• 16 Sep - 22 Sep, 2017
  • Sohaib ALvi
  • Sports

Many in the last two generations of Pakistanis would not know that this is not the first time a World XI is coming to Pakistan. And I would safely estimate that it has been about three generations since Pakistan saw a World XI game at a local stadium. In fact, this is the fourth such collation of players from around the world to have constituted a touring party to Pakistan.

The last was in 1976-77 when a World XI came to play a five match one-day series to celebrate Quaid-e-Azam’s birth centenary. Some four years earlier, another World XI had come to Pakistan to play a series of ‘Test’ Matches. Apostrophes as the performances and result were not counted among the official statistics of the cricket world. In 1967, another set of cricketers from around the world came to Pakistan as a Commonwealth XI.

I’d like to write here about the World XI that toured Pakistan in November 1973. Not simply because it was the first team to come to our country, but because of the cause for which they came selflessly. The floods in 1973 destroyed standing cotton and rice crops. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of stored wheat was lost. The economic growth estimated at 8 per cent for 1973 was revised down to zero per cent. The tour was hastily arranged to raise funds for the floods that had wreaked havoc in the Pakistan countryside. The matches took place in the month of November in the year 1973 and are counted among first class matches played that season. There were two four-day games, in Karachi and Lahore.

Among the stars that came was the captain himself, Rohan Kanhai, later to be knighted for his services to cricket and retired in 1975 after playing the World Cup final. Kanhai is considered among the world’s greatest batsmen and was at that time the captain of the West Indies team that had beaten England 2-0 at home that summer. Accompanying him was his countryman the classic off spinner Lance Gibbs, who was soon to become the first spinner to collect 300 wickets, retiring a year after Kanhai.

Then there were his rising stars of the 70’s. Clive Lloyd, the hard hitting left handed batsman who was to become the leader of the West Indies’ greatest team ever and lifted the World Cup twice in 1975 and 1979 and was the losing finalist in 1983. Alvin Kallicharan, his complete opposite, under 5 ft. and a touch player whose cover drives were a delight to watch. Both were excellent fielders. Among his other West Indian teammates were Keith Boyce and Vanburn Holder, at the time one of the best opening bowlers in the world.

In the second game at Lahore, Pakistanis were also to see England’s Colin Cowdrey who, like Kanhai, was ranked among the world’s best batsmen in cricket history. He had retired from Test cricket recently (he was to make a brief comeback at the age of 40 against Australia a year later). There was Mike Brearley, who was to make his Test debut for England three years later and went on to lead a Test side to Pakistan in 1977-78.

The Pakistan side was led by Intikhab Alam who was returning to lead after being sacked for the home series against England earlier that year, and featured Asif Iqbal, Zaheer Abbas, Wasim Bari, Wasim Raja and Sarfraz Nawaz among those who are well remembered today. Otherwise there was the crafty left arm Test spinner Pervez Sajjad in his last year of international cricket, Saleem Altaf an Asif Masood who came and went within a few years at the top.

The matches were exciting, with a lot of runs on display and a result inside the four day scheduled. This was a rarity in Pakistan, where ever since the 1950s, a five-day official Test would see barely three and a half innings completed and a result was the exception.

Both the games were won by Pakistan, the first (won by four wickets) being more close than the second, won by 161 runs. That is not to say the World XI did not give Pakistan a close shave. They were at one time 240-1 on the opening day but were all out for 363. After Pakistan had scored 345 (Zaheer 145, Aftab Baloch 52), the World XI succumbed to spin to be all out for 205. Needing 224 to win Pakistan were overnight 98-3 and collapsed to 178-6 but Aftab Baloch with an unbeaten 34 guided them home without further loss.

The second game at Lahore saw Pakistan’s dominance at the start. They declared at 385-5 before close of play on the first day and then took two quick wickets. Asif Iqbal pounded 129 in just 117 minutes with 20 fours and a six. There were fifties from Zaheer, Sultan Rana and Wasim Raja. Nevertheless, the World XI was swift to respond with 339, Lloyd’s 91 and Cowdrey’s 88 being the top knocks and Kanhai chipping in with 70.

Pakistan was to pile up the runs again as Zaheer got another hundred and set World XI 364 to win. Once again Kahhai’s men challenged Pakistan and were 176-2 at one stage. But they were hampered by an injured Clove Lloyd who couldn’t bat and collapsed to a combination of pace and spin for only 27 more runs.

It was a fantastic series for Zaheer Abbas, for it rejuvenated his career. He amassed 414 runs with two hundreds and two fifties in the four innings possible, posting an average of 207! Such was his dominance that Asif Iqbal was the only other Pakistani to touch 175 runs, 129 of them coming in one knock. From the World XI, only Alvin Kallicharan and Mike Brearley scored a century, both coming on the opening day of the first game as the two put on almost 200 for the second wicket.

The bowling was dominated by the spinners. Wasim Raja took 12 wickets and Pervez Sajjad 11, both topping the bowling averages from Pakistan. No other Pakistani bowler took more than four wickets in the two games. Inshan Ali topped for World XI with 7.

It had been a short tour for the players and the gate money raised may not have been much considering there was no sponsorship at the time. But it was the spirit with which they came. I was reminded of that tour as once again, 15 cricketers from around the world have come for a cause. And that is restoring international cricket in Pakistan. Win or lose, we owe them as much as we do to the World XI players who came to Pakistan 44 years ago. •



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