Abdul Hafeez Kardar: 13 interesting facts about Pakistan’s first cricket captain

Abdul Hafeez Kardar, born January 17, 1925, would have been 90, had he been alive. Kardar is one of the three players to have played Tests for both India and Pakistan (the other two were Amir Elahi and Gul Mohammad), and was the country’s first captain.

As arch-rivals India and Pakistan get set to clash in the World Cup tie in less than a month’s time, Suvajit Mustafi lists out 13 interesting facts about the man who represented both the nations and is widely regarded as ‘the father figure of Pakistan’s cricket’.

1. ‘The Skipper’

In the cricketing world, Pakistan is a team which is impatient in terms of judging a captain. Over the years, we have seen them change captains quite frequently. The nation has seen a great leader like Imran Khan. But among all, Kardar Pakistan’s first Test captain is still referred as “The Skipper”. As Cricketcountry describes him as: “He was one of those men who lifted ordinary men to perform extraordinary feats; he was an excellent motivator of people, and always believed in leading by example.”

2. Played for India as Abdul Hafeez

Kardar was born in Lahore, Punjab. It was a part of India then. An attacking left-handed batsman and a slow left-arm orthodox bowler, he played for several teams including Oxford University, Northern India and Muslims. He played for the undivided India in the 1946 England tour as Abdul Hafeez. Later on, while leading Pakistan, he was known as Abdul Hafeez Kardar.

3. English County and marriage

Kardar spent two seasons with Warwickshire, and was mentored by New Zealand great Martin Donnelly. When the term ended, he married the daughter of the club chairman Cyril Hastilow.

4. Spied upon by the Indian intelligence?

Pakistan toured India in 1952 and though they were warmly welcomed, it was played in a tensed backdrop of the political situation related to Kashmir. Kardar, later claimed that he was spied upon by the Indian intelligence. He recounted an incident after Pakistan’s first Test loss: “I had just entered myhotel room and was about to take off my jacket when there was a knock in the door. On my beckoning, the caller entered. When I looked at him quizzically he said he was from the intelligence and wanted to know about my movements.”

5. Leading Pakistan to its first win

Pakistan were humiliated in their first Test. But on a matting wicket in Lucknow, Fazal Mahmood took 12 wickets as Pakistan won by an innings against India. It was the country’s second international ever and no team had won a Test so early after their inception in the international arena. Kardar was hailed a national hero, and the win announced Pakistan as a force in international cricket.

6. Played against Bradman’s Invincibles

When Don Bradman’s Australia toured England in 1948, Kardar played a First-Class match against the strong Australian side for Oxford University. His team went on to lose by an innings but Kardar played a decent hand. He scored 54 and 29, and also bagged the wickets of centurion opener Bill Brown and stylish left-hander Neil Harvey.

7. Umpire Story I

In The Making of a Legend, Rajinder Amarnath shared an interesting anecdote. Lala Amarnath, who was managing the Indian team on its tour of Pakistan in 1954, accepted an invitation from Kardar for a cup of tea. Lala rested on the sofa with his back facing the door. After a while, umpire Irdis Begh came in the room and asked Kardar, “Any instructions for tomorrow’s game, skipper?” Lala turned to him and asked, “What kind of instructions do you want?”. On seeing Lala, the umpire fled and Kardar looked shaken.

An upset Lala threatened to boycott the Test if the Pakistan board didn’t replace the umpire. The only qualified First-Class umpire available was Pakistan’s selector Masood Salauddin and Lala agreed to let him umpire. It remains the only instance of a selector doubling up as an umpire for a home Test. In fact, Salauddin gave Kardar out stumped, when he was on 93. Lala recalled that no other Pakistan umpire would have dared to do so.

8. Umpire Story II

A lively character, umpire Begh once again struck with series of biased decisions against Donald Carr’s England in 1956. Upset with him, the English team played a prank on Begh in the evening, pouring a bucket of water on his head. Though it was considered a joke, even by Begh, it didn’t go well with Kardar. He made the English management apologise to Begh. Kardar, also advocated for having neutral umpires for Test cricket. Several decades later, his vision came true.

9. Winning against all Test nations

As a captain, Kardar won Tests against all the countries he played against. Under him, Pakistan beat India, England, New Zealand, Australia and West Indies. In the apartheid era, Pakistan didn’t play South Africa.

10. Played with his brother-in-law

Zulfiqar Ahmed, brother of Kardar’s second wife, played for Pakistan alongside the captain. Though he played in only nine Tests, he impressed as an off-spinner and was quite decent with the willow as well.

11. Leadership off the field I

In 1951, he led Pakistan against an MCC tram before being an active campaigner for a full Test status for Pakistan. His efforts paid off as his country got the recognition granted in July 1952.

12. Leadership off the field II

Since retirement, he was an active figure in Pakistan cricket. He was the President of the Pakistan Board of Cricket (PCB) from 1972 to 1977, and had demanded that the headquarters of international cricket be moved from Lord’s to Lahore. He also had notable clashes with Imran Khan, Asif Iqbal and other cricketers. He was a strong character, who didn’t budge.

13. Leadership off the field III

Kardar, who was a strong supporter of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, entered politics as a member of the Punjab Provincial Assembly in 1970. He became the Minister of Food, supporting the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s party. Kardar’s last appointment was as Pakistan’s ambassador to Switzerland.

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sports marketer, strategist, entrepreneur, philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully [Twitter] and rivu7 [Facebook].)