India's Hemu Adhikari scored an unbeaten 81 in that match © Getty Images
India’s Hemu Adhikari scored an unbeaten 81 in that match © Getty Images

October 18, 1952. Pakistan’s first ever Test match came to an end with an innings defeat against India at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Arunabha Sengupta revisits the historic match, along with the political drama that surrounded the encounter.

Two hours by bus

There was no great voyage by sea or air. All it took for Abdul Hafeez Kardar’s men to get to the foreign soil for their first ever cricket tour was two hours. That too on a bus. The thirty five miles between Lahore and Amritsar was covered in a jiffy.

It was a fairly big contingent on the bus. Along with the players were manager Mir Muhammad Hussain, his assistant Professor Aslam and also a baggage master Adam Lal Muhammad.

Kardar himself did not board the team bus. He travelled by car with Major General Abdur Rehman, the deputy high commissioner from Pakistan stationed in Jullundhur. The purpose of this special privilege had educational reasons rather than luxurious ones. Kardar was given a thorough briefing on the ways to deal with the political pitfalls that could occur during the crucial visit.

The tour was an enormous diplomatic headache. Tensions were flaring over Kashmir — the situation as combustible then as it is now.

However, amongst all this the tour went ahead as a gesture of goodwill. When the Pakistani team set off on the bus, their well-wishers accompanied them in taxis, rickshaws, tongas, all the way to the border. They cheered them along, and the horns hooted all along the way.

On the other side of the border, the Pakistanis were greeted with warmth. Past the Wagah post they were garlanded, and throughout the tour they were welcomed with speeches that repeated the phrases of fair play, sportsmanship and friendship. In fact, there were a tad too many of these receptions, sometimes up to five in a day.

However, alongside the welcome mats was the shadow of security — according to some Pakistan players bordering on the intrusive. Fazal Mahmood later remarked that there were guards everywhere, armed personnel at every gate. They were very well looked after but they could not really go around visiting places. It was especially disturbing for people like Maqsood Ahmed, Waqar Hassan, Mahmood Hussain and Khurshid Ahmed who had spent much of their formative years in Amritsar.

Kardar himself later claimed that he was spied upon by the Indian intelligence. He recounted an incident before the second Test at Lucknow: “I had just entered my hotel room and was about to take off my jacket when there was a knock in the door and 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.”

The Pakistanis played against North Zone in the Gandhi Sports Complex Ground at Amritsar in a three-day match starting from October 10. Before the partition, this same ground had been known as Alexandra Park.

Hanif Mohammad, opening the batting and keeping wickets, scored hundreds in both innings as the game petered out into a draw. At 18, he was then the youngest batsman to score two hundreds in a First-Class match. At the end of the game, a young Sikh approached Kardar and presented him with a copy of the Quran. It was left behind by a Muslim family when they left the city, the youth told the Pakistani captain.

On the second day of the match, the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru vehemently stated, “Our position [regarding Kashmir] is correct from every point of view, whether it is judged legally, constitutionally, morally or from any other point of view.”

At the same time, Pakistan’s national newspaper Dawn called for a United Nations settlement on the issue. On the day the match ended, the paper splashed the failure of Dr Frank Graham, an envoy of UN, in brokering agreement between the two countries. Troops were kept ready along the borders.

The first day — cricket among dignitaries

The tour, however, continued, and the very next engagement after the Amritsar match was Pakistan’s first ever Test match. It was scheduled at Delhi and as the Pakistani team arrived on train, the reception committee on the platform included the Indian skipper Lala Amarnath.

The Pakistanis checked into their hotel and followed it up by a couple of visits. The first was to the marble platform on the bank of the Yamuna to pay their respects to Mahatma Gandhi. The second was the tomb of the Sufi saint Nizamuddin Aulia.

When the vistors practiced in the nets, hundreds came to watch them.

The Test match began on October 16. According to Kardar, “The top of the wicket was a screen of soggy mud, and it was evident that it would go after a few hours.” Signs were ominous that the pitch would favour the superb Indian spinners Vinoo Mankad and Ghulam Ahmed. Indeed, eagerness when he won the spin of the coin, Amarnath chose to bat with a great deal of. The eleven Pakistanis took the field. Two of them had played Tests for India — skipper Kardar and Amir Elahi. The rest were debutants.

There were formalities to attend to before the match could get underway. The two teams were presented to Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the President of India. Finally on that sunny Thursday morning at Feroz Shah Kotla, Khan Mohammad ran in to bowl the first delivery.

Mankad and Pankaj Roy, the men who in a few years would rewrite the record books as openers, started the innings for India.However, neither lasted too long. It was soon 26 for two, with Khan Mohammad picking up both the openers.

Vijay Hazare and Vijay Manjrekar steadied the ship somewhat before Amir Elahi induced the latter to snick to slip. Fazal Mahmood, bowling with great heart, got one to rear at Amarnath and the captain was caught at short leg. The Pakistanis had the Indians tottering at 76 for 4, not bad for their first ever session in international cricket.

During lunch the teams were visited by Pandit Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi. One wonders whether this brought along a change of fortunes or not, but with Hazare his solid self and Polly Umrigar and Gul Mohammad sticking around India recovered to 210 for 7 by the close of play. The new Test playing nation could be happy with their showing on the first day. Things would have been even better if Hanif Mohammad behind the wickets had not dropped a couple of sitters. But on the whole, the team had ample reason to be pleased with themselves as they left for yet another social function in the evening.

The demolition

However, the morrow brought sad tidings. Khan Mohammad injured himself and could not bowl again. A depleted attack struggled to dismiss the tail. Hemu Adhikari was joined by Ghulam Ahmed at 263 for 9, and soon Hanif missed a stumping opportunity offered by the No. 11 batsman off the bowling of Kardar. Ghulam went on to score 50, Adhikari remained not out with 81. The Indians, once wobbling on the brink of collapse, ended on an imposing 372.

Things did not look too bad when Pakistan began their reply. Hanif, keen to redeem himself after those missed chances, batted with the solidity and perfection one would later associate with his name. In fact, it was during his four hour vigil at the wicket that commentators AFS Talyarkhan and the Maharajakumar of Vizianagram started calling him the ‘Little Master’. Nazar Mohammad too made a few steady runs, helping Hanif put on 64 for the first wicket. And then disaster struck.

Nazar ran himself out. And after Amarnath and Gulabrai Ramchand had bowled their medium pace rather fruitlessly, Mankad came into the scheme of things. By the end of the day, Pakistan were 90 for 3, the Indian left-arm spinner having made short work of Israr Ali and Imtiaz Ahmed.

The following day the young team had no answers to Mankad’s devious spin. According to Fazal Mahmood, “He was simply unplayable throughout the match and, with the exception of Hanif Mohammad, he tormented all our batsmen with his deceptive bowling. He bowled with immaculate length and direction, spun it well, and intelligently exploited the soggy wicket. Often the ball came at us chest-high. He melted our players with his terror-filled bowling.”

Amarnath used his spinners with canny captaincy and one after another the Pakistani’s tumbled.The Indian skipper had played against most of the Pakistani cricketers in Ranji Trophy and in the local matches. He was fully aware of every chink in the armours of each batsman.The Pakistanis were bowled out for 150 with Mankad’s figures reading 47-27-52-8.

They fared little better the second time around. On this occasion, Amarnath provided them the initial breakthrough by bowling Hanif for 1. And then Mankad got into the act again, with excellent support from Ghulam.

Imtiaz hit 41, and Kardar himself remained unbeaten on 43, but Mankad’s 24.2-3-79-5 and Ghulam’s 23-7-35-4 settled the issue.The debutant nation managed 152 in their second innings, better than the first innings but only just. The Indians won by an innings and 70 runs. Mankad’s match figures were 13 for 131.

Post-script

According to the eyewitness accounts published on the occasion, the match ended in excellent spirits, the Pakistani cricketers accepting the loss as an expected learning experience.

However, such was not the version of Fazal Mahmood when he published his autobiography in 1954. In Fazal Mahmood aur Cricket, written in Urdu for predominantly Pakistani readers, he wrote: “Hundreds of spectators were taunting me, ‘Well, did you win the match?’ One remarked, ‘Beta, we will take back Kashmir the same way.’ On hearing this I lost my temper. I jumped towards the fence and shouted back, ‘If I don’t take revenge for this defeat in Lucknow, my name is not Fazal Mahmood.’ On hearing this, many spectators laughed at me.”

In the second Test, Pakistan triumphed by an innings and 43 runs and Fazal captured 12 for 94.

The five match series was decided 2-1in favour of the hosts, the ten wicket victory at Brabourne Stadium in the third Test tilting the scales. But, Pakistan had made the cricket world sit up and take notice. Besides, the tensions between the two neighbouring nations notwithstanding, the cricket had succeeded in promoting a lot of goodwill.

Additionally, a rivalry was born that lasts till this day — ensuring zealously fought and fanatically followed contests whenever the two nations can slip in a match or two in between numerous political embargoes.

Brief scores:

India 372 (Vijay Hazare 76, Hemu Adhikari 81*, Ghulam Ahmed 50; Amir Elahi 4 for 134) beat Pakistan 150 (Hanif Mohammad 51; Vinoo Mankad 8 for 52) and 152 (Imtiaz Ahmed 41, Abdul Hafeez Kardar 43*; Vinoo Mankad 5 for 79, Ghulam Ahmed 4 for 35) by an innings and 70 runs.

(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)