Miran Bakhsh remains the second-oldest Test debutant. Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Miran Bakhsh remains the second-oldest Test debutant. Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Off-spinner Miran Bakhsh (also spelled Bux) was born April 20, 1907. Despite starting his First-Class career at 42, Bakhsh finished with impressive figures and went on to play 2 Tests for Pakistan. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the career of the second-oldest Test debutant and the sixth-oldest person to play Test cricket.

It has been a span of 137 years, but two world records set in the first Test ever still stand: Charles Bannerman, the man who had faced the first ball, had scored the run, and the first hundred in Test cricket, had retired hurt on 165 out of a team total of 245, scoring 67.3 per cent of the total. The record still stands.

James Southerton, on the other hand, had made his Test debut at 49 years 119 days — a record that is unlikely to be broken in an era when cricket demands fitness of the highest order. The man who had come closest to him, Malik Miran Bakhsh (also spelled Bux) played his first Test at 47 years 284 days. He still remains the second name on the list.

Bakhsh played 2 Tests, and on the last day of his career he was 47 years 302 days old. This places him sixth on the all-time list:

 Player Age on final day of career
Wilfred Rhodes 52 years 165 days
Bert Ironmonger 50 years 327 days
WG Grace 50 years 320 days
George Gunn 50 years 303 days
James Southerton 49 years 139 days
Miran Bakhsh 47 years 302 days

Wisden wrote: “A tall man, with large hands, Miran Bux worked for a number of years at the Rawalpindi Club as coach and groundsman, and there he perfected the art of off-spin bowling, with its attendant variations. He could give the ball a strong rip to obtain turn and bounce from the pitch.”

Baksh was past his 50th birthday next season, but that did not stop him from taking a haul of 5 for 81 for Punjab B against Railways at Rawalpindi. Then came the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy encounter against Combined Services: with figures of 28.1-11-41-4 and 25.2-12-31-5

He played only 15 First-Class matches in a nine-season long career. He still did an excellent job, finishing with 48 wickets at 19.43 and 3 five-fors (one must remember he was 20 days short of his 43rd birthday when he made his First-Class debut). His 2 Tests fetched him 2 wickets at 57.50 apiece (though it is commendable that he sent down 58 overs at that age).

Early days

Born in Rawalpindi, Bakhsh did not move back to India after Partition. He was picked for the North-West Frontier Province Commander-in-Chief’s XI against the touring West Indians at Rawalpindi: though the hosts lost by an innings Bakhsh conceded 61 to remove an ensemble cast consisting of George Carew, George Headley, Clyde Walcott, John Goddard, and Robert Christiani.

When the Commonwealth XI toured the subcontinent next winter, Bakhsh routed them at Rawalpindi for 81 with figures of 5 for 19; after the hosts secured an 80-run lead Bakhsh again bowled brilliantly to finish with 5 for 63. Unfortunately, none of these matches were given First-Class status.

The coveted First-Class debut eventually happened for Commander-in-Chief’s XI against a touring Ceylon at Rawalpindi. Mohammad Nissar and Maqsood Ahmed bowled out Ceylon for 100; Bakhsh sent down 7 wicket-less overs for the cost of 8 runs, and was dropped for five seasons. He played a non-First-Class match for Northern Muslims against Karachi and Sind Muslims, but went wicket-less again.

Test debut

The first Test at Dacca in India’s first tour of Pakistan in 1954-55 was a slow one on a placid track: after Ghulam Ahmed restricted Pakistan to 257 Mahmood Hussain and Khan Mohammad hit back, securing a 109-run lead for the hosts. Subhash Gupte then entered the fray, spinning out Pakistan for 158 (they had been sitting comfortably at 116 for 1) with a five-for in 6 overs; set to score 268, India gave up the chase after they lost 2 wickets with 17 on the boards. The match aggregate was a mere 710.

The second Test at Bahawalpur saw a slight improvement, with 756 runs being scored. After India scored 235 Hanif Mohammad’s hundred got Pakistan to a 77-run lead. India merely saved the Test and finished with 209 for 5 as the teams moved to Lahore for the third Test.

Bakhsh, who had played a solitary First-Class match five years back, had scored a duck and had not taken a wicket, was picked out of obscurity to play. Batting at No. 11 he remained unbeaten after scoring a single as Pakistan scored 328; then he toiled hard (very hard, actually, for a 47-year old). He clean bowled Pananmal Punjabi and Vijay Manjrekar (the latter for a duck), and finished with an impressive haul of 48-20-82-2. He provided the perfect foil to Mahmood Hussain and Fazal Mahmood, who restricted India to 251.

Abdul Hafeez Kardar set India 214, but India went on the defensive, finishing on 74 for 2. Bakhsh did not get a bowl.

The fourth Test at Peshawar saw Gupte routing Pakistan for 188 before Polly Umrigar’s excellent hundred gave India a 57-run lead. This time Vinoo Mankad came to the party, routing Pakistan for 182. Set to chase a mere 126 in an hour Mankad decided to shut shop, and India finished on 23 for 1. Bakhsh bowled only ten overs in the Test, conceding 33 runs without picking up a wicket.

The last Test at Karachi saw India turn down the offer of another chase, but Bakhsh did not get a chance to play the Test. In fact, he never played another Test.

Back to domestic cricket

Later that season Bakhsh put the touring New Zealanders on a stranglehold at Peshawar. The tourists won by 7 wickets, but Bakhsh bowled a marathon spell of 59-28-89-3. The next season he helped rout East Pakistan Greens for 52 (with 3 for 18) and 142 (with 2 for 35) and East Pakistan Whites for 33 (with a career-best 6 for 15).

He was past his 50th birthday next season, but that did not stop him from taking a haul of 5 for 81 for Punjab B against Railways at Rawalpindi. Then came the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy encounter against Combined Services: with figures of 28.1-11-41-4 and 25.2-12-31-5, Bakhsh bowled them out 141 and 103. He was 51 then. He played his last match later that month against Peshawar, returning figures of 3 for 19 and 1 for 26.

Post-retirement

Bakhsh continued as groundsman and coach at Rawalpindi. He passed away at Dhok Rata, Rawalpindi on February 8, 1991 at 83.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)