Mushtaq Mohammed - Inside Out
By Dr. Ahmed S. Khan
Today the world is in the grip of cricket fever. It is said that there are three remnants of British Raj in South Asia: tea, cricket and English language. In India all three remnants are being used to their fullest advantage and potential; however, in Pakistan cricket mania appears to be leading the tea sipping and the use of English language. With the World Cup cricket in full swing, cricket fans in Pakistan miss Omar Kureishi’s mastery of English language which they enjoyed in the form of his brilliant cricket commentary and his masterpiece newspaper columns.
Omar Kureishi has used the British Raj as the central theme of his autobiography Once Upon a Times. In his book, Kureishi cites Mihir Bose (A History of Indian Cricket), to trace the roots of cricket in South Asia: “The British came as traders, then seized political power. Bengal, in the east, was the first province to fall to the British, the native Bengalis the first to take to British ways. The Calcutta Cricket Club was in existence in 1792 and is, probably, the second oldest cricket club in the world after the MCC. All the early mention of cricket in India centers around Calcutta: the first match of which there is any detailed record, was played there on 18 and 19 January 1804 and the first recorded century on India soil was in Calcutta.”
Omer Kureishi observes that in those days British saw cricket as a way of keeping their own community together with little or no place for the Indians. Nirad Chaudri observed in his book Thy Hand, Great Anarch, that the British in India practiced a form of racial apartheid even as late as 1928. Omer Kureishi also observes, “The Raj was founded on the certainty of a racial and moral superiority over the natives.”
Today, the Raj is gone, and cricket has become the most popular game in South Asia, more specifically in Pakistan and India, and later in Bangladesh. In Pakistan a few great cricketing personalities were responsible for the early development of cricket; most notable among them were Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Fazal Mahmood, and Imtiaz Ahmed. But the Mohammed brothers are the pioneers of cricket in Pakistan. Four brothers --- Wazir, Hanif, Mushtaq and Sadiq played test matches for Pakistan, and the fifth brother Raees, their mentor, played first class matches. Commenting on the pivotal role of the Mohammed family in Pakistan cricket, prominent Australian cricketer Richie Benaud had observed, “There have been some interesting families in the history of Test cricket around the world, none more than the Mohammed family. In the first 100 Tests played by Pakistan, at least one of the Mohammed brothers was in the team.”
Mushtaq Mohammed, like his brothers Wazir, Raees, Hanif and Sadiq, excelled in cricket and provided great service to Pakistan. Hanif was the best batsman, but Mushtaq was a premier all-rounder who excelled with both the bat and the ball. In 57 test matches he scored 3643 runs with 10 centuries, which is only second to Hanif’s collection of 3915 runs; but he took 79 wickets which is more than the combined total of his brothers. On two occasions he scored a century (actually a double century on one occasion) and took five wickets in an innings, which was a record at the time. In first class cricket, he played 502 matches scored 31,091 runs with 72 centuries and took 936 wickets. He is regarded as Pakistan’s best-ever captain, and he also led Northamptonshire county team to win their first-ever Gillette Cup in 1976.
In his autobiography, Mushtaq Mohammed - Inside Out, he traces his roots during partition when his family migrated from Junagarh, India, to Karachi, Pakistan, to his school days when he made history by becoming the youngest ever Test cricketer, and onwards though his 20-year career representing Pakistan and 14-seasons stint playing for Northamptonshire county in England. He also talks about the details of being raised in a shared Hindu temple in Karachi after partition, after his father’s death and his mother’s struggle to provide for the children, domestic and international cricket tours, county games, Kerry Packer’s world series, revolt by senior players against his captaincy, personal traits and habits of fellow cricketers, unfair and biased policies of PCB towards the Mohammed brothers, working for PIA, behind the scene events of the 1999 World Cup, and his life after cricket.
Mushtaq demonstrated a high level of leadership as the captain of Pakistan team in 1975-76 and helped transform a group of outstanding individuals like Zaheer Abbas, Asif Iqbal, Imran Khan and Javed Miandad into a winning combination. He introduced creativity, planning and strategic thinking for winning matches. Mushtaq also served as coach and manager of Pakistan’s team on a number of occasions; in 1999 he helped his team to reach the final of the 1999 World Cup.
In the foreword of the book, paying tribute to Mushtaq, former Indian captain Bishan Singh Bedi observes, “No doubt, Pakistan has produced greats like Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Abdul Qadir, Zaheer Abbas Intikhab Alam, Asif Iqbal and many others. But for my humble money, Mushtaq stands at the top of the Everest alone, a sure sign of cricket excellence. Most humbly I wish to declare that no better thoroughbred or professional ever emerged from Pakistan”
On his family’s migration to Pakistan, and early life in Karachi, Mushtaq recalls, “We migrated to Pakistan in 1948, a year after Partition. The situation started getting rough for Muslims over there. Muslims were being attacked in the area by Hindus. One of our family’s many Hindu friends told my mother that although there were no problems between them she felt it would be best for us to migrate as there was a genuine possibility a lunatic would come along one day and kill us just for who we were...we traveled by train to Bombay and sailed from Bombay to Karachi...I remember when our ship reached Kemari port in Karachi, we couldn’t find any other means of transport into the city except camel carts,...our belongings were piled up atop two camel carts and we headed to Haji Camp...For people migrating to Pakistan from India through the sea route, this shelter, or camp was the place where they stayed until they found suitable accommodation elsewhere in the city...a task that had been assigned to my maternal uncles, who had been sent as an advance party to Pakistan just for this purpose....After six months of reconnaissance they sent for the ladies and the kids. The fruit of their labor turned out to be a Hindu temple, known as Kaal Bhairu Mandir, within a compound of apartments housing the Hindus of Karachi, most of whom were in process of migrating to India....This is how we started our new life in the new country...the entire entourage comprising my parents and five of us brothers, my maternal uncles...and their families...my mother’s distant cousins’ families moved into this temple hall...When it was time to sleep, my mother arranged for the beddings to be spread on the floor, and the hall became one big dormitory. In the morning, they were all folded and stacked away in a corner to make space for the other normal daily life routine activities.”
Reminiscing about the life in the temple hall, Mushtaq writes, “The big hall was not just our living quarters but our playing area where my elder brother Raees used to teach us cricket with a tennis ball. This is where we were living when my father died of throat cancer, within a year of our arrival, and my mother had to don the mantle of being a father and mother to us, which she did in tremendous manner....I was studying at a Christian school, living in a Hindu temple, while belonging to a Muslim family. Now I was all confused and sometimes wondered: “What am I?”
Recalling an incident in which Hanif was deliberately wounded by a man prior to the Test match in Bombay during the 1960 tour, Mushtaq writes, “We played a three-day match in Ahmadabad prior to the Bombay Test, and just before we were about to leave aboard the train after the match, fans poked their hands through the cabin window for a handshake or an autograph...Hanif, being the most talented and famous...got most of the attention. One man shook his hand but unbeknown to Hanif, he had hidden a blade in between his fingers. He cut him in such a discreet way that Hanif didn’t even notice until after a few seconds when blood was streaming from his wound that opened right up. And it was his right hand, which made him a serious doubt for the Test match a few days away...my mother was so worried after hearing the news she made the journey from Karachi to Bombay to check on him. There was no way Hanif was going to miss that match, and he played with a badly cut hand and swollen, blistered toes...The atmosphere at the Brabourne Stadium for the First Test was like nothing I’d ever seen before. The ground was packed and people had to sit on the grass outside the boundary line because there weren’t enough seats...Hanif scored 160...Saeed Ahmed also hit a magnificent hundred.”
Recalling the Calcutta test, when India were in trouble at 147-6, and they were reluctant to face Fazal, Mushtaq writes, “On the fourth day we probably had the best chance any of the two sides had in the series of taking initiative … however, for some strange reason, the umpires said the ground was too wet and unfit for play...clearly they didn’t want to face Fazal on a wet wicket. Fazal was livid as it was blatant cheating by the Indian officials.”
Mushtaq has also set the record straight by rejecting claims made by Allan Border, the former Australian captain, that Mushtaq offered him $1million to lose in fifth Ashes Test at Edgbaston in 1993. He has also reflected on the nature and characteristics of his team mates. Regarding Sarfaraz Nawaz, Mushtaq writes, “The only way to bring the best out of him was to annoy him,” and regarding Imran, Javed Burki and Majid Khan, Mushtaq observes, “Imran was also difficult at times because he could be very arrogant...He was a good player to captain most of the times but because of his Oxford University education I think he looked down on those of us from poorer backgrounds. I got the same impression with Javed Burki and Majid Khan, who were schooled at Oxford and Cambridge respectively.” Commenting on Intikhab Alam, Mushtaq writes, “Intikhab was the blue-eyed boy of Abdul Hafeez Kardar, the Chairman of the Pakistan Board, and he was in his pocket. Consequently the senior players grew tired of Inti’s lack of leadership and didn’t want to play for him.” Reflecting on the Australian cricketers, Mushtaq observes, “The Chappels, Rod March, Dennis Lillee, Thommo, Gary Gilmour etc., all used to give us a good verbal going over and we used to feel intimidated.”
Mushtaq also reflects on his friendship with, artists and literati, like Lata Mangeshkar, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ahmed Faraz, Mehdi Hasan, Ustad Nazakat Ali Khan and Ustad Salamat Ali Khan and others. Reminiscing about meetings with Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Mushtaq writes: “Faiz Sahib, as he was known, used to stay at Badar’s [Mushtaq’s friend] place whenever he was in England. He was a great conversationalist and would recount his life’s stories. Difference of age melted away in his presence. He gave you his full attention and made you feel important, which is rare quality. Of course, his knowledge of cricket far exceeded any I had of poetry. He told us what inspired his famous poem, “...pa ba jolan chalo (walk in fetters).” It was when he was taken from the jail, where he was serving a sentence due to his anti-establishment ideology to see a dentist due to a severe toothache. He was fettered and handcuffed in a horse drawn carriage (tanga) through the main market (bazaar) in full public view. ..When he heard that I had bought a new Mercedes, he phoned me and told me to take him for a drive in it. Badar, his wife Nasreen, Faiz Sahib and I went for a long pleasurable drive to Worcestershire countryside and had lunch there. I think I am really lucky to have known a literary giant like him.”
Amir Bee, the Mohammed brothers’ mother, played a pivotal role in transforming her sons into world class cricketers. In the foreword of the book, Bishan Bedi, admires her: “When I got an opportunity to play alongside Mushtaq for Northants, it brought me closer to the entire Mohammed clan. Mushy’s mother embraced me like another of her cricketer sons. For me, the experience was overwhelming....This is why I want to correct the history books that state Amir Be had five sons who played...no...she had six...I was the sixth son! She certainly did not make me feel any different, and considered myself to be a part of the Mohammed family. I just fitted in, and quietly reveled at the glory of Mushtaq’s mother, who gave as many as six sons for the cause of cricket, five of them bringing glory to Pakistan. I really used to admire her contribution to Pakistan cricket, which was nothing short of colossal.”
The Mohammed brothers were pure talent, and consummate professionals. They never got involved in politics, but they were always the victims of PCB politics. Commenting on the unfair mindset and biased practices of PCB officials Mushtaq observes, “We still have an inferiority complex like from the days of the British Raj, where white man is God.” Unfortunately, to date, the Mohammed brothers dedicated service has never been fully acknowledged by the Pakistan government. Let the year 2012 be the year to acknowledge their great service to cricket in Pakistan. And their mother Amir Bee’s role in preparing and nurturing these great cricketers must also be recognized.
Mushtaq Mohammed -- Inside Out is an interesting read. It takes the reader back to the last days of the British Raj in India, the pains of partition, the evolution of cricket in Pakistan, the curse of politics destroying and damaging cricket in Pakistan, and the contributions of the Mohammed family in establishing cricket in Pakistan. It is a must and a joyous reading for all cricket enthusiasts defying any border.
(Dr. Ahmed S. Khan (email@example.com) is a Professor in the College of Engineering & Information Sciences at DeVry University, Addison, IL 60101)