and shining star has faded away.
Another stalwart is gone, another glorious chapter closes down. The legendary figure of Pakistan Cricket Imtiaz Ahmad is no more with us. Within few months after Hanif Muhammad, we have lost another member of 1952 Cricket team that toured India leaving behind only Wazir Muhammad and Waqar Hasan living.
It was in 1963 when as a teenager, I first saw Imtiaz Ahmad batting,it was an unofficial test match being played between Pakistan and the Commonwealth eleven. Many great players and big names were playing for the Commonwealth side including two most feared fast bowlers of that time. Charlie Griffith and Chester Watson. Charlie Griffith had earned fame because of his lethal bouncer that caused Indian opener Nari Contractor. Playing against India, Griffith was as quick and aggressive as ever. The infamous delivery rose awkwardly and almost at an unplayable pace. Contractor’s original intent was probably to play it towards square-leg; he did not judge the bounce early enough, and arched back in a last-moment effort to move out from the line. The ball hit him just above his left ear. Contractor had to be rushed to the hospital; he remained unconscious for six days; he had to undergo back-to-back brain operations to remove the clots; and he could never play another Test.
Most of the cricket enthusiasts in Pakistan knew this and were keen to seethe bowler in action at his best. Facing a big score of 442 Pakistan started with Fakir Aizazuddin and Imtiaz Ahmad. Facing Charlie Griffith with crowd cheering and jeering, Imtiaz moved towards the off and hit three consecutive boundaries off the new ball and that too from the sheer ruthless pace of Griffith.
Imtiaz, who donned his first Test cap against India in Delhi in 1952 and remained an integral part of the team till his retirement in 1962. He played 41 Tests for his country, notching up 2,079 runs and effecting 93 dismissals. Incidentally, his Test debut in Delhi, against India, also turned out to be Pakistan’s first ever Test.
The 88-year-old was known for his daring stroke play, especially while facing up to fast bowlers. The point can be illustrated by his enterprising knock of 138 against the Lindsay Hassett-led Australian Services XI at the age of just 17 in Lahore in 1945.
His highest score of 209 came against New Zealand in Lahore in 1955. He also captained Pakistan in four Tests against Australia and England at the fag end of his Test career.
The wicketkeeper-batsman made his first-class debut for Northern India against Delhi in the Ranji Trophy in 1944. He went on to play 180 first-class matches, aggregating 10391 runs with 404 dismissals to his credit.On 6 March 1951, playing for India Prime Minister’s XI against a Commonwealth XI, Ahmed scored a triple century (300 not out) while following on, a feat that has been achieved by only two others. Ahmed also played in the Ranji Trophy. He retired from first-class cricket at the end of 1972-73 season.
He was honored with Pride of Performance Award by the Government of Pakistan for his achievements in sports in 1966. Imtiaz was also the national selector of the Pakistan cricket team.
As a cricket commentator, I had many chances to meet him. I found him a thorough gentleman polite, courteous and humble but my real interaction began when I moved my magazine Cricket time’s office to Cavalry ground in Lahore. His house was across the road and he made a habit of visiting our office in the evening and chatting with us till late in into the night. He shared many outstanding moments of his illustrious career. He always praised the great little master Hanif Muhammad for his great skills, technique, temperament and his immense contribution to Pakistan cricket. He was very proud to be a part of Caught Imtiaz bowled Fazal legacy. Some times when the late Nazar Muhammad joined us, our evening became more lively as Nazar Sahib had a great sense of humor and for a while Imtiaz Ahmad also reverted back to his younger days throwing joke, laughing and enjoying every moment of that gathering.
Imtiaz Ahmad was a disciplined man, very quiet and composed, a man with few words. Having served in armed forces, he was also very conscious of his fitness and used to walk a lot. He was simple and straight forward in his nature and I never heard him talking negatively about someone or complaining about his own problems. He wanted to contribute towards the betterment of this glorious game which was his love and passion but the bureaucracy and usual taboos didn’t allow him to play his role.
Imtiaz Ahmad has travelled to another world, you may call it eternity or the end but his name and his place in our hearts will remain alive. His feats will remain unforgettable and his deed immortal, When I came to know about his demise, I was in shock and grief for some time then memories started flowing from the misty past, images started emerging, Imtiaz Ahmad hitting the ball around, taking a diving catch, sitting on a couch in my office smiling so often, laughing loud occasionally.
I feel my eyes getting blurred and watery. I try to wipe out the tears but can’t stop it, the loss is so big. He will always be missed as a very fine cricketer, a national hero, nice human being and a wonderful friend. Whenever historian writer will name the great players from Pakistan his name will always be there and he will be remembered with love, affection and respect.
IMTIAZ AHMAD CAREER RECORDS
Born January 5, 1928, Lahore, Punjab
Died December 31, 2016, Lahore, Punjab (aged 88 years 361 days)
Teams: Pakistan, Northern India, Pakistan Air Force, Punjab, Services
Batting style Right-hand bat
Bowling style Right-arm offbreak
Fielding position Wicketkeeper
Relation Brother – Iftikhar Ahmed
Batting and fielding averages
|Test debut||India v Pakistan at Delhi, Oct 16-18, 1952|
|Last Test||England v Pakistan at The Oval, Aug 16-20, 1962|