The Karachi Gymkhana Ground that witnessed Ahmed Mustafa’s world record. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
The Karachi Gymkhana Ground that witnessed Ahmed Mustafa’s world record. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

February 22, 1955. India were on her maiden tour to Pakistan. Just before the final Test, they were scheduled to take on a group of boys (they were called Pakistan Combined Schools, you see!). The side featured Ahmed Mustafa, then 13 days short of his 11th birthday. Ahmed continues to remain the youngest to play First-Class cricket. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at a remarkable record.

Ten! Ahmed Mustafa, a Lucknow boy whose family had migrated during Partition, was 10 years 352 days old when he took field at Karachi Gymkhana Ground against a full-strength touring Indian side! For most, ten is the age when you migrate from tennis ball to ‘season-balls’, but here was Ahmed…

The series was a drab one. The first Test, scheduled at Dacca, was the dreariest of encounters. India scored at 1.79 an over while Pakistan did little better, going at 1.86. The trend continued, with three more draws at Bahawalpur, Lahore, and Peshawar. Then, before the last Test at Karachi, India were scheduled to play Pakistan Combined School at the Karachi Gymkhana Ground.

Several cricketers of the side in the side were born in the mid-1930s, and were around 20 when the match was played, though 15-year old Ghaffar Khan was also included. The side boasted of Hanif Mohammad, already acknowledged as one of Pakistan’s best batsmen. There were two future Test players in Wallis Mathias and Mohammad Munaf, and every single member of the side was an existing or future First-Class player.

In other words, Ahmed was significantly younger than his teammates. That, however, was not a problem. A student of Church Mission School (CMS), Ahmed was, to quote Osman Samiuddin from The Unquiet Ones: A History of Pakistan Cricket, already hailed as “a schoolboy Bradman.” He played a crucial role for CMS in the tripartite struggle that also involved Sind Madrassah and St Patrick’s.

Note: Wisden had a different take in his obituary: “Qamar Ahmed — a journalist who played against him in the 1950s — met Ahmed a few months before his death, and was told he was actually about 15 when he appeared for a Pakistan Schools XI when he appeared for a Pakistan Schools XI against the 1954-55 Indian tourists at Karachi.” However, The Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians acknowledges March 7, 1944 as Ahmed’s date of birth, which makes him the youngest First-Class cricketer.

The match

The match was generally uneventful. Vinoo Mankad opted to bat, and the tourists were in trouble of sorts, losing Mankad, Pankaj Roy (Munaf removed both men), and Madhav Mantri with a mere 41 on the board.

However, Gulabrai Ramchand and Chandu Borde added 87 for the fourth wicket. Once the former fell for 56, the elegant CD Gopinath went out, batting with Borde till stumps. The Indians finished Day One on 249 for 4.

Borde fell for 99 (to Hanif, all people) the second morning, but Gopinath had things under control: he had already added 132 with Borde; he now put on another unbroken 92-run stand with Bal Dani. Mankad eventually declared the innings closed on 352 for 5; Gopinath remained unbeaten on 130, studded with 13 fours. Poor Ahmed, used as the eighth bowler, conceded 14 from his 2 overs of medium-pace.

The schoolboys ran into trouble, and were saved by a solo effort from Hanif. As wickets tumbled around him, Hanif stood firm, batting for 350 minutes for his 163 that included 28 fours and 2 sixes. Mathias scored 31, but nobody else in the side went past 13. And despite some probing bowling from Jasu Patel (3 for 21) and an absurd spell from Mankad (11-10-2-1), Hanif could declare at 267 for 9. Batting at No. 9 Ahmed remained unbeaten on 9.

The match petered to an end after 8 more overs, but there was enough time for the rookies could reduce the Indians to 36 for 2. Once again Munaf struck first, removing Pananmal Punjabi for a duck, and finishing with match figures of 3 for 78. In short, the match was dominated by the three Pakistani Test cricketers, present or future.

What followed?

The fifth Test also took the course of the first four: Khan Mohammad and Fazal Mahmood gave Pakistan a 17-run lead, but Kardar delayed the declaration in order to allow Alimuddin score his hundred. Set to chase 259, India never bothered.

What happened to Ahmed?

Ahmed’s career was curtailed following a motorcycle accident. He played a mere 16 First-Class matches in a career spanning 15 matches, in which he scored 504 runs at 24. In all recorded matches he did slightly better, with 758 runs from 22 matches.

He was also vice-captain of Pakistan Eaglets on their 1959 tour of England. However, Saeed Ahmed, captain of the side, replaced him with Duncan Sharpe as vice-captain. “I was from Lahore, Saeed was from Lahore, Ahmed was from Karachi; that was Pakistan cricket,” told Sharpe to Gideon Haigh (Silent Revolutions).

However, Ahmed served Pakistan cricket in a bigger way when he opened their first cricket academy, in 1987. Cricket Coaching Centre (CCC) went on to produce three Test cricketers, in Azam Khan, Faisal Iqbal, and Owais Shah.

Ahmed Mustafa, the youngest First-Class cricketer, passed away on August 10, 2013 after suffering from Parkinson ’s disease. He was buried at DHA Phase I Graveyard, Karachi. He was 69.

Brief scores:

Indians 352 for 5 decl. (Gulabrai Ramchand 56, Chandu Borde 99, CD Gopinath 130*) and 36 for 2 drew with Pakistan Combined Schools 267 for 9 decl. (Hanif Mohammad 163; Jasu Patel 3 for 21).

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