Fazal Mahmood - A Player and a gentleman
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

I called Fazal Mahmood from Karachi for an appointment. Fazal lives in Lahore. Famous for cricKet, Fazal has been in the police force. He retired 1987 as DIG. He readily agreed to interview on a Friday, with the rider that I was to have lunch at his Fazal street residence, off Aliama Iqbal Road.

One has seen the residence of an officer of the Government of Pakistan. If one actually did not meet Fazal in person at the designated service, one would not believe that it is the house that Fazal, ex-Deputy Director General of Police, Punjab, lives in.

It is furnished as modestly as his dress and the mannerisms of the man himself.

Before 1947 Fazal used to play for Northern India as did Abdul Hafeez Kardar and Imtiaz Ahmad. Old-timers recall that Fazai had played aginst the Australian Services Eleven visiting their tour of India towards the end of World War ||. In 1946, the Rest of Indiaa had beaten the regular Indian team. "My role in the match on behalf of The Rest was acclaimed by newspaper Pratap with the heading "Fazal ki Jai," His performance the lethal, he says proudly, was acknowledged by no less than the Quaid-e-Azam. "He gave me a shabash, during one of his visits to Islamia College between October 46 and March'47.

Based on his feats, Fazal was selected for India's 1947-48 tour of Australia. But by then the creation of Pakistan had been announced.

Fazal Says, "I did not go on that tour I decided that I would win laurels for Pakistan, my country, by playing for its cricket team."

Before Pakistan cricket squad's advent abroad, to india in 1952, and to England in 1954, Pakistan played an international match with John Goddard's West Indies team in 1948. "We beat them, and they reciprocated by recommending that we be given Test status. We owe to the West Indies, who were followed by a visit by the Commonwealth Cricket Team and by the MCC 'A' team. The latter were touring India officially, I went to the then Chief Minister of Punjab Nawab of Mamdot, and asked him to invite the team to Pakistan. He said, 'How can we? We are not a Test country. We don't have a Board of Cricket "I told him that it was no problem. We sat down and constituted the Board, and he as the President of the Board, invited the MCC 'A' team. They were men in Amritsar. They came over and played an 'unofficial' Test in Lahore. We got them out for 120 odd runs in the first innings, I got six wickets for not very many runs. That result also helped our claim for the Test status. I remember going to Zahoor Sons and asking him for chairs and shamianas for the match, I remember, too, that we did not have regular staff, and I chipped in by setting the chairs for the audience."



Though Fazal piayed an important role in securing victories for the Pakistan team, it used to be said to his disparagement that he was only a matting-wicket bowler, that he had not been tested on the other pitch.

To give his detractors the lie, Fazal bowled devastatingly in India'in 1952, in the Lucknow Test that Pakistan won by an innings. In that second Test of the series, he took 5 for 52 and 7 for 42.

That October victory was Pakistan's first Test win after it had been accorded Test status by the International Cricket Conference. His Skipper, who had himself represented Northern India in the Pentangular before independence, couldn't praise Fazal enough. "If there was one bowler who won the Test for this country on a perfect wicket, it is Fazal Mahmood," said Kardar, as he classed Fazal with Alec Bedser and Maurice Tare, and described his performance as superb. Lala Amarnath, the opposing Captain and an Outstanding cricketer of his day, whose two sons Mohinder and Surinder, have represented India too in Test cricket against Pakistan and other countries, while referring to Fazal's performance of 12 wickets for 94 runs, said he was "a clever bowler*.

To Pakistan belongs a unique honour. No team had ever won a Test match in England against the home side in its inaugural tour before Pakistan did. Neither has any other team done it since. And the main fac¬tor was Fazal. Along with Khan Muhammad he tore through the England batting might of Len Mutton, Dennis Compton, Bill Edrich, Trevor Bailey and the like, to claim four wickets in the low-scoring rain-ruined first Test Match at Lords. The denigrating stance of some that he wgs a matting wicket bowler was laid to rest forever during this tour in 1954, when in the-final Test at The Oval, Fazal captured 6 for 46 and 6 for 53 and literally won the match for Pakistan single-handedly. Fazal recalls that, "this time, it was Alec Bedser himself, who said that he would like to be remembered as the 'Fazal Mahmood of England'.

Fazal chalked up a legendary record of achievements with the ball. He was way ahead of his national contemporaries.

There were Mahmood Husain and Khan Muhammad, both faster than him, but Fazai's famous leg-cutters, as they were then called, had every opposing batsman beaten at ends up. His accuracy was so precise that it was said he couid hit an eight anna coin placed anywhere on the pitch. He was the first Pakistani bowler to get more than a hundred (139) Test wickets, it was to be much later that Imran Khan followed by Abdul Qadir, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Iqbal  Qasim and Sarfraz Nawaz would get more wickets than him. "During my time, there used to be much less cricket," says Fazal, who played only 34 Tests in more than a decade. Only Waqar Younis strike record is better than Fazal's. Waqar got his hundredth victim Harris of New Zealand at Hamilton, in his twentieth Test, while "I  got my hundredth man, Garfield Sobers of the West Indies in Karachi in my twenty-second Test." Fazal's best match bowling analysis — 13 wickets for 114 runs against Australia in 1956-57 — has been improved only by Imran Khan's 14 for 116 against Sri Lanka in 1981-82, so far. We have to remember as well, that Fazai's Test career record can be taken into reckoning  only after Pakistan played its  first  Test in 1952, after it became a 'Test' country in 1951, whereas he was rips for Test cricket at  least five years earlier,  if one is to consider his selection for India's tour of Australia in "1947-46. Everything that he did before the Indian Test tour is of no account as far as records go.

Fazal's was a colourful personality, and coupled with his rare feats on the cricket field, he had acquired quite a sizable following among the youth in the country, looking for a hero to emulate.

The boys would pretend to be as dashing as he was and follow the fash-ion trends that he set, for example, raising the collars of their shirts, tying colourful scarves or handkerchiefs around their necks, leaving a button or two of their shirts open.

Many even tried to copy his action of bowling. He was also a stunningly handsome man and when he led the Pakistan Cricket team to India, a few people here fanta¬sised that he had caused the hearts of Indian film actresses, such as Vijayantamala, to flutter, merely because she and a few others had been photographed with him on the cricket ground at the Bombdy airport. "Such are the stuff of which we are made," said the more of his realistic down-to-earth, contemporaries. "Rubbish." says the Fazal of today, with a naughty echo of yesterday's memories in his voice, "I was captain of Islamia College's cricket team in 1944," he reminiscences, with a fond and faraway in his light blue eyes, once so bright and clear and now swathed around with wrinkles. "We were to become more than the nucleus of Pakistan cricket team later. We had Nazar Muhammad, Maqsood Ahmad, Khan Muhammad, Shujauddin, Imtiaz Ahmad, Zulfiqar Ahmad in the Islamia College cricket team and Kardar was soon to leave his old college and joined us. Islamia College was a symbol of Pakistan Movement.

"Some of them perhaps think Government College was more of a symbol of the influence of the English-oriented Punjab. But as an institution, it was Islamia College remained in the forefront in the Punjab." Fazal says he was born in 1927 in Lahore at Railway Road. He has three brothers and an equal number of sisters. One brother is in business and one ended up being Vice Chancellor of the Engineering University in Lahore. His father, too, an educationist. Fazal holds a Master in Economics.

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Like all great players, Fazal, too, not had everything always going in his favour. In their first tour of the Carribbean, three years after the victory The Oval, Fazal was not very succesful in the Test at Bridgetown.
"Fazal had to bowl 85 overs, Somebody would doubt that he was a bowler of class," says Sobers in his book, Sobers Twenty Years at the top."What had happened?" I asked Fazal, "Mahmood Husain broke down after only five deliveries, Kardar and Nasimul Ghani were injured. I had one of the worst times of my career in that February, 1958 Test. Kardar was induced to calling upon Hanif to bowl an over in which Sobers broke Lenton's record of 364 runs. Sobers gone  better. About four years later, I inducted into the Pakistan team during their tour of Engand. I hadn't been selected originally for this 1962 tour but was flown because the new ball bowlers broken down. So I was the lone feat and I must say that I am sorry I couldn't do much. I was able to get 5 wickets in the last two Tests.I terribly overworked and this induced labor ruined my Test average forever.

I don't have the records , but if somebody were to analyze the figures, you would agree I had partners of somewhat miserable caliber, my bowling results still bear favorable comparison to best of my contemporaries, even with some of those have followed."

One has to agree that Fazal had decisive figures against almost all countries if one checks his best bowling figures. For example, against England it was 6 for 46, against Australia it was 7 for 80, against West Indies it was 6 for 34, against New zealand it was 3 for 34, and against India it was 7 for 42. Like Imran Khan's as skipper, who was to follow later, Fazal's record improved as time While he took a total of 139 wickets at an average of 24.70 in tests that he played, he took 41 wickets in the 10 Tests that he played at 19.14 runs apiece. But his  personal performance improved with the assumption of the mantle of captaincy, he was unable to lead his team to as many successes as he would have liked.

Fazal captained Pakistan against Australia in two, against West Indies in three, and against India in five Tests, winning only two against the West Indies, losing one each against Windies and Australia and drawing the five Tests against India.

Fazal is unquestionably, of the vintage era of PaKistan cricket. He was-the generation that had been witness to the creation of Pakistan.

They were imbued more with a desire to celebrate its name than with any greed for personal glory or riches. Thus he is evidently concerned with the state of affairs not only with regard to cricket but in general as well. He says that cricket matters cannot be considered in isolation from the rest of the national environment. "Cricket is symptomatic of what is happening in the country. Everybody is, what we call in police jargon, 'in hot pursuit of maal, quick money. Our cricketers, too, are from amongst us. Why should they be expected to be any different? They are as honest, as noble, as the best, or the worst, amongst us,"

Referring to the result of the match between Pakistan and India in Bangalore, Fazal says that to look at the outcome of a particular match is hardly the answer. Player power has-been-allowed to dictate terms for-far too long, Ad-hocism has been resorted to because we don't like to plan. Personalities matter more than policies. Players of the past, distant or recent, many of whom have no axe-to grind, but are willing to give their time and energy, are never asked for their advice. Administrators are put-in Confused, as we -usually are, we assume that the,so-called 'rich administrative experience makes a man a Competent selector. Are we not some-thing? We don't like consensus, there¬fore we never consult. We iike our own single-personal decisions.

"We have never bothered to face the truth to find out what is wrong-with-us. We have established commissions and  tribunals to determine the turn that match took. But we have never been able to face the images in the mirrors held before us by these reports, So we have buried these'reports." To cite only one clear cut instance of our ostrich-like attitudes, I ask, "what happened to Justice Constantine's report about cricket matters in Pakistan? Or let me ask, how could we let cricket affairs in the country be taken over by people who remained absent or abroad for four or five years after Independence? How could those who did their utmost to get Test status during that same period be swept aside? What did we do about people who ignored all norms of decent behaviour and played for Kerry Packer? But cricket is a small issue. We don't know and perhaps the nation doesn't care what happened in 1971. 'As far as cricket is concerned, people like me have played their innings. It is not for personal gains that we make these noises, but because it causes us pain when we see the loss of glory that we know we can gain or retain but lose for no earthly reason. Our boys have talent. They can be compared to the best. Why is their performance not compatible with their promise? My request is merely this: let us try and find and place a system in the country where merit is the only yardstick by which selection is made, in all walks of life. It is not a tail Order. Only, a little bit of determination, and if you will allow me to say so a little bit of will is required."•

By Sikandar Sarwar

Published in Dawn (Dawn Review)


Full name Fazal Mahmood

Born February 18, 1927, Lahore, Punjab

Died May 30, 2005, Lahore (aged 78 years 101 days)

Major teams Pakistan, Lahore, Northern India, Punjab

Batting style Right-hand bat

Bowling style Right-arm fast-medium

Batting and fielding averages

Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave 100 50 6s Ct St
Tests 34 50 6 620 60 14.09 0 1 2 11 0
First-class 112 147 33 2662 100* 23.35 1 13   39 0
Bowling averages

Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10
Tests 34 53 9834 3434 139 7/42 13/114 24.70 2.09 70.7 6 13 4
First-class 112   25932 8837 466 9/43   18.96 2.04 55.6   38 8