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Wounded Tiger, a History of Cricket in Pakistan

I was born and brought up close to the Trent Bridge Cricket Ground, Nottingham.  When I was nearly 6 years old my father took me to see my first cricket match. It was on 31/8/1974, the very first One Day international played at Trent Bridge, and also the first between England and Pakistan. The elegant Majid Khan made a magnificent 109, Pakistan won by 7 wickets. Since that very day I have been a passionate supporter of Pakistani cricketers. As fellow supporters will know this is not an easy task and nerves of steel are required to follow the various highs and lows.

Here I will review Peter Oborne’s encyclopedic, 592 page masterpiece, ‘Wounded Tiger. A History of Cricket in Pakistan’.  Peter is the Chief Political commentator of ‘The Daily Telegraph’, he is also a renowned author and media contributor. Below I will summarize parts of this excellent new book, that takes us through a journey of seven decades.

Pakistan’s cricket team has evolved from embryonic beginnings 67 years ago, now becoming a major force in world cricket. The journey is filled with triumph and tragedy. Even with the turbulence, it gives the people of the nation a chance to express themselves, a sense of identity and cause for pride. With extensive memories of former players and administrators, the book digs deep into the political, social and cultural history.  Through extensive travel and meticulous research Peter Oborne, gives a fresh, positive attitude to stories that previously were written in a negative, colonial style by other foreign authors. His book includes an appendix, detailed footnotes and a bibliography. He has become Pakistan’s friend and wishes to stimulate further interest in the subject.

27 chapters are split up into 4 main parts:

  • Part One: The Age of Kardar 1947- 75
  • Part Two: The Age of Khan 1976- 92
  • Part Three: The Age of Expansion 1992- 2000
  • Part Four: The Age of Isolation 2001- present

Peter starts off by describing in detail the ‘Founding Fathers’ of Pakistan cricket, Fazal Mahmood, Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Hanif Mohammad, amongst others. He describes the era of cricket in the region, pre- partition.  Pakistan secured Test match status in 1952. Even as an infant nation they clocked up wins against cricketing giants. In 1952 Pakistan beat India in Lucknow, beat England at The Oval in 1954, 2 wins against New Zealand in Karachi and Lahore, beat Australia in Karachi in 1956. This was an enormous feat for young Pakistan as they took on well established teams. They had truly put Pakistan’s name on the map of international cricket.

Early cricketing rivalries between Pakistan and India are described. The tensions of the MCC (England A) team tour of Pakistan in 1955/56 are frankly displayed for the reader. This included the ‘abduction’ by the English of a Pakistani umpire and his subsequent drenching with water!  Kardar’s influences after his retirement from cricket at the age of 33 years are discussed. Peter wonderfully sets the cricketing tone by describing the political backdrop of Pakistan over the decades.

Histories of the Burki clan (Javed Burki, Majid Khan, Imran Khan) and the Mohammad dynasty (Wazir, Hanif, Mushtaq, Sadiq) are eloquently summarized.

Rolling into the 1970’s with Mushtaq Mohammad, Majid Khan, Asif Iqbal, Wasim Bari, Zaheer Abbas, Sarfraz Nawaz joined by the youngsters Javed Miandad and Imran Khan. Pakistan became a world class team, with many of the players joining English county teams for part of the year. During this era the batting was capable of facing the onslaught of the fastest bowling attacks of Australia and the West Indies (this was prior to body protection and helmets).

In 1977 came the Kerry Packer, Australian revolution. It changed cricket forever, but the ‘old school’ cricket establishments were angered and banned many players. But in one day matches, day/night floodlit cricket, white balls, colored kits. The crowds flocked to see the carnival.

The book goes on to cover the early World Cup tournaments of 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1987. The beginning of Imran Khan’s career as Pakistan’s captain is detailed, together with the cricket series of the 1980’s. The dynamics between Imran and Javed over the years are analysed. A whole chapter is dedicated to the extraordinary  Shakoor Rana/ Mike Gatting incidence in Faisalabad, 1987. This was the 2nd Test match of the series between Pakistan and England, and resulted in face to face argument, fingers wagging. Pakistan vs England series are rarely without controversy.

The highlight of Pakistan’s cricketing history is Imran’s ‘Cornered Tigers’ winning of the 1992 World Cup. This moment is etched in the memory of supporters who are old enough to remember the event. To inflame matters further England were beaten in the final, this set the scene for an explosive series in the summer of 1992 in England.

Pakistan have been pioneer in cricketing terms, eg. the rejuvenation of attacking leg spin bowling by Abdul Qadir,  the patented Saqlain Mushtaq  ‘Doosra’ delivery. However the most secretive and innovative technical bowling development was discovered by Sarfraz Nawaz. A whole chapter in the book is dedicated to ‘reverse swing’. Sarfraz  had concluded, from experimentation,to swing an old ball in the opposite direction to what is expected, the old ball needs to be rough on one side (through throwing) and heavy (with sweat and spit) on the shiny side. The ball has to be bowled at express pace. This secret was passed onto Imran Khan who in turn taught Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. This created the most lethal fast bowling attacks in the world, especially with the old ball.

The English media frenzy in the 1992 series against the Pakistan team, was because ‘reverse swing’ was simply not understood by the observers. They assumed that the ball was illegally tampered with and accused the visitors of cheating. Pakistan won the series 2-1. There were many English critics however as always Geoff Boycott remained Pakistan’s friend.

The book goes on to mention the match fixing allegations of the 1990’s and the further growth of cricket in Pakistan. The new era brought in players like Inzamam, Mushtaq Ahmed, Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi. A chapter is dedicated to Pakistan’s women cricketers. The aftermath of 9/11 and its effects on cricket are mentioned, together with the horrors of  2009 Lahore attack on the Sri Lankan players.  One highlight was Pakistan’s win in the 2009 ICC Twenty 20 World Cup in England.  However 2010, brought further controversy with match fixing, leading to the downfall of 3 players. The maturity and calmness of Misbah –ul Haq has steered the ship through troubled waters, adopting the Gulf States as our ‘home’ ground. We pray for a more positive future.

In conclusion I would highly recommend this book for the Pakistani cricket scholars. I congratulate Peter Oborne on this meticulous literary masterpiece.

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