Waqar Hasan

'Pakistan's first tour of India was my most memorable'

Waqar Hasan, who loved to bat in a crisis, remembers his many milestones while playing for Pakistan during their early days of Test cricket

Interview by Ijaz Chaudhry  |  
Waqar Hasan at his home in London

Waqar Hasan at his home in London © Ijaz Chaudhry

When Pakistan lost their first Test by an innings, the boys were very demoralised. But our captain, AH Kardar, motivated us well. When the team reached Lucknow for the second Test, Kardar said, "We are playing at Lucknow. Luck will change now." And it did!

If the scoreboard showed 250 for 2 I couldn't bat with full concentration. On the other hand, I applied myself well when it was 30 for 3.

In my days, club matches in Lahore were mostly restricted to 50 overs. After getting to his half-century a player retired to give others a chance. Maybe that's why I didn't convert many fifties into centuries.

Though my second-innings partnership of 165 with Hanif Mohammad couldn't save the Bombay Test of 1952-53, the Indian media appreciated our efforts and highlighted the fact that I was only 20 and Hanif 18.

I left Lahore for Karachi in 1954 to take up a job offered by Mr Kafiluddin, the chief engineer of the Public Works Department. I have stayed in Karachi since.

Kardar's captaincy contributed a lot to Pakistan's early successes. He was a shrewd captain as well as a fighter. He had wonderful man-management skills. He understood every player's psyche and treated everyone differently.

My Test record might look ordinary, especially by present-day standards, but of the Pakistanis who played more than ten Tests during our first decade, my average is second only to the great Hanif Mohammad.

I joined the Universal club, a leading Lahore side, during my last year at school. There I played alongside some future Pakistan Test cricketers, including Fazal Mahmood, Khan Mohammad and Aslam Khokhar. I learnt a lot while playing with them.

We were paid a pittance for Test matches. Initially it was Rs 50 per day, but that was later reduced to Rs 15. The board didn't give us a reason for that.

The Oval victory of 1954 was arguably Pakistan's greatest win in their first decade in Test cricket. I didn't contribute much with the bat, but I did take a vital catch in the second innings. It wasn't a difficult catch - Peter Loader's hit went quite high - but my team-mates shouting "Don't drop it, don't drop it" made me nervous. I was relieved when the ball landed safely in my hands.

I played no role in the cricketing development of my younger brother, Pervez Sajjad, since I had moved to Karachi by the time he began playing cricket seriously in Lahore. I only introduced him to the Universal club. I was a right-hand batsman and Pervez was a left-arm orthodox spinner.

In the fifth Test of the 1952-53 tour of India, in Calcutta, we were six down and leading by just 12 runs in the second innings. I batted for over five hours for 97, and with the support of Fazal Mahmood, brought Pakistan to safety.

Tom Graveney was my favourite cricketer. He had a very graceful style and it was a pleasure to watch him bat.

Kafiluddin was the man who built Karachi's National Stadium. The PCB should name the stadium after him.

My partnership with Imtiaz Ahmed during the second Test against New Zealand in 1955-56 is easily my most cherished cricketing memory. He joined me when Pakistan were at 111 for 6. Our stand of 308 remained Pakistan's highest for any wicket until 1972-73. It is still the second-biggest for the seventh wicket in Test cricket. It was at Lahore in front of my relatives and childhood friends. Technically it was a flawless knock.

Mahmood Hussain and Khalid Hasan were my team-mates at Government College. During my second year, we beat Islamia after a long time. The college principal declared the next day a holiday. After that year we defeated them quite often.

Players like Khan Mohammad and Maqsood Ahmed were full-time professionals and played regularly in England - mostly league cricket. A few of us got jobs in Pakistan on the basis of our cricketing abilities. I was a cinema inspector with a monthly salary of Rs 175.

In 1963-64, after being out of first-class cricket for four years, on the insistence of the officials of the Karachi cricket association, I agreed to captain the team. I played only three more first-class tournaments in two years but we achieved remarkable results. We won all the three first-class tournaments - the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy [twice] and the Ayub Trophy. In the 1963-64 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final, my second-string Karachi Blues defeated the Karachi Whites, who had in their line-up five Test captains of the past and future. I played for fun with no ambition of making a Test comeback.

My Test record might look ordinary, especially by present-day standards, but of the Pakistanis who played more than ten Tests during our first decade, my average is second only to the great Hanif Mohammad

For the last 15 years, I have spent my summers in London. My son, the MD of National Masala, looks after the business. However, when in Pakistan, I go to the office almost daily.

They considered me a handsome cricketer during my playing days. I was offered lead roles by Pakistani film producers. One offer came when I was in Lahore just before a Test match. I refused, yet one newspaper had a headline saying I was playing the hero in a movie. Whenever I'd field near the boundary during that match, the spectators would shout: "Hero! Hero!"

As a 17-year-old in 1949, I scored a century for the Government College against Islamia College. That gave me the feeling for the first time that I would make it to the Pakistan team. Within a year I was playing for the national team against the visiting Ceylon side.

Eden Gardens is my favourite ground for its atmosphere and huge crowds. I played a match-saving innings there in 1952-53.

Fast bowler Mahmood Hussain was my close friend right from our college days, though we were temperamentally different. I have always been a calm person while he was ever ready to pick a fight.

In those days, the standard of Lahore school cricket was really good.

During the 1954 tour of England, after the Test series we were playing an England XI that was virtually the national B side. Fred Trueman was hurling bouncers at me and Imtiaz Ahmed. While I was ducking and avoiding them, Imtiaz was dispatching him to the boundary. The England captain told Trueman to not bounce Imtiaz. Trueman obliged, but after a couple of overs he sent down another bumper, which Imtiaz hooked for four. Trueman remarked innocently: "What can I do? These Pakistanis all look alike."

I didn't play a lot against Richie Benaud but I found him a very difficult bowler to face. He had a lot of variety. It was hard to distinguish his legbreak from the wrong'un.

I had the misfortune of seeing my Karachi team-mate Abdul Aziz die during the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final in 1958-59. It was a matting wicket, and a ball from offspinner Dildar Awan popped up and hit Aziz on his chest. He died on the way to hospital.

My first business venture, in the early '60s, was in textile machinery. We used to do requisitions and purchase, and had local agencies for some of the world's top textile manufacturing companies. Then I started with National Foods, a spice company. We have two factories in Karachi and one in Lahore.

It was a great disappointment to miss what could have been my maiden Test century, in Calcutta, by three runs. I had concentrated very hard throughout but got out to a careless stroke. The ball came low and I tried to play to midwicket, but it touched the bottom of my bat and I was bowled.

Fielding was Pakistan's weakest link in their early years of international cricket. It was never taken seriously during training.

I served as a national selector several times during the '60s, '70s and '80s. I was the chief selector when Pakistan beat India 3-0 at home in 1982-83.

The partition of India in 1947 saw a lot of bloodshed, especially in my home province of Punjab, which was divided. We were apprehensive when the Pakistan team went to India in 1952-53. But as we crossed into India at Wagah by bus, we were given a rousing welcome by the Indian board officials. The warm hospitality continued in every Indian city. It seemed all the enmity of 1947 had fizzled out. Sports can do wonders where politicians can't deliver.

The Lahore club scene was very competitive in our time. There were a lot of tournaments. At least seven clubs - Universal Cricket Club, Crescent CC, Friends CC, Chauburji CC, Ravi Gymkhana, Delhi Gymkhana and Lahore Gymkhana - had strong teams.

I preferred playing in front of the wicket. The cover drive and the on-drive were my favourite strokes.

The 1952-53 tour of India was my most memorable. Pakistan were very well received when they entered the Test area. Also, because I was the highest run scorer in the series.

It gives me immense satisfaction to have achieved many firsts for Pakistan: first to score a half-century in each innings of a Test [Bombay, 1952-53], first Test half-century in England [Lord's, 1954], first Test half-century at home, and first to score two half-centuries in a home Test [Dacca, 1954-55], first century partnership [with Hanif, Bombay, 1952-53], first double-century partnership [with Imtiaz, Lahore, 1955-56].

I had lost my regular place in the Test team but my main reason for quitting cricket after the 1959-60 season was financial. I opted out at the age of 27 to establish my business. I had seen the likes of Amir Elahi and Wazir Ali living not-so-happy lives in their later years.

Waqar Hasan (standing, second from right) with his team-mates ahead of the Trent Bridge Test, 1954

Waqar Hasan (standing, second from right) with his team-mates ahead of the Trent Bridge Test, 1954 © Getty Images

Kardar's role in Pakistan cricket's early days was multi-dimensional. He had played a lot of county cricket and was a well-read man who could speak and write very well. When he was with us, we never felt uneasy, even in the presence of a head of the state.

I seldom got out during the last hour of the day in a Test.

Pakistan achieved remarkable success during the initial years of Test cricket despite having inexperienced players.

My first trip abroad was the Pakistan Eaglets team tour of England in 1951. The team included Khan Mohammad and Nazar Mohammad. We played against counties' 2nd XIs and were coached at the famous Alf Gover cricket school.

Batting on turf and matting were different propositions. Matting offered a greater challenge as the ball turned and bounced variably. That experience helped me on spinning tracks.

At home, we had a big lawn and I played with my elder brothers. In our locality, in Chauburji, Lahore, there was a good team, and at school, our headmaster was a great lover of the game.

I was the captain of the school team when we won the local schools tournament, defeating the prestigious Aitchison College - the Eton of Pakistan - in the final. My photo appeared in the newspapers and the headmaster wrote on my school-leaving certificate: "I see a future Pakistan cricketer in this boy."

Ijaz Chaudhry writes on cricket and other sports. For more about him and samples of his published work, visit www.sportscorrespondent.info