American President Dwight Eisenhower watches Test cricket
Dwight Eisenhower. © Getty Images
On December 8, 1959, a day of the drabbest cricketing action in Karachi, Dwight Eisenhower became the first American President to watch Test cricket. Arunabha Sengupta revisits the historical event that took place exactly 53 years ago.
It was a monumental bore of a Test match.
Pakistan took first strike and took eight hours and 48 minutes to crawl to 287.
There was some enterprise shown by Australia, but they had to bank on batting well down to number eleven. Alan Davidson batted at No 10 and Ray Lindwall walked in as last man, and the two of them added 50 for the last wicket. The visitors finished 30 runs short of the Pakistan total. Intikhab Alam created history by bowling Colin McDonald with his first ball in Test cricket.
Pakistan ended the third day having just started their second innings.
December 8, 1959, has gone down as a red letter day in the history of Test cricket. The previous year, the American President Dwight ‘Ike’ Eisenhower had sent 15,000 US troops to Lebanon to prevent the pro-Western government from falling to a Gamal Abdel Nasser- inspired revolution. The year 1959 had also been busy. A few days earlier, he had been aboard the maiden flight of Air Force One, which replaced the previous Presidential aircraft, the Columbine. The year had also seen him add Alaska and Hawaii as the 49th and 50th states to the proud nation.
Eisenhower, an avid golfer and a fishing enthusiast to boot, now sat in the VIP stands of the Karachi National Stadium, watching the fourth day’s play between Australia and Pakistan. Never before had an American President watched Test cricket.
Unfortunately, the cricket on offer that day was anything but watchable. Coming back after the rest day, Pakistan painstakingly crawled through three sessions, scoring 104 measly runs for the loss of five wickets. It was sheer torture to watch, with Hanif Mohammad batting most of the day to remain unbeaten on 40. The next day, the colossal yawn of a match petered out to a draw, Hanif getting to an unbeaten 101 in six hours.
“Remember, no foul balls” – Eisenhower somehow remained awake during the tedious day to make his way to the ground and meet the cricketers. Photo courtesy: PakPassion
But, perhaps Mr. President knew too little about the game. On the excruciatingly slow fourth day, he was seen cheering the rare attacking strokes and clapping loudly for every decent effort in the field.
However, we may be wrong. Perhaps in the classified files of the State there exists some secret document which can throw light on why the game has not really caught on in the United States.
Perhaps on his return, Dwight Eisenhower summoned his advisers and formed a crack team of special operatives, whose sole mission was to ensure that the game played at such glacial pace would never threaten the national image of dynamism and progress. Perhaps this secret agency is still active, ensuring that the American citizens are protected from the prolonged plight that their 34th President had been subjected to on that fateful December day.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)