The 99s in Karachi

imageThe Karachi test of 1973 arrived and could not have done so sooner. It was the first international match at the National Stadium in over 2 years. In the previous match of the series, at Niaz Stadium Hyderabad, Greig and Knott had batted almost two sessions to save England on the last day. We all had felt very frustrated to see England escape once more. To us luck was a rare commodity. We had been waiting for victory since Oval 1954. So anticipation was high for the 3rd test of the series.

The pitch, as is often the case in Karachi, was bare and dead. One looked at it and said runs. Majid (Captain) sent Pakistan in and Sadiq and Talat gave a good start. Later Majid and Sadiq (89), and then Majid and Mushtaq carried Pakistan to a good score. Those who have followed Majid’s career would know that at crucial stages in his career, his nervousness could be a challenge. Approaching his third century, there should have been no real worries. But clearly there were; nervousness against good line and length bowling, meant Majid went for 99 to Pocock. Innocuous and totally unnecessary! Nevertheless, it was to leave us with a strange record eventually.

Later Mushtaq kept piling up the runs and with Intikhab looking good at the other end, Pakistan approached two landmarks simultaneously – 400 team total and Mushtaq’s hundred. Now those who saw Mushtaq play, know he was totally unflappable and the best person around when things looked difficult. But then you reckoned without the Karachi crowd.

With the match meandering along and Pakistan looking quite safe on the second afternoon, the crowd decided that it needed to have some fun. Fun meant a lot of noise as the bowler came in to bowl to Mushtaq. Lewis (England Captain) played along with this, seeing an opportunity. So line and length bowling and single saving fields, meant Mushtaq was stuck on 99. Finally, Mushy sent the ball down to mid off and set off, carrying his ample bulk down the pitch in a hurry. In came the throw; off went the bail; a roar and the umpires finger went up simultaneously.

The figure of Mushtaq, clearly disgusted, walked back. The picture of Mushy head banging and champing his jaw is vivid in my mind. The crowd at first a bit taken aback was soon laughing and quite chuffed with itself. Surprisingly even Mushy was laughing as he entered the pavilion. Two 99s!

Pakistan declared at 445/6 and England’s reply was normal and without problems. However, as Dennis Amiss approached his hundred, a rather bored and slumbering crowd became more vocal. I guess many in the crowd were hoping to repeat their achievement. Amiss obliged, by being tentative in his 90s. Finally he stood on 99.

Majid also played along and brought Sarfaraz Nawaz up to forward short-leg. Amiss became even more nervous. You could tell, by the way he paced up and down between balls. Denness, the other batsman, went down and had a word with him. I think it only served to make him more nervous. Next ball an innocuous leg break from Intikhab, which normally could be played down the wicket, was patted into the hands of Sarfaraz. The whole world froze. Amiss, Sarfaraz, Intikhab and the crowd! Then Sarfaraz was leaping up and the umpire’s finger also went up. As Amiss walked back distraught and in shock, the crowd brought the house down. Three 99s!

A record; never been repeated. All the three cricketers probably talk about it till today. Years later when I met Majid, I asked him about several things, but never dared ask about his 99. He was also to be bowled around his leg after a beautiful 98, the next year at the Oval.

The match itself came to life briefly, around lunch on the last day. Pakistan 105/2, 160+ ahead, suddenly lost focus. In half an hour, post lunch, we collapsed to 129/8 and were looking down the barrel of defeat. Not so! Some beautiful batting by Wasim Bari and Sarfaraz took the score close to 200 and safety.

Rightly so, as the test match 40 years ago in Karachi was all about the three 99s, its significance should not be diluted by a result in the match. Forever, I shall picture three great batsmen walking back crestfallen, not knowing, that years later one of their major identities will be the three 99s.

Providence works in strange ways!

THE NAQSH OF AN AFTERNOON IN EDGBASTON

imagePakistan arrived in Birmingham in 1982, a rag tag bunch and inexperienced Imran in lead. I had been away from Pakistan for some years and recently only seen Pakistani players in the county games. To watch Imran make England hop, skip and jump made one salivate at the mouth. But, 32 years later, the memories of Edgbaston, revolve around the image of that Saturday afternoon, when a miracle transpired. But, more on this story later.

A new captain after a rebellion against the previous one (Miandad), made us apprehensive. Not much has changed in Pakistan cricket in the ensuing 32 years. At the time our worry was whether the team will knit. A vague recall of the first day is of Tavare and Gower pulling England out of a hole. By the time I found a TV to watch, the match hung in balance with England at 250/6. I should have sat down earlier, as Imran coming back for a spell demolished England at 272. The jubilation was slightly tempered, as Mudassir was given LBW for 0 – a rather questionable decision in pre DRS days.

Next day Pakistan threatened, but never got away. Mansoor Akhtar with a fifty, Zaheer forty and Miandad thirty, eventually brought the score within reach at 251. But our bowling was strangely innocuous late in the day and England passed 50 without loss.

That Friday evening, we collected together for the next day- Saturday being crucial. We were all rather apprehensive and on edge. You have to be a Pakistani, living in England, to realise the pain and loss of face in a defeat.

Saturday dawned! Little did we know that the image of July 31st 1982 will be permanently etched on our minds. The match meandered along. Strangely, England were reticent to press their advantage. But, Randall was resolute at one end. That chord of tension, with two Goliaths facing a fight to death, was in the air and in the stands. England was close to reaching 100, Imran and Sikander Bakht had been resisted. Then the ball was tossed to little known Tahir Naqqash. Slim, tallish, a mop of hair and a nice run up, that is what I remember. He did the trick and Lambs resistance was ended. England passed 100 with 3 down. We were left biting our nails. Will we restrict England below 250?

Our miracle hour finally arrived after lunch. In the most exhilarating and, definitely, surprising post Lunch session I can remember, unknown Tahir Naqqash went down in our memory forever. The same run-up and bowling, by magic, became a couple of yards faster and his in-swing (probably reverse, though we did not know it at the time) just rolled over England. Gower, Gatting, Miller and especially Bothee (aka Botham) were disposed off in an incredible hour – 5 for 40 to TN.

The Pakistani crowd section had gone berserk and cries of Allah-u-Akbar were ripping across the field with flags waving. You had to be with us to realise what had happened. For the first time in 28 years, Pakistan had stood, looked England in the eye and driven them back. It had taken a slip of a young man to do a David.

Later events were a bit of a downer. Having got them against the wall at +200/9, we let it slip. Imran, Tahir, Qadir tired, Sikander off length, Wasim Raja might have been an answer. Only Imran error prone and inexperienced realised it too late. Raja finally got the last wicket at 291. I think it was a record stand between Taylor/Willis for England v Pakistan. We knew the match was lost.

Next day, the pressure told and we were 77/6 before Imran and Tahir carried us to 199. We lost by 113. A match much closer than the end result and a harbinger of a great series ahead. And it was a great series! On the final day of the series at Headingly Leeds, late in August, England sneaked across by a couple of wickets in the last test match. We might have lost 2-1, but the Englishmen acknowledged they were lucky to win.

This series under Imran, commenced a 10 year period of dominating cricket, culminating in the World Cup 92. Imran was destined never again to lose another test to England. The next English test victory was at Leeds, against Miandad’s Pakistan in 1992.

What of our hero of the Saturday in July 82? Alas, whatever magic woven into him on that day, never returned and his day was done. His career ended in 1985 and he never made future headlines or achieved a 5 wicket haul again. A sad end to a great afternoons work.

Nevertheless, some of us will remember Tahir and the naqsh of that warm July afternoon 32 years ago will always belong to him.

Tahir Naqqash wherever you are, salaam to a former hero of Pakistan.

About Tuna and Volcanic Explosions

imageThe 4 am alarm really cut through deep sleep. I had gone to bed only for a couple of hours. What with continuous eating bouts of sushi for the last six days and late bed times, it had been quite a trip. Now to add the last phase to it, a morning visit to Tsukiji Fish Market for the fish auction.

I don’t do travel blogs and neither is this one. Frequent travel, corporate in nature, diminishes any benefits of learning; time and attention being spent on meetings and dinners. It leaves little room for appreciation of people, culture and history.
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My career with Western MNCs restricted Far East visits. So coming to Japan on business was unusual, but as it turned out, its been a rich week and one has picked up some fascinating insights.

The Japanese probably more than anyone else, look after guests. Add to this their diligent and disciplined nature, and you have a week planned from morning to night, with three meals thrown in to boot. Despite a proud history, a need to please and be recognised as worthy, leads the Japanese to give more than your monies worth. In mid visit we landed on Kyushu Island, the Southern most tip of Japan. Our hosts remarked we were the first Pakistani guests at the hotel on the beach. In a day of rushing from one food plant to another and looking at farms, we also saw a lot of beauty similar to our Nathiagali area. Mountains, conifers, winding roads and road side kiosks.
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Nearby is Sakurajima Island. It houses a volcano which has spoken everyday for the last 58 years. It belches ash, lava and smoke like a dragon and is extremely impressive. We got lucky here. Just at the time that we were watching from the coast road, it suddenly emitted an ash explosion. My first live volcanic eruption. Not many in the world can claim that. There are also substantial number of hot springs all over, where people can take baths. You find one even at the airport, with people dipping their feet in it.
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It is fascinating to see their work regime. One sees many people, case in hand, coming out of office buildings at 11 pm homeward bound. Coupled with discipline and respect, this is a formidable combination and they progress well, despite all the so called economic doldrums in the last two decades. They celebrate very well also. It is quite a surprise to see them after work, as they shed the work facade and turn boisterous in evening get togethers. I had some great laughs during meals, as they are very capable of cracking jokes and laughing uproariously at them.

Through the years of dealing with Japanese people and witnessing other Pakistanis doing so, one learning is that we get along very well with them. Why is this so? We are emotional and indisciplined, while they are disciplined and control emotions well generally. But oddly, Pakistanis find them easy to get along with and for my part I have learned to trust my Japanese friends, admire their dedication and enjoy the laughs which seem to emanate from a similar sense of humour.

One odd dinner I must mention here. We had opted for fish meals on account of halal strictures. On the last night we ended up at a Korean restaurant, which served halal food (certification and all). All food served and bar-b-qued on the table in front of you. But wait for the surprise, the chef was a Sri Lankan and that too a Catholic. Cannot remember a more diverse meal in my life. In Japan, with Pakistanis, Korean menu, chef a Sri Lankan who is a Catholic. Oh yes, and the tilawat from the prayers in Mecca, was being played in the background. Needless to say the food was very good.
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So to the last mornings trip to the fish auction. Tourists are not allowed there; we had to obtain special passes, which came only through the significant influence of our hosts and sponsors. We were lucky and privileged. The place was fascinating, with many auctions of tuna taking place. Each auctioneer had his own style and some were very dramatic, others clownish and some business like. Through all this a lot of business was transacted. Pride of place was a tuna of 174 kg which sold for $18000. Top that! In between all the tuna, watch out for these special carts which dart around at formidable speeds. Its a difficult job avoiding these missiles and keeping safe. In all my 40 years of travel, I have come across few more fascinating human contact places than the Tsukiji fish auction. It was real, showed a culture and was warm at the same time. This alone, made the trip absolutely worthwhile.

Those who are gone

imageA friend wrote a Facebook status on the recent occasion of Eid ul Adha. She is outside Pakistan and in sending out greetings and a peace message, was lamenting the fact that we are celebrating Eid at varied times and that so many are in different places.

It was not supposed to be this way. At least not inside ones mind. As a career draws near an end and the work of ambition is completed and gone past, one looks back on life and sees ones accumulation. There is some material gain, some renown, huge learning, experiences and maybe some good deeds. But most of all are the collection of friends and family over decades. They come from early childhood and school, from college, then from work including various places in the world one has worked in. Most share one commonality, that they belong to Pakistan. However, so many of these friends and family are now settled elsewhere in the world.

One of my migrating friends, who left and went to Canada, once said to me that it is a sad time. He narrated that it’s like he sits in the car park of his house and watches his house burning. He is relieved that he is outside the house and therefore ‘safe’. But its Dutch comfort! Because it is his house and inside are many loved ones, who are entrapped in the burning. So he has really lost his essence and his preferred existence, but managed to be somewhat safe.

If you hear Rahat Fateh Ali’s ‘Tere Yaad’, it is a great depiction of what happens to us. Both inside and outside Pakistan. We have all grown up, when full families and friends would congregate and celebrate these occasions. They were warm occasions, happy and without fear. Worldly cares were put aside for these days and people bonded. We also shared each others lives and contributed towards being a community. Of course the world was not perfect at all and there were plenty of problems, but in being together one also felt a belonging and a sense of comfort. I personally would go to dozens of homes and while the stomach would have taken a major toll on one after three days, you still came out exhilarated and in one piece.

Today…Eid is spread over 3 days in different parts of the world – quite astonishing, defying science and logic and an advertisement of mans mental cussedness. We can pick up the phone and talk to friends and family, not being sure if it is Eid for them. People who one cares about are alone in different parts of the world. Some don’t even celebrate Eid anymore. They are comfortable and safe, but the essential need of all of us to be together and belong has been shattered. Also unfortunately, comfortable and safe is transient in this life and a moving goal post. It all passes, we are all headed towards the same end.

In Islamic thought, economic migration is not a plausible reason. Migrations are generally allowed for reasons of education and to spread Islamic doctrine. A third reason why it is allowed, is safety. So many of my Shia and Parsi friends sit outside for this reason alone. Many others have also felt the discomfort of insecurity, given up businesses and jobs, and gone off to foreign lands. Sadly, as many of us progress towards a period of life, when (more and more) one recalls old family and friends, it sounds like a travesty that so many of them sit away from each other.

So in these celebratory days, one can only pray that those who are gone, get an opportunity to come back to this land. Hopefully, to a land where there can be peace and security and enough means that most can live a comfortable and happy existence together. Ameen.

*picture is from dreamstime.com a free picture site

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