PAKISTAN as a newly created country is fortunate enough to have inherited the culture of readymade crickets with Lahore being the center of most cricket activity.
People such as Jahangir Khan, fast bowler Mohammad Nisar, Dilawar Hussain, Wazir Ali and his brother Nazir Ali, Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Amir Elahi and Gul Mohammad have played at the Test level for India at different times and are available to provide assistance. hands for those who aspire to wear national colors.
In addition, there are also other people who have experience handling the game and the players. But the person who stands out as the leader of the horde is the one who after leading Pakistan to victory in the unofficial Test against the PKS team who visited Karachi Gymkhana in 1951, became the country’s first captain in the official Test, which was indeed Abdul Hafeez Kardar.
For India he played Abdul Hafeez. Then, while leading Pakistan, he added Kardar to his name. His cousins AR Kardar and AJ Kardar are well-known actors, producers and directors in the Indian film industry.
He is one of three players including Amir Elahi and Gul Mohammad who played Tests for India and then played for Pakistan.
Before he took over as Pakistan captain in an unofficial Test for his country, Kardar not only played three Tests for India but also represented North India, Muslims, University College Oxford and Warwickshire in county cricket for two seasons where he also happened to meet his first wife Helen Rosemary Hastilow, daughter of County chairman Cyril Hastilow.
As Oxford Blue, Kardar served his team well as a left-handed batsman and as an orthodox left arm spinner.
But after taking control of the captain for his country, he turned out to be a good leader while he played. Kardar led Pakistan in his first 23 Tests and with a reasonable amount of success, won six, lost six and drew 11 Test matches.
Tall and handsome and with a commanding presence, Kardar made his mark on international cricket, either as a player or captain or as an administrator. Then, in his life he also excelled as a minister and as ambassador to his country in Switzerland which was his last diplomatic duty.
I was a schoolboy in 1951 when I saw Kardar against PKS in Karachi. I witnessed it later in the Test against India in Karachi in 1955 and against New Zealand when for the first time Pakistan won a series of Tests at home. Kardar took 8 wickets in Pakistan’s 2-0 series win at the time. And then, against Australia at the National Stadium in 1956 when Pakistan won the Test once.
It was the first time I realized watching Kardar bat that he could be so stubborn when in trouble. Australia was knocked out because it was only 80 in the first round with Fazal Mahmood taking 6 for 34.
However, in return, Pakistan immediately fought in 70 for 5 but was amazingly rescued by Kardar (69) and Wazir Mohammad (64) with a 104-run stand which allowed Pakistan to lead a sizable 119.
Fazal again was in the element and played havoc by taking with 7 to 80 to limit Australia to only 187. Pakistan easily won the Test.
What impressed me most was the brilliant protection of Kardar and its sturdy defense. This is the best of Kardar that I have seen.
His previous exploits as a Pakistani captain were also truly impressive. In the inaugural Test series of his country in 1952 in India, after losing the first Test, Kardar led his team brilliantly when Pakistan revived with a good Test victory with innings in Lucknow.
Although Pakistan lost the series, Kardar showed how well a new country can overcome the level of cricket.
On a British tour in 1954, he became the first captain of a visiting team in England to draw the Test series on their first tour when at The Oval Pakistan beat England to improve the series.
Within four years of the Test cricket, Pakistan under the leadership of the competent Kardar had won the Test against every country they opposed. On the first tour of the West Indies below, Pakistan defeated the West Indies by innings at the Port of Spain in Trinidad, thanks to 189 which was truly extraordinary by Wazir Mohammad and six goal wounds from Fazal Mahmood.
A strict discipline with a strong presence, Kardar later revolutionized Pakistan’s cricket as captain and later as chairman of the cricket council.
It was in 1957 that I first met him in person during the first training camp organized by the cricket council which I was part of as a player and which included promising university players in the country.
This is a camp that explores players such as Ijaz Butt, Saeed Ahmed, Nasim-ul-Ghani and Haseeb Ahsan who were later chosen to tour the West Indies in 1957-58.
Kardar, then an education secretary based in Karachi, will visit the camp every afternoon in NSK to show footage of great cricket players from the past and time and then give our lecture on game skills.
He also has a tiff with players and authority. In the 1976 Test in Hyderabad against New Zealand, he was confronted with players who rebelled at the expense of the match. He promised them a fair examination after the draw but the players would not budge.
Kardar then gathered 11 more players as stand-bys if the rebels did not agree to play. Ahead of the Test, I was in Mushtaq Mohammad’s room at 11 pm when Kardar came to see him.
The next day, the entire rebel group bowed to him and agreed to play the Test. However, that was not the end of the saga and was followed by further confrontation between the players and him who ended Kardar’s term as council president after the government stepped in to support the players.
As a member of the PPP provincial assembly for Punjab, Kardar also held the portfolio of the Minister of Food and later served as ambassador.
In 1995 I met her last when she came to London to see a specialist for her heart condition. I chatted long and interesting with him.
Kardar died in 1996 at the age of 71 in his hometown, Lahore. His son Shahid Kardar later rose to become Governor of Bank Sate of Pakistan.
Shahid was the son of Kardar from his second wife who was the sister of Zulfiqar Ahmad.
Many captains come and go but Kardar, in my opinion, will be remembered as one of the best who ever led the country.
Published in Dawn, 2 June 2020
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