Every era has its heroes.
Some of them become legends and all-time greats. Through their feats they inspire and thrill nations. They should, therefore, always be remembered and held in great esteem. Nations who do not remember their heroes, remain lost in darkness.
Sadly some self-styled cricket specialists who were neither born then, nor were able to watch any of the great heroes in their prime during 1947 to 1960 sit on self-created YouTube channels and downgrade the performances of the players of those times. Recently one of those jockeys passed a remark about A. H. Kardar that he was just a very ordinary left arm bowler and was a mediocre cricketer.
Obviously a statement like that is based on sheer ignorance and exaggerated sense of self importance. Kardar may not have had great statistics as a cricketer but he was a great leader of men and was a great Pakistani who loved his country. He led Pakistan with great honour from the front and defeated every cricketing country in the first decade of Pakistan cricket. It was actually Kardar who laid the foundation of Pakistan cricket. Instead of ridiculing, we should rejoice and feel proud of the achievements of those gentlemen cricketers.
Nowadays it is ironically believed as if the history of Pakistan cricket began only with Imran Khan winning the 1992 World Cup, or the Sharjah sixer hit by Javed Miandad. Of course both are great achievements but they are not the only achievements. Pakistan produced some of the greatest world class players in its first decade like Hanif Mohammed, Fazal Mahmood, Imtiaz Ahmed and Saeed Ahmed. Who can ever forget the 337 runs scored by Mr. Concentration, Hanif Mohammed at Barbados against West Indies in 1957-58 without a helmet or any other body shield?
Pakistan defeated every cricket playing country on first appearance. Yes, there were times when Pakistan played hard for a draw but that was to save the honour. Those were the times when honour was not fixed or sold but saved at the cost of one’s life. There were also memorable times when Pakistan lost no time to avenge a defeat.
Having lost the first test against India at Delhi in October 1952, Kardar geared up his team for the second test at Lucknow from October 23-26, 1952. He inspired his team by pointing out that Lucknow meant Luck Now for them in an ominous way.
Lucknow test is not much written about and more importance is usually attached to the Oval test victory of 1954, but in my opinion Lucknow test is no less important and was the stepping stone. Especially because Pakistan defeated its arch enemy for the first time and that too within five years after the unforgettable atrocities of the partition of 1947. This victory meant a great deal to the new and young nation who had risen from the ashes of blood, sweat and tears.
When the team arrived in Lucknow, a telegram sent by Fazal Mahmood’s wife Nazi was awaiting him, in which she had emphatically asked her husband to take at least seven wickets in the match. Other several messages stated “Wish you good luck but you will never win the match”. Fazal used to say such disheartening messages did affect him but he had made up his mind to win the match on do or die basis. Since Khan Muhammed had become unfit, Mahmood Hussain was brought in his place. Israr Ali who had played the first test at Delhi was named the 12th man for this test. He held the catch of Ghulam Ahmed off Amir Elahi for 0 in the second innings. His place in the team was taken by Zulfiqar Ahmed. The other players were: Nazar Muhammed, Hanif Muhammed, Waqar Hassan, Imtiaz Ahmed, Maqsood Ahmed, A. H. Kardar (Capt), Anwar Hussain, Fazal Mahmood and Amir Elahi.
Amaranth won the toss for the second consecutive time before a crowd of 20,000 at the University ground near the Gomti river and decided to bat first on the jute matting wicket. Indian team consisted of : Pankaj Roy, D.K. Gaekwad, Gul Mahomed, Vijay Manjrekar, G. Kishenchand, Polly Umrigar, Lala Amarnath (Capt), P. Joshi, Hiralal Gaekwad, Nyalchand and Ghulam Ahmed. Players like Vinoo Mankad, Vijay Hazare, Hemu Adhikari, G. S. Ramchand and P. Sen who appeared in the first test at Delhi had been replaced. The Pakistan team was a bigger draw among Hindus and Muslims alike, largely because of a 16 year old batting prodigy Hanif Mohammed. Students from Islamia College, not far from the Royal Hotel where the Pakistan team stayed invaded the lobby just to have a glimpse of Hanif. They were also surprised to see Maqsood Ahmed perched on a stool enjoying a pint of beer.
At lunch India was 46 for the loss of 4 wickets after playing for two hours. India had opened with Pankaj Roy and Gaekwad. Mahmood Hussain opened the bowling for Pakistan to P. Roy who offered a catch on the very first ball which was dropped by Waqar Hassan. Mahmood Hussain had thus the mortification of seeing a catch dropped off his first ball in Test cricket. He was a new comer to test cricket but bowled with such fire that not a single Indian player faced him without fear. He proved to be a fighter to the end.
On the other end Maqsood bowled five beautiful overs dismissing D.K. Gaekwad for 6 and Gul Mahomed for 0. Kardar then changed Maqsood and brought in Fazal Mahmood who bowled with a demoniac grace. He was determined to crush Indian batsmen.
Fazal had no experience of bowling on a Jute matting. He was used to bowling on a Coir matting. He had no idea of the difference between jute and coir mattings. So when he delivered his first ball in his usual manner by giving it a turn it appeared as if the ball had landed on a dead turf. The ball had neither gained any speed nor turned viciously. The ball had lost its speed and venom upon touching the wicket. In a sluggish manner it went straight on skidding. Roy had no trouble at all stopping it. Fazal was rather taken aback at this outcome. He tried again and again to put some life in the ball but Roy remained unimpressed and undeterred.
Although Fazal did not allow him to hit out but Roy kept playing easily without any trouble. Fazal’s line and length were 100% correct but he bowled the first three overs without any success. He then thought of using the seam only with his long fingers. In the fourth over Vijay Manjrekar faced Fazal. Manjrekar was rated as one of the greatest batsmen of India and was a rising star then.
From his crouching stance, Manjrekar went forward to play in line with the ball but Fazal had pitched the ball outside the off stump. Thinking the ball was going away Manjrekar offered no stroke and well left the ball which turned sharply and lunged towards the stumps. It was a lovely in cutter that came in viciously like a cobra to hit the leg stump and Manjrekar was bowled for 3. Fazal narrated this incident to me and my nephew Faisal Choudry who was visiting us from London in 1989.
Fazal was then the Deputy Inspector General Police (Traffic) Punjab. He had leaned back on his chair and closed his eyes for some moments and then said “I was just enjoying that moment. You know I still feel the thrill of that spectacular ball.” He asked Faisal if he played cricket? Faisal replied that he does as a fast bowler. Fazal looked intently at him and noticed his jeans ripped at both knees keeping up with the fashion. Fazal, then spoke, “Cricketers should not dress up in such torn jeans. You should dress up smartly to look like a sportsman.”
After Manjrekar, Fazal never looked back and bowled with venom, vengeance and masterly technique to every incoming batsman and devastated the Indian batting line up. Within 86 minutes after lunch India was all out for 106. Fazal had taken 5 for 50. Mahmood Hussain had captured 3 for 37 on his test debut. Maqsood had taken 2 for 12.
Maqsood’s excellent spell of five overs paved the way for the dismissal of Indian batsmen by Fazal and Mahmood Hussain combination, who bowled unchanged for two hours. Kardar bowled two maidens out of his 3 overs and got no wicket for 2 runs. Pankaj Roy was the top scorer with 30 runs before getting out lbw to Fazal. Umrigar 15, Hiralal Gaekwad 14 and Amarnath 10 were the only ones to reach the double figures.
Pakistan opened its first innings with Hanif Mohammed and Nazar Muhammed who remained unbeaten at the close of play with 46 runs on the board. Amarnath had tried five bowlers unsuccessfully to dislodge the pair.
Next day Pakistan batted all day to score 239 runs and Nazar was still batting at 87 at the end of the day’s play. Pakistan team was out on the third day for 331 runs. Nazar Muhammed remained not out for 124 runs. It was the first test century for Pakistan. He had batted for eight hours. With the exception of Imtiaz who was out lbw for a duck, all others contributed to the side.
Maqsood Ahmed batted brilliantly for 41. He came in to bat at the fall of the second wicket and stroked the very first ball for four between cover and point. The next ball was again dispatched beautifully between cover and extra cover for another four. In his exciting play, Maqsood had made a precise arc, completely beating the fielders from point to square leg. It was a display of unforgettable swashbuckling batting bearing Maqsood’s signature.
However, he soon became careless and lost his concentration, otherwise he was set for a big score. He may have thrown his wicket away but had thrashed the Indian bowlers mercilessly to give a brilliant performance. The real honour belonged to Nazar Muhammed for his marathon batting display. Waqar Hassan who had been promoted to number 3 batted solidly for two hours to score 23. Kardar was fully confident that Pakistan will defeat India in this match despite the opinions of many that Pakistan will not be able to clinch victory.
Pakistan had set India a target of 225 runs to avoid an innings defeat. Those who had doubted Pakistan’s ability to get the Indians out the second time, were by the tea interval, calculating whether the fourth day’s play would be needed. Zulfiqar Ahmed also batted well on the third day and scored 34 quick runs in 45 minutes. Hanif Mohammed 34, Fazal 23, Kardar 16 and Mahmood Hussain 13, also batted with confidence and courage. Ghulam Ahmed 3 for 83, Amarnath 2 for 73, Nyalchand 3 for 97 and Gul Mahomed 2 for 21 were the bowlers to take wickets.
Nazar had batted with great patience and grit and had laid the foundations of a very comfortable lead. He was never in any difficulty and on the third day he had quickened his pace and drove powerfully. He had the rare distinction of carrying his bat right through the innings.
When India was put into bat the second time in their follow on, for some odd reason the Indian players seemed to be in a hurry. Instead of playing patiently they were trying to hit out of trouble.
Nazar was the happiest person when Pakistan came out to field. He had created the world record by remaining on the ground for all the four days of a test match. He had a beautiful singing voice too and was humming non-stop. Suddenly he chided Fazal by saying that his batting has outclassed Fazal’s bowling. Fazal immediately retorted, “If I do not take all the bowling honours of this test don’t ever call me Fazal Mahmood.” Fazal proved the point and had taken 6 for 40 by the close of play. India had scored 170 runs for the loss of 9 wickets. First victory for Pakistan was in sight.
On the fourth day, needing 55 runs to avoid an innings defeat, Lala Amarnath and Nyalchand resumed the innings for India. They could collect only 12 runs when Fazal trapped Nyalchand lbw with his in cutter for 1. Amarnath remained unbeaten with 61 runs.
Amarnath never looked his real self. He had got a life when Zulfiqar Ahmed dropped an easy catch which had hardly gone six yards in the air. Zulfiqar was standing right under it and everyone was sure that he will not miss the catch. Zulfiqar took the catch and then jubilantly threw the ball in the air. While he was trying to catch it again, he slipped and fell as the ball landed on his back. Only D.K Gaekwad 32, Polly Umrigar 32 and G. Kishenchand 20 had put up some resistance.
Fazal Mahmood took 7 for 42 in the second innings bringing his match figures to 12 for 92. Amir Elahi though a spent force got 2 for 20. Nazar Muhammed held two magnificent catches in the gully of D.K. Gaekwad and G. Kishenchand, both off Fazal’s bowling.
And thus Pakistan had tasted its first blood by defeating India by an innings and 43 runs. It was indeed a quick revenge of the Delhi Test defeat.
Pakistan produced some of the greatest world class players in its first decade like Hanif Mohammed, Fazal Mahmood, Imtiaz Ahmed and Saeed Ahmed. Who can ever forget the 337 runs scored by Mr. Concentration, Hanif Mohammed at Barbados against West Indies in 1957-58 without a helmet or any other body shield?
The match obviously belonged to Nazar Muhammed who scored an unbeaten 124 and Fazal Mahmood taking 12 for 92. In those days Fazal did not open the bowling, he would come on to bowl at first change.
The crowd of nearly 25000 who witnessed India’s defeat could not digest the humiliation. They were mad with anger and attacked the camps of the Indian players and set them on fire. They broke the glass windows of the bus that was to carry the Indian players back to their hotel.
Indian players were pelted with stones and it was with great difficulty they were able to save themselves and reach their hotel. The initial messages that were sent to Fazal saying “Wish you good luck but you will never win” were then replaced with “We take our wish back. You played better”.
After the win at Lucknow, people began to change their opinions. Those who had thought of the Pakistan team as a team of college boys started to have a second thought. They were now finding it difficult to predict which team will win the next Test. Pakistan had arrived.
Back at the Royal Hotel, Fazal noticed Nazar dressing up smartly and in a hurry to go somewhere. Upon Fazal’s query Nazar told him that he was going to visit Malika-e-Ghazal and actress Begum Akhtar Faizabadi to pay his respects.
Upon hearing the name of the greatest exponent of ghazals, Fazal immediately decided to accompany Nazar. Both arrived at her house and were made comfortable in her Baithak (Sitting room). After a few minutes when she did not turn up, Fazal inquired from the attendant as to where she was? He replied she was praying in the next room. Both Fazal and Nazar got up and went to the room where Begum Akhtar was. They saw her on the prayer mat completely engrossed in her own thought. Fazal and Nazar then addressed her. She was rather startled to see them and said “What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be playing to win the match. I’m sitting here praying with all my heart for your victory.” Fazal then leaned forward and said “Your prayers have been answered. We have won. Pakistan has won.” On hearing the great news, she stood up. They noticed tears of happiness in her eyes and heard her say Thank you Allah. You have never disappointed me. On Fazal and Nazar’s request to entertain them, she then sang her immortal ghazal “Diwana Banana Hai”.
Back at the Royal Hotel, Fazal noticed Nazar dressing up smartly and in a hurry to go somewhere. Upon Fazal’s query Nazar told him that he was going to visit Malika-e-Ghazal and actress Begum Akhtar Faizabadi to pay his respects. Upon hearing the name of the greatest exponent of ghazals, Fazal immediately decided to accompany Nazar
Before finally leaving Lucknow Kardar went out once again for a last look at the Monkey Bridge and the University cricket ground close by, where Pakistan had gained her first Test victory. The water of the Gomti river kept on flowing quietly not far from the resting place of Sarojni Naidu, the great Indian social worker.
On the banks of the historic Gomti river Pakistani cricketers were able to lower the Indian colours within six months of receiving the Test Status from the ICC. Lucknow Test and the University ground by the Gomti river will always hold their special place and importance in the history of Pakistan cricket.
Lucknow Test is the most important Test of all time for Pakistan and yet surprisingly it is conveniently ignored or hardly ever talked about. Lucknow Test should be given the high and great status that it deserves.
Matches between India and Pakistan are now considered to be a much bigger event than even the Ashes between Australia and England. Instead of belittling the past history of Pakistan cricket, the self-styled cricket experts and anchors should learn to cherish and glorify the past history of Pakistan cricket.
The match obviously belongs to Nazar Muhammed and Fazal Mahmood. The crowd of nearly 25,000 who witnessed India’s defeat could not digest the humiliation. They were mad with anger and attacked the camps of the Indian players and set them on fire. They broke the glass windows of the bus that was to carry the Indian players back to their hotel
No civilised and responsible media ridicules its heroes anywhere in the world. It’s only in Pakistan that such negativity is over blown and discussed. It’s about time the great feats and happy moments of Pakistan cricket are chosen for discussions to inspire the young and future generations of Pakistan.
Three Cheers for Pakistan’s first Victory. Long live Lucknow Test.