Pakistan cricket remains in debt of those who helped the country grow and stand on its feet to become Cricket as a game was as popular in Lahore and in Karachi as it was in other parts of India which later became a new country.
What really helped them most was the presence of people in the country who had the experience of playing at all levels and who stepped out to not only launch a cricket board but also prepared the young ones to achieve the honour of becoming a Test-playing nation within five years of its existence.
Hafiz Kardar, Amir Elahi, and Jehangir Khan had played for India in Tests. There was Dilawar Hussain, Nazir Ali, Wazir Ali.
And then there were others like Justice Cornelius, Iftikhar Hasan Mamdot who in early years took up the responsibility to look after the players and the cricket board as years passed by.
There were others to groom the players. The most prominent among them were Abdur Rab in Lahore and Abdul Aziz Durrani known as Master Aziz.
Master Aziz’s contribution is unforgettable, to say the least, in Karachi as was the contribution of Rab in Punjab.
Master Aziz had migrated from Bombay to Karachi and had the experience of the game at first-class level. He had also played an unofficial Test for India against the Australians.
His career was cut short by an injury to his eye while keeping wickets.
Tall, heavily built and dark in complexion, he soon got into his strides after joining Sindh Madressah where he lived in a room and coached the schoolboys, including Hanif Mohammad and his brothers. Hanif, Mushtaq Mohammad, and Sadiq Mohammad, Mohammad Munaf, to mention a few, were his prodigies and till the Master’s death in the late seventies remained in his debt.
Master Aziz’s son Saleem Durrani, who remained in India, later became a Test player for India, a fine left-handed all-rounder.
In 1957 I was picked from Sindh to be part of Pakistan’s first coaching camp held at the National Stadium, Karachi, consisting of promising youngsters from all the universities of Pakistan, including from East Pakistan.
We were at the stadium for a month coached by him, by JeomalNaoomal, the first Indian opening Test batsman who was from Karachi.
Four of us, Ijaz Butt, Saeed Ahmad, Nasim-ul-Ghani and Haseeb Ahsan, were selected to tour the West Indies.
Master Aziz was the only coach who lived at the National Stadium. One day he told me that when his son Saleem Durrani was born in Bombay, “I went to a sports shop and bought a cricket ball to bring back home and show it to the baby who loved watching the shining red ball.
“This was my way of coaching my son in the hope that when he grows he becomes a cricketer and he did,” Aziz told me.
He would also ask me to listen to his comments on cricket and coaching and write an article for him to get it published in the Karachi evening paper, ‘The Leader’.
I would often do that for him and I could say that was the beginning of my career as a writer.
A loving personality, he knew his game and the finer points to become a good batsman and or a successful bowler.
He not only coached but also umpired in first-class matches and was notoriously known for not giving out his favourite players.
In relation to Hanif Mohammad’ batting, it was a common belief that he would hesitate to raise his finger against him to make sure that Hanif stayed longer at the crease.
“I want him to become the world’s best,” Aziz would say and Hanif did become the best of his era.
There were others who umpired as well as coached such as Gul Mohammad in Lahore and Rab and in Karachi, Tajamm-ul-Hussain, Idrees Baig and Daud Khan. But none was as popular and noticeable as was the Afghan from Kabul who had settled in Bombay in India and worked in the police force before migrating to Pakistan.