THE OXON DIARY
Kardar Remembered
By Sir Oxon
Oxford, UK

On May 2, 1954, the British liner “Batory” docked at Southampton. Aboard the ship was the Pakistan cricket team led by Abdul Hafeez Kardar. The young team went on to win a Test Match, drawing the Test series on its very first tour of England.
All this was before my time but I love things ancient and I somehow have an attachment with Skipper Kardar. I had the privilege of meeting him and sharing a cup of tea with him in London in the summer of 1995. One way to go back in time and feel the “touch” of the time is by collecting souvenirs. I recently acquired “Cricketers from Pakistan: The Official Souvenir of the 1954 Tour of Pakistan”.
This guide highlights the youthfulness of Kardar’s team: “The Pakistan touring side is probably the youngest side ever to undertake an official tour abroad, the average age of the side being less than twenty-five years”. It was hoped, the guide added, that the “experiment” of fielding “such a young side would prove a success”. Well, it did! The English got a rude shock.
Like all sports selections, the 1954 tour took place after a lot of in-fighting. One lobby was vehemently opposed to Kardar’s selection. However, Kardar was given the team’s captaincy with the support of the then defense secretary, Iskander Mirza, who told him, “You will go as captain otherwise the government will neither give passports nor foreign exchange to the team”. Ah, those were the days!
The old English gentleman from whom I bought the guide (who was probably clearing out his attic), told me, “I saw the Pakistan team when they played South of England at Hastings in September 1954. I remember being particularly impressed with Imtiaz Ahmed”. Sir, the whole team did a brilliant job.
Although it was a young team - both in terms of the age of the team as well as that of the country - it wasn’t Kardar’s first trip to England. He was also part of the Indian Touring Team led by the Nawab of Patuadi in 1946, making Kardar, as the guidebook says, “one of the few players to represent two countries in Test cricket”.
Kardar remained behind in England after the tour ended to study in Oxford. In his autobiographical sketch “Failed Expectation” he acknowledges the assistance of the Nawab of Pataudi, himself an Oxford man, in getting admitted to the university. Kardar went on to win a Blue for Oxford in 1947, and played for the university again, in 1948 and 1949. He also joined Warwickshire at this time and played regularly for them till 1950.
Kardar writes about his “good old days” at Oxford, providing a brief sketch of the Indian-Pakistani student community of the late 1940s. He mentions contemporaries such as Dr Fazal-ur-Rehman, the Islamic scholar; Dr IH Zuberi, principal of Islamia College, Calcutta and vice-chancellor of Rajshahi University; and Dr Abdul Wahid Halipota, chairman of Pakistan’s Islamic Ideology Council.
Other Oxford students of the time included: Imdad Hussain, professor Sirajuddin’s son; Abdul Ally Khan, former principal of Aitchison College; Khalid Hassan, who Kardar describes as the “most colourful of my contemporaries” and the “best host”; and Jan Khan of NWFP, who became a professor at Peshawar University. The last two, along with Kardar, were all good friends of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, another Oxford man of the 1950s.
Kardar (1925-1996) has sailed away into history, but the sweet memory of the achievement of the 1954 team lingers on.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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