THE OXON DIARY
By Sir Oxon
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
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
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
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.