Vinoo Mankad (left) and Abdul Hafeez Kardar led India and Pakistan in the first Test on Pakistan soil © Getty Images
Vinoo Mankad (left) and Abdul Hafeez Kardar led India and Pakistan in the first Test on Pakistan soil © Getty Images

Despite their late entry to international cricket, Pakistan took the world of cricket by storm, winning a Test in each of their first two series. It was, however, not until January 1, 1955 that they hosted a Test at home. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back.

Few teams got off to a start in international cricket the way Pakistan did. Fazal Mahmood (12 for 94) blew India away to give Pakistan an innings victory in their second Test, at Lucknow in 1952-53.  Fazal was at it again at The Oval in 1954: his 12 for 99 gave Pakistan their second Test victory. After two series, both overseas, Pakistan’s track record read two wins and three defeats: “remarkable” would have been an understatement.

India were scheduled to tour Pakistan in 1954-55. The contest was expected to be a cracker after the well-contested series of 1952-53 in India, but it turned out to be a damp squib, and even that is a polite term.

Peter Oborne wrote in Wounded Tiger: A History of Cricket in Pakistan: “Very few Test series have been expected so eagerly as the India tour of Pakistan which followed The Oval Test victory of 1954 — and few have disappointed so much.” But more of that later.

The selection of Dacca

The nucleus of the Pakistan team started forming in the early 1950s. Unfortunately, East Pakistan was not an integral part of the plan. In fact, during their tour of India in 1952-53, “Pakistan” visited East Pakistan to play two matches at Chittagong and Dacca (now Dhaka).

Osman Samiuddin, in The Unquiet Ones: A History of Pakistan Cricket, mentions Bangladesh journalist Muhammad Kamruzzamam calling the Pakistan’s tour of East Pakistan “a team touring its own country,” which was not far from the truth.

East Pakistan clung on to a draw, finishing on 75 for 9 (chasing 211) at Chittagong, but Dhaka saw Pakistan steamroll their eastern counterparts by nine wickets. However, the East Pakistanis impressed Abdul Hafeez Kardar sufficiently. When the Pakistanis went to Burma to play three matches at Rangoon, the board included two members from East Pakistan. Shortly afterwards, five students from Dacca University were called up for a camp in Karachi.

Kardar was all for inclusion of East Pakistan in Pakistan cricket. He wrote in the Dawn: “We tried to make it popular in 1952 by playing two matches against East Pakistan XIs. The board acted wisely in selecting two young Bengal players for our visit to Rangoon. It gave clear indications to our Bengal cricketers that they could expect to be included in our national team provided they could raise their standard.”

Not everybody approved of Kardar’s viewpoint. “Nobody can deny that Kardar had a hand in the politics involving the East Pakistan players, by keeping the cricket board as a front,” wrote Kamruzzamam.

Note: The significance of 1952 cannot be ignored here. February 21, 1952 had witnessed students of the University of Dacca (among other places in the city) erupt. They defied  the Section 144 law and were killed in the process with a single-minded mission to ensure that Bengali was made an official language in the country. UNESCO later declared February 21 as International Mother Language Day, but that is another story.

However, perhaps the most significant move in the history of East Pakistan cricket was the selection of Dacca Stadium as the venue for the first Test of the series. It was a new stadium, built in the span of a mere three months, and could accommodate 18,000 people.

It should be noted that though all ten Tests were played, “threats and sabre-rattling speeches by political leaders” (Oborne) marred both the 1952-53 and 1954-55 series. In fact, the tussle over Kashmir had started even before the 1952-53 series .

But then, cricket had to happen: and when it came to India and Pakistan, no contest could be bigger than one where they were pitted against each other.

The forgotten Mohammad

Four of Ameer Bee’s sons — Hanif, Wazir, Mushtaq, and Sadiq — dominated Pakistan cricket to various extents for a quarter of a century. Bee also had a daughter who unfortunately passed away in her teens. She also had another son — Raees — the eldest of them all.

Hanif and Wazir had made their Test debuts in Pakistan’s first Test — at Kotla in 1952-53. The time was ripe for Raees to get a chance. Raees was a sound batsman and leg-spinner. Mushtaq admitted: “If I think back after all these years, out of us five brothers, Raees had the most natural ability as a middle-order batsman and a very fine leg-spinner.”

Raees was summoned for the Dacca Test, but he did not make it to the XI. Oborne wrote: “The night before the game, New Year’s Eve, captain Kardar informed Raees he was playing, but the following morning he changed his mind, and Raees was relegated to twelfth man.”

Dogfight at Dacca

Kardar decided to bat, and the crowd witnessed four days of attrition — for that was the duration they had decided on for the series. Neither India nor Pakistan was prepared to spare an inch; Hanif and Waqar Hasan scored at a crawl  after the early dismissal of Alimuddin; and there were long, long phases when both batsmen and bowlers forgot to attack.

Pakistan reached 207 for 5 at stumps with Waqar Hasan and Imtiaz Ahmed scoring fifties. Four of these went to Ghulam Ahmed, whose nephew Asif Iqbal would later lead Pakistan, as would Asif’s nephew-in-law (is that a word?) Shoaib Malik.

Pakistan folded for 257 on Day Two. Ghulam finished with 5 for 109 from 45 overs (including an unchanged spell of 40 overs). Vinoo Mankad, leading India for the first time, sent down a mere 12.2 overs, leaving majority of the task to Ghulam and Subhash Gupte.

Mahmood Hussain (left) and Khan Mohammad exposed India’s age-old weakness against pace © Getty Images
Mahmood Hussain (left) and Khan Mohammad exposed India’s age-old weakness against pace © Getty Images

India succumb to pace

Fast bowling has always been India’s Achilles Heel, and it was the case here as well. Fazal made life miserable for them with his nagging accuracy, while Mahmood Hussain removed Pankaj Roy and Madhav Mantri (whose nephew was Sunil Gavaskar) for ducks.

What was it with this Test and nephews? Shoaib Mohammad, son of Hanif (hence nephew of Wazir), also played for Pakistan; Pankaj’s nephew Ambar played for India.

Along came Khan Mohammad, and India were reduced to 56 for 4. Pakistan smelled blood at this stage, but Polly Umrigar and Gulabrai Ramchand held fort, taking the score to 115. A collapse followed thereafter Mahmood Hussain (6 for 67) and Khan Mohammad (4 for 42) shared the spoils, and India were bowled out for a mere 148; they were 109 in arrears.

The Gupte show

Pakistan lost Hanif early, but Alimuddin and Waqar Hasan took the score to 97 for 1 at stumps on Day Three with Ghulam and Gupte unable to bowl. A 206-run lead meant that they could push for a victory; they added 20 more on Day Four.

What followed was perhaps the most spectacular session of the series. In a short burst Gupte scythed through the Pakistan batting line-up. Dattu Phadkar removed Kardar, and amidst the ruckus, three men — Shujauddin Butt, Wazir, and Khan Mohammad — were all run out.

The hero, of course, was Gupte. He had picked up 27 wickets in West Indies, and was expected to do great things with the ball. Things happened so fast that they got over without anyone realising. Gupte, who could bowl only briefly on Day Three, finished with 6-0-18-5, and Pakistan collapsed to 158.

Many consider Subhash Gupte as India’s finest leg-spinner, and he lived up to his reputation that day at Dacca © Getty Images
Many consider Subhash Gupte as India’s finest leg-spinner, and he lived up to his reputation that day at Dacca © Getty Images

Tame finish

India needed 268 in front of a crowd that kept pouring in throughout the day. Samiuddin wrote: “On the last, sluggish day of an exceedingly dull Test, 30,000 people packed into a half-built space meant for 18,000.” The rough crowd estimate for the entire Test was 80,000.

Given the fact that the first three days amounted to 207, 165, and 130 runs respectively, there was no way that India would go for it. Whatever chance of them making a game out of it was gone after Khan Mohammad removed Pananmal Punjabi, a debutant, and Mantri with 17 on the board. Roy and Vijay Manjrekar played out time, and India finished on 147 for 2.

The run rate maintained throughout the Test was atrocious, and both sides were equal culprits to the sluggish pace.

Run rates, Dacca Test, January 1 — 4, 1955

Team Innings R O RR
Pakistan 1 257 136.2 1.89
India 2 148 82.5 1.79
Pakistan 3 158 86.2 1.82
India 4 147 82 1.79
Pakistan Both 415 222.4 1.86
India Both 295 164.5 1.79
Total 710 387 1.8

The Test set the tone for the rest of the series, which ended in a 0-0 draw. Things turned out to be so drab that Ambala Tribune ran a headline MATCH SAVED BUT CRICKET KILLED after the fourth Test at Peshawar. Despite the sluggish pace the turnout for every Test was huge.

Oborne narrates the view of Shujauddin on the safety-first approach of both sides: “Those were the days when memories of holocaust during the Partition in 1947 were still lingering in the minds on both sides of the border. That proved the central reason behind these encounters going beyond the traditional rivalries and hence the atmosphere between the players also remained tense and strained.”

Oborne adds: “The Test series brought out the worst in [Abdul Hafeez] Kardar. The Pakistan captain became overbearing and unpleasant off the field, and ultra-defensive on it. The Indian captain, Vinoo Mankad, responded with some of the same negative tactics.”

Despite the defensive cricket, the public — irrespective of religion — turned out in thousands during both series to witness their heroes in action. There was the occasional commotion, but no act of animosity despite the dormant political tension.

Cricket, after all, is the great envoy of peace.

What followed?

– The next India-Pakistan series, a five-Test played in India in 1960-61, ended in another 0-0 draw. Political unrest led to an 18-year hiatus, following which there was another draw, extending the streak to 13 on the trot.

– Kardar led Pakistan in 23 Tests, winning 6 and losing 6. More significantly, he led Pakistan to victories against India (at Lucknow), England (at The Oval), New Zealand (at Karachi and Lahore), Australia (at Karachi), and West Indies (at Queen’s Park Oval). Pakistan did not play South Africa till the 1990s, which meant Kardar led them to victories against all oppositions.

– Pakistan’s 90th Test, against England at Karachi in 1977-78, was their first without a Mohammad brother: Mushtaq had signed on for World Series Cricket, while Sadiq was dropped. There was a Mohammad brother in 100 of Pakistan’s 101 Tests.

Brief scores:

Pakistan 257 (Hanif Mohammad 41, Waqar Hasan 52, Imtiaz Ahmed 54; Ghulam Ahmed 5 for 109) and 158 (Alimuddin 51, Waqar Hasan 51; Subhash Gupte 5 for 18) drew with India 148 (Mahmood Hussain 6 for 67, Khan Mohammad 4 for 42) and 147 for 2 (Pankaj Roy 67*, Vijay Manjrekar 74*).

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)