A H Kardar - A cricketer and captain in classic mould
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

Abdul Hafeez Kardar, who passed away on Sunday morning (April 21, 1996) in his sleep apparently of heart failure in the city of his birth, will be remembered by the cricket followers as one of the two finest captains that Pakistan has been fortunate to have produced, the other being Imran Khan.


A comparison with the latter is irrelevant since just after partition Pakistan was hardly known in the cricket-playing countries but Kardar raised and assembled what may be called a balanced conglomerate to throw down the gauntlet to the strong MCC eleven, inspired the team to clinch victory and won for the country the sought after Test status.

Resolution was always writ large on Kardar's face as he encouraged the players on the field and in the pavilion and charted out his strategy for the ultimate outcome of the match as if trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle. Pakistan had kept the MCC team at bay in the first representative tie at Lahore's Bagh-i-Jinnah. The country's membership of the Imperial Cricket Conference depended on the result of the second encounter. The Karachi match was thus crucial for the future of the country's cricket.


Pakistan gained a small lead in the first innings. MCC with a hard-hitting knock of 123 by Gravaney set a target of 285 for Pakistan to win. It was a tough task. Hanif Mohammad, then a schoolboy, hit a patient and sound 64. Others viz. Ghazali, Imtiaz, Maqsood (a centurion of the Lahore match) and Anwar Husain made valuable contributions but it was a captain's knock of an unbeaten 50 by Kardar that turned the pendulum of the duel and earned victory for Pakistan. Kardar drove and cut with effortless ease. The sweep of his energy and prowess as he was quick on the attack thrilled the onlookers who had packed the Karachi Gymkhana environs.

There was unanimous 'yes' vote for Pakistan's admission to the ICC by the Lord's administrators, thanks to Kardar's admirable leadership in the Karachi match against the MCC.

Kardar's foundations of the technique, both as a batsman and bowler, were laid in a city and during a time enlivened by. traditions of such renowned players as Wazir Au, Nazir Ali, Mohammad Nissar, Dr Jahangir Khan, Prof Dilawar, Amir Elahi, Lala Amarnath, Muni Lal, Chuni Lal and Daljinder Singh.

At school and in the college he was taught the basics of the game by Khwaja Saeed Ahmed, his geography teacher, a terror as a leg-cutter in the Ranji Trophy and the Pentangular. Even on the sleeping wickets of Bombay's Brabourne Stadium, Saeed Ahmed wreaked havoc with his relentless attacking bowling. For the Western India States Cricket Association (WISCA) his labours and stamina were admirable, if not fantastic, on wickets giving no help to the bowler. Unluckily the Second World War intervened during his great days of cricket and he could not represent India or the country where he was born.

Kardar developed his all-round capacities at the- Crescent Club that is why he put so much stress in later days on club cricket and tournaments. He played for the Northern India Cricket Asiociation (NICA) alongwith Nazar Mohammad, Gui Mohammad (who later shifted to Baroda) and Imtiaz Ahmed.

Playing for the North Zone in 1945 against the Australian Services Eleven, led by Lindsay Hassett, Kardar (then simply Abdul Hafeez) scintillated in Lahore with 173. Imtiaz, who was to later represent Pakistan, made a graceful unbeaten 138. He was immediately summoned by Prince Duleepsinhji, heading the selection committee for beefing up the Indian team against the Australians. Hafeez repeated the century for the Combined Universities at Poona which earned him a place in the Indian squad that toured England under the captaincy of the former Oxford Blue, the elder Pataudi, Nawab Iftikhar Au. Though of moderate success he was included by Pataudi in all the three Tests against England.

Kardar highly admired his captain, affectionately called 'Pat' by the Englishmen, his field placings, his bowling changes and better still his dedication and concentration in batting as he had not played any cricket since 1938. Kardar considered 'Pat' to be a fine after-dinner speaker and he emulated his style while captaining Pakistan at home and abroad. Later on playing for Warwickshire during his stay in England he developed a great appreciation for the leadership and cricket knowledge of Tom Dollery. He observed Dollery from close quarters and analysed his decisions on the field.

As Kardar himself has written in his many books he took Hassett as a model captain and one of the most organised batsmen, especially on difficult trips.

His fielding too at point or cover was keen, quick and safe. During his later days as captain Kardar followed the examples of Pataudi, Dollery, Hassett and Jardine, who too was almost his hero during his younger days.

Kardar helped the Muslims win laurels in Pentangular, the last of the series cut short due to M.K. Gandhi's campaign against what he described as a communal competition. Muslims needed 297 to overtake the Hindus. Mushtaq Ali, the captain, was badly hurt by a bumper from Shute Banerji. Mushtaq was not willing to bat. But the situation of the Muslim side was so precarious that Mushtaq went to make a valuable 36 in his own dainty, comely way. But it was left to K.C. Ibrahim (now cloistered in Karachi with no interest in cricket) and Abdul Hafeez to take the team to the path of victory. K.C. Ibrahim and M.S. Baloch were the last pair when the great triumph for the team and the Muslim supporters came.

Hafeez Kardar joined Oxford University to take a PEP degree (politics, economics and philosophy) on the recommendation of an illustrious crick eter of the Golden Age but also a scholar in his own right, C.B. Fry. In cricket Fry, a companion of K.S. Ranjitsinhji, gave him some tips to hone up his game and field work.

Having taken the degree in Oxford and spending a few years with Warwickshire he returned to Pakistan to take up the helmsman-ship of the team against the MCC.

India invited Pakistan for the inaugural Test series, which the country lost against the comparatively more experienced adversary. However, in the second Test, played at the University ground of Lucknow, Pakistan jolted India with an innings defeat. It was here that Fazal Mahmood exhibited his talents as a fast-medium leg-cutter. He attacked the Indian batsmen with sustained magnificence and demolished them in both the knocks. It was in this match that Nazar Mohammad carried his bat through with a watchful 124, always in command and skilful against the Indian bowling. From the other end Hanif frustrated the Indians with his controlled batsmanship. Unfortunately Nazar went out of commission after the series. However, Kardar unerringly believed in Hanif who, no doubt, developed into one of the greatest opening batsmen that Pakistan has produced, serenely-poised to face the new ball or any sort of bowling.

It was unfortunate that Kardar later opposed the handing over of captaincy to Hanif Mohammad on the flimsy plea that a person with both cricket and literary background should be given the assignment. The Little Master could not have been baulked but he had to wait for one full series against England, but then due recognition came, rather belatedly, to the most experienced cricketer who had shown consistent and classical skill in his batting career.

It was unfortunate that Kardar later opposed the handing over of captaincy to Hanif Mohammad on the flimsy plea that a person with both cricket and literary background should be given the assignment. The Little Master could not have been baulked but he had to wait for one full series against England, but then due recognition came, rather belatedly, to the most experienced cricketer who had shown consistent and classical skill in his batting career.

Kardar's team to England in 1954 was routed at Trent Bridge by the fiery bowling of Bob Appleyard, aided by the variegated swingers and swerves of Statham and Bedser. The English media called it "slaughter of the innocents." The outfit, however, was not down and out. Kardar revealed the finest qualities of leadership at The Oval by summoning the best from the players. England were outplayed, thanks to a heroic bowling effort of Fazal Mahmud, who had a rich haul of 12 for 99. England, as the papers later euphemistically called, were "Fazalled." Pakistan levelled the series on their very first trip to England.

New Zealand were humbled on their first tour of Pakistan as also Australia, led by Ian Johnson, were beaten in their one-off Test at the National Stadium. Lindwall and Miller couldn't do much with their venomous pace.

Later under Kardar's skippership the country recorded a Test victory against the almost impregnable West Indies by an emphatic margin of an innings at Port-of-Spain.

Thus he had the unique distinction of leading the national team to success against all cricket-playing countries minus, of course, South Africa, who were then following the whites-only apartheid policy. The Skipper, as he was called by his team-mates and friends, always uplifted the squad, even against strong rivals. There was thoughtfulness in his approach to the matches. Every action of the opposing captain was watched keenly and studiously. Later, there was the determined effort one expects from a captain of his calibre and he exploited the players to their full potential. He was a strict discplinarian and would expect "no nonsense" from the players, even off the field and in their hotel rooms.

Kardar took over as President of the cricket board in the early part of 1972 and stayed in this high office till May 1977 - a period spanning five years. The seven series against Australia, New Zealand, England and West Indies were mixed ones, losing one rubber to Australia and one to West Indies. However, there were controversies aplenty. The Packer issue created problems and Kardar fought it tooth and nail in the interest of the team and what he called "cricket values." He tried hard to stop the 'brain-drain' for money-minting purposes. The mainstream side was weakened but Kardar committed the error of slashing the players' allowances. This led to a ganging up of the cricketers and a revolt to which the skipper had no answer. He called it "the height of indiscipline" and "players' power." Soon after he tendered his resignation from the BCCP post.

Kardar during his tenure as BCCP chief strongly pressed for Sri Lanka's entry to the ICC, successfully opposed the membership of Israel and made a proposal at the Lord's meeting for neutral umpires, which was then not given much credence but some years later accepted as a "dire necessity".

Like politics, in cricket too, Kardar had the courage of his convictions and never compromised on principles. Some years ago in one of his columns he suggested disbanding of the selection committee. According to him the choice of the team should be left to the discretion of the captain. Thankfully, the idea did not get any response and was not put before any tier of the board.

Before his death when Pakistan was disproving the allegations of ball tampering by its pacers, Kardar revealed that he was the first doctor of the ball. Funny statement, perhaps a part of college or Oxford humour!

Whatever may be said about his role as BCCP President, the country's cricket owes much to Abdul Hafeez Kardar. He was a great captain and tactician, who showed his best qualities during a crisis.


Batting style Left-hand bat

Bowling style Slow left-arm orthodox

Batting and fielding averages

Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave 100 50 6s Ct St
Tests 26 42 3 927 93 23.76 0 5 2 16 0
First-class 174 262 33 6832 173 29.83 8 32   110 0
Bowling averages

Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10
Tests 26 26 2712 954 21 3/35 5/73 45.42 2.11 129.1 0 0 0
First-class 174   24256 8448 344 7/25   24.55 2.08 70.5   19 4


By Lateef Jafri