Aftab Baloch.
Aftab Baloch. Photo courtesy: H Natarajan.

Aftab Baloch, born April 1, 1953, played two Tests for Pakistan, but he is better remembered for compiling a quadruple-century in First-Class cricket for Sind against Baluchistan. Bharath Ramaraj has more.

1973-74. Baluchistan, the whipping boys of Pakistan’s domestic circuit was taking on their formidable foes Sind. It turned out to be one of those lop-sided encounters that saw Sind win the game by an innings and plenty. But, it is still remembered in the annals of cricket for Sind’s middle-order batsman, Aftab Baloch wafting his willow like a magic wand and twinning it with reservoir of patience to essay a knock of 428.

In fact,by then, Baloch had already made his Test debut, against New Zealand. In his very first Test at the tender age of 16, he could play only one innings as the game ended in a stalemate. Baloch compiled a fine knock of 25, before he was snared by the English born New Zealand all-rounder, Victor Pollard. He went onto play another Test for Pakistan and that came against a fine West Indies line-up at Lahore in 1975. Keith Boyce, Bernard Julien, Verburn Holder and the young tearaway, Andy Roberts were all over him like a rash in the first innings of the Test.

He finally succumbed to the merciless Windies pace-bowling battery with Boyce sending him on a long walk back to the pavilion for 12. Baloch followed that up with his highest score in Tests with a well-measured  innings of 60 in the second dig. He came into bat with the match very much in balance. Baloch shone like a shimmering light to notch up a half-century and take Pakistan to a position of strength from where they could dictate terms.

Actually, he was also picked to tour The Old Blighty after he compiled that astonishing knock of 428 against Baluchistan in 1973-74. Unfortunately from his perspective, he didn’t play in that series.

The simple truth is that despite playing two Tests for his country, Baloch is best remembered for the one epoch-making moment he had in his career against Baluchistan. From Ijaz Yousuf to arguably their best bowler, the off-spinner, Syed Sabahat Hussain struggled to stem the flow of runs, as Baloch continued to gallop his way to heavenly heights.

During that reality-altering innings, he became the then seventh batsman to cross the coveted landmark of 400 runs. Among the highest individual scores in First-Class cricket, he was then placed at No. 6 in batting charts. Baloch also captained the Sind to a believe-it-or-not innings victory in that game.

After touching those firmament heights in First-Class cricket, in some ways that timeless composition seemed to haunt him for the rest of his career, as perhaps too much was expected of him.

Curiously, by coincidence, once he was even allotted a room numbered 428 in a hotel.

The middle-order batsman walked into the sunset of his career after he played for PIA against NBP in Pakistan’s Quaid-e-Azam Trophy in 1985.

Even now when we look at those who have accrued over 400 runs in a single innings, Aftab Baloch’s name just doesn’t seem to fit into a list made up of glittering stars like Bill Ponsford, Archie MacLaren, Don Bradman and Brian Lara. But make no mistake; to amass a quadruple century in a single innings requires a batsman to be bestowed with generous portion of talent and a tunnel-visioned aim to succeed.

(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)