Over three generations, the Mohammad family has accumulated more than 100,000 runs, 1000 wickets and 1000 catches in first-class cricket
Cricket has produced many exceptional families, the Chappells of Australia, the Pollock brothers of South Africa, the Khan dynasty of Pakistan, the Hadlees of New Zealand are some celebrated examples, but perhaps none has been as gifted or as iconic as Pakistan’s Mohammad family. Over the course of three generations eleven members of this family have played first-class cricket, embellishing it with their talent and versatility.
The first generation consisted of the five brothers, Wazir Mohammad, Raees Mohammad, Hanif Mohammad, Mushtaq Mohammad and Sadiq Mohammad. Hanif’s son Shoaib Mohammad and his grandson Shehzar Mohammad followed him into the first-class game. Three sons of Raees, namely Asif Mohammad, Shahid Mohammad and Tariq Mohammad were also first-class cricketers, while Sadiq’s son Imran Mohammad is the eleventh member of this renowned family to adorn the first-class game.
This illustrious family has many records to its credit, but there is one that is unique and unrivaled and unlikely to ever be matched or emulated. It is the only family whose members have cumulatively scored over 100,000 runs, taken more than 1000 wickets and held over 1000 catches in first-class cricket. These numbers are almost seismic and reflect the impact the family has made on the game.
Hanif was the first great star of this family, a child prodigy who began his first class journey a few days short of his seventeenth birthday, when he was picked to play for the national team against the visiting MCC side in 1951. Two fifties in his first three games hinted at his pedigree and when Pakistan achieved Test status, he began its inaugural tour of India with a century in each innings in the opening match against the North Zone. At the age of just 17 years, he was the youngest ever player to achieve this distinction in the history of first-class cricket. He quickly established himself as the rock of Pakistan’s batting, with his impregnable defence and flawless batting technique, earning him the sobriquet of “The Little Master.” Scoring heavily in the short domestic first=class circuit, he also became the sheet anchor of the national team, often sacrificing his natural strokeplay for a defensive outlook that guaranteed the team’s safety, displaying inexhaustible stamina as he blunted the thrust of numerous opposing bowling attacks.
During Pakistan’s tour of the West Indies in 1957-58, Hanif played the greatest match saving innings in Test history. Pakistan were shot out for just 106 in reply to West Indies score of 579 for 9, following on 473 runs behind. Hanif’s impenetrable defence kept the West Indian bowlers at bay and in a remarkable feat of endurance and skill, he batted for almost three days, spending 970 minutes at the crease to score 337 runs. This was the longest innings in Test history and the first time a batsman had made a triple century in the second innings of a Test match. His innings had lasted over 309 overs and secured Hanif a place in cricket folklore. Hanif scaled further heights a year later. Playing for Karachi against Bahawalpur in the semifinals of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy he scored 499, the highest ever score in first-class cricket till then, a record that subsequently stood unchallenged for 35 years. His innings took just 654 minutes and contained 64 boundaries.
Hanif was also entrusted with the Test team’s captaincy in 1964, and led Pakistan in 11 Tests. It was as captain that he played a masterful innings of 187 at Lords in 1967, that the famous cricket commentator and pundit, John Arlott glowingly described as “the knock of the summer.”
When Hanif’s first-class career came to a close in 1975, he had scored 17059 runs at an average of 52.32, with 55 hundreds. He also had 53 wickets at 28.49 runs apiece, 178 catches and 12 stumpings.
Wazir was the eldest of the Mohammad brothers and made his Test debut for Pakistan in the 3rd Test of their inaugural series against India in 1952-53. Nicknamed “Wisden” by his brothers for his mastery over cricket’s rules and regulations, Wazir often played vital innings at critical junctures in Pakistan’s Test history. His knock of 42 not out in the final Test at the Oval in 1954, helped Pakistan recover from 82 for 8 wickets to 164 all out, providing the platform for a famous 24 run win.
In the solitary Test played by Australia in Pakistan in 1956, it was a 104 run partnership between Wazir, who made 67, and Kardar, who scored 69, in Pakistan’s first innings that enabled the national side to obtain a 119 run lead and achieve a landmark win by 9 wickets in this Karachi Test. During Pakistan’s tour of the West Indies in 1957-58, Wazir was at his best in the Test series, scoring two centuries plus an innings of 97 not out. His knock of 189 was instrumental in Pakistan winning the final Test of the series at Port of Spain in Trinidad. He also headed the tour’s first class averages with 850 runs at 70.83 runs per innings. Wazir scored 4950 runs in first-class cricket at an average of 40.40, with 11 centuries and took 35 catches.
Raees was the unlucky brother, the only one who never made it to the Test side. He was an attractive, talented stroke player, a leg spinner with a very effective googly and an excellent fielder. He was called for trials for Pakistan’s inaugural tour of India in 1952, but despite making 93 not out and taking 4 wickets for 42 runs, was left out of the side, with an aging, 44 year old Amir Elahi being preferred over him. Similar misfortune deprived him of a place on the tour of England in 1954, when he lost out to the much inferior 16 year old Khalid Hasan, who had a mediocre, nondescript tour. When India visited in 1954-55, Lady Luck looked ready to finally smile on Raees as he was picked for the playing squad of the opening Test at Dacca. Kardar, the team captain, even told him to sleep early because he would be playing the next morning. However, fate took another twist as Maqsood Ahmed somehow arrived in Dacca in the early morning and pipped Raees for a place in the playing eleven. Raees did get selected as the twelfth man for the next Test, but that was the closest he ever got to a Test appearance. Perhaps, the presence of two Mohammad brothers in the side was a deterrent against the selection of a third.
Mushtaq was the best all-rounder in the Mohammad family. A doughty and pugnacious stroke-player, he was especially strong square off the wicket. His nimble footwork allowed him to move inside the line of the ball to play the hook shot, which he relished. His cuts and square drives added to his array of strokes and he was also the inventor of the reverse sweep. Additionally he was a very effective leg-spinner with all the variations of this craft. His precocious talent led to a first-class debut at the age of 13 years and 41 days, the second youngest ever in first-class history. He celebrated with an innings of 87 and 5 wickets for 28. He became the youngest Test cricketer of the time on his Test debut against the West Indies in 1959 and the youngest Test centurion when he scored 101 against India at Delhi in 1961.
Mushtaq is also the only player to score a century, a fifty and take five wickets in an innings in the same Test match, doing so against the West Indies at Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1977. He is also, only the second player ever, to post a double century plus 5 wickets in the same Test, which he did versus New Zealand at Dunedin in 1973. He was a big advocate of players rights and a shrewd captain of both Pakistan and Northamptonshire, where he had a long stint as a player from 1964-1977. Mushtaq scored 31,091 first class runs at an average of 42.07, including 72 centuries. He also took 936 wickets at 24.34 runs apiece, and held 349 catches.
Sadiq, the youngest of the five brothers, was forcibly converted by his brothers into a left handed batsman, because they correctly foresaw that it improved his prospects of selection for the Pakistan side. In an ironic vagary of fate, Sadiq’s Test debut match versus New Zealand in 1969 was also Hanif’s farewell Test appearance.
Sadiq blossomed into one of the finest openers that Pakistan has ever produced, forming a particularly prized opening pair with Majid Khan. He also spent over a decade with Gloucestershire and a couple of seasons representing Tasmania in the Sheffield Shield. In the first 89 Tests that Pakistan played there was always a member of the Mohammad family in the team. This spanned a period of 25 years and 84 days from 16th October 1952, when Pakistan played its inaugural Test against India at Delhi, to the end of the Pakistan versus England Test played at Hyderabad from 2nd-7th January 1978. In fact at least one Mohammad brother played for Pakistan in 100 of its first 101 Tests. These are remarkable spans, without parallel, in the history of Test cricket.
A wristy off side player with a penchant for the pull shot, Sadiq scored 24160 first-class runs, averaging 37.51 with 50 centuries. As a leg break and googly bowler, he took 235 wickets at 31.82 each. He also held 326 catches.
Hanif’s son Shoaib Mohammad was the sixth member of the family to play Test cricket. He inherited his father’s powers of concentration, and was primarily a front-foot, off-side player, with the cover drive as his piece de resistance. He was also an excellent fielder in the covers and represented Pakistan with distinction in 45 Tests, achieving a Test batting average superior to that of his legendary father. Interestingly he was the only member of the Mohammad family to score a Test double century against India. By emulating his father Hanif and his uncle Mushtaq in notching up a Test double hundred versus New Zealand as well, he established a new record in becoming the third member of a family to score a Test double century against the same country, a feat that had not been performed before. In first-class cricket his overall tally was 12682 runs at an average of 41.44 with 38 centuries. His occasional off spin bowling earned him 39 wickets at a cost of 41.58 runs apiece and he took 94 catches, mostly in the outfield.
Shoaib’s son Shehzar Mohammad, a wicket-keeper batsman, followed his father and grandfather into first-class cricket and even scored a double century to add to the four first class double hundreds scored by his father and the seven racked up by his grandfather. He is also a dedicated physical trainer and in his short first-class career has scored 1750 runs at an average of 22.43 with 2 centuries. His glove work earned him 78 catches and 6 stumpings behind the wickets.
Three of the four sons of Raees played first-class cricket. The most successful was Asif Mohammad, a skilled all-rounder, who scored 5085 first-class runs, averaging 31.19, including 7 centuries, took 57 wickets costing 29.80 runs each, and held 90 catches. Tariq Mohammad’s first-class foray brought him 1265 runs at an average of 30.69, with 2 centuries and 18 catches, while a third sibling, Shahid Mohammad had very modest first-class figures of 1439 runs at 19.71 runs per innings, along with 25 catches.
One of Sadiq’s sons, Imran Mohammad, also played first-class cricket. He scored 1701 runs at an average of 34.71. His 4 centuries included a double hundred, and he also took 4 wickets and held 12 catches.
The final cumulative score line is, therefore, 102530 runs at an average of 39.69, 1357 wickets at 26.89 runs apiece, 1226 catches and 243 centuries. These figures were secured over a total of 1740 first-class matches played by the family, which itself, is a world best.
The Mohammad family has a few other interesting records to their name. Three of them, Hanif, Mushtaq and Shoaib, hit double centuries in Tests for Pakistan while six family members have made double centuries in first-class cricket. Hanif also kept wickets in his initial days and became the youngest wicketkeeper to play Test cricket, when he made his Test debut in 1952 at the age of 17 years and 300 days.
Against New Zealand at Karachi in 1969, the three brothers Hanif, Mushtaq and Sadiq all played together in the same Test, the third such occasion in Test match history. This was also the second time in Test history that two brothers had opened the batting together, and the only occasion when three brothers had both batted and bowled in the same Test match. Against New Zealand at Hyderabad in 1976, Mushtaq and Sadiq became the second set of brothers, after the Chappells, to make centuries in the same Test innings.
In the 1954-55 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final, where Karachi defeated the Combined Services, Wazir, Raees and Hanif each scored a century in Karachi’s first innings. This marked the first occasion when three brothers all made centuries in the same innings of a first-class match.
Their list of records is long, and many will be equaled or overhauled with time. However, the unique treble landmark of a single family scoring over 100,000 runs, taking more than 1000 wickets and holding more than 1000 catches in first class cricket is a staggering and singular feat, representing a rich depth and diversity of skill and performance at the highest level of professional sport, that any set of genomic sequencing in a family will find hard to reproduce.
Dr Salman Faridi is a senior surgeon, poet, sports aficionado and an avid reader with a private collection of over 7000 books.salmanfaridilnhhotmail.com