In 11 Tests against the West Indies, Wasim Raja scored 919 runs at an average of 57.44. In the 19 year period from 1976 to 1995 when the WI pace attack was at its most ferocious, Raja scored 763 runs against them at an average of 58.69
Our story of Pakistan’s cricket dynasties highlights three more families this week, thus bringing us to the halfway point of this journey.
The Khokhar Family
(Anwar Hussain Khokhar, Mohammad Aslam Khokhar)
Anwar Hussain Khokhar and Mohammad Aslam Khokhar were cousins who played for Pakistan in its initial days of Test cricket.
Anwar Hussain also has the honor of facing the first ball bowled in first-class cricket in Pakistan when opening for Sind versus West Punjab in December 1947. An all rounder of considerable ability he captained Sind versus the West Indies in 1948, top scoring with 81 and capturing four wickets as well. He also opened the bowling for Pakistan in their unofficial ‘Test’ against Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) in 1949.
In Pakistan’s famous victory against the MCC at Karachi in 1951, which won them recognition for Test Cricket, Anwar played a key role. Set 285 to win Pakistan were struggling at 178 for 5, when Anwar joined Kardar in a sixth wicket stand of 83, that paved the pay for a 4 wicket victory. Anwar’s contribution was 48 invaluable runs.
He was the vice captain of the Pakistan team on their inaugural tour of India in 1952-53 playing all his four Tests in that series.
Aslam Khokhar also played in the opening first-class cricket match to be held in Pakistan. His score of 117 in Punjab’s first innings of that match became the first century to be scored in a first-class match in Pakistan. Aslam toured England with the Pakistan side in 1954 and played in a single Test.
Aslam also umpired in three Tests in the 1970’s. He lived till the ripe old age of 91 and at the time of his death in 2011 he was Pakistan’s oldest surviving Test cricketer.
In first-class cricket the Khokhar cousins altogether scored 4773 runs with 2 centuries and captured 56 wickets. The corresponding numbers for Test cricket were just 76 runs and a single wicket.
The Raja Family
(Wasim Raja, Ramiz Raja, Atif Rauf)
The mercurial and flamboyant Wasim Hasan Raja was arguably the most gifted Pakistani cricketer of his generation. An intrepid and classy stroke player, a fastish leg break and top spin bowler in the Anil Kumble/Shahid Afridi mould, an outstanding cover fielder, a fast runner between the wickets, a highly educated, natural leader of men who had led the Pakistan under-19 side in his youth, he was a true raja on the cricket field.
Wasim was exceptional in the ease with which he handled fast bowling. He often batted without pads in the nets against Imran in the 70s, which led Imran to remark later that Wasim was “in a different class altogether.” Against the fearsome West Indian pace attack that had terrified the cricket world, Raja produced his best cricket. In 11 Tests against the West Indies Raja scored 919 runs at an average of 57.44. In the 19 year period from 1976 to 1995 when the West Indian pace attack was at its most ferocious, Raja scored 763 runs against them at an average of 58.69. The next best average of any batsman was that of Martin Crowe who averaged 45.33.
In the 1977 series against the West Indies in the Caribbean, he hit 14 sixes in the series which was a world record at the time. It led the famous Sir Garry Sobers to comment that “No West Indian fast bowler can get past him in this mood.”
Raja reveled in challenging situations. In the 1979-80 series versus Indian on Indian soil, it was Raja who stood tall in a dismal general performance by the Pakistani batsmen. His tally was 450 runs at an average of 56.25, while Miandad with a series average of 42.10 was the only other Pakistani batsman with an average of over 30.
Raja had regular clashes with Pakistani cricketing authority and as the story goes the much coveted post of the captain of the Pakistan team was denied to him because he had once refused to hang out a senior’s socks to dry. In August 2006, at the age of just 54, Wasim Raja, a true prince of Pakistani cricket, collapsed and died on the field while playing a cricket match in England where he had settled.
Wasim’s younger brother Ramiz Raja also played Test cricket for Pakistan. A stylish open batsman Ramiz played 57 Tests for Pakistan, exactly the same number as his brother. He also holds the unenviable record of being the first batsman in One Day International matches to be given out “obstructing the field.” This happened against England at Karachi in 1987. Unlike Wasim, Ramiz also captained Pakistan. The two brothers played together for Pakistan in two Tests and four ODIs.
After his playing days Ramiz has become one of the world’s leading cricket commentators on television. Ramiz has also held the post of the CEO of the Pakistan Cricket Board. In 2017 he unveiled plans to produce a movie called ‘Dorbaaz’ with Sanjay Dutt in the lead role.
Atif Rauf, a cousin of the Raja brothers also played a solitary Test for Pakistan against New Zealand in 1994.
Between them Wasim, Ramiz and Atif have scored 5679 Test runs including six centuries while in first-class cricket the figures are 29711 runs and 51 centuries. Their combined wicket tally is 51 Test wickets (all to Wasim) and 566 first-class wickets (558 by Wasim).
Wazir Ali/Nazir Ali Family
(Syed Wazir Ali, Syed Nazir Ali, Khalid Wazir)
Syed Wazir Ali and Syed Nazir Ali were leading figures of early Indian cricket. Both of them played Test cricket for India while Syed Wazir Ali’s son Khalid Wazir played for Pakistan.
Wazir Ali was the elder brother and a leading batsman of his time. He toured England with the Indian team in 1932 and 1936. On the 1932 tour he scored 1229 runs at an average of 32. His score of 268 not out for Indian University Occasionals in 1935 was the highest score in Indian first-class cricket at the time.
A heavy scorer in domestic cricket, Wazir was also a dapper dresser. The famous English captain Douglas Jardine once called him the “best dressed cricketer in Asia.” He pioneered the half sleeved, high collared cricket shirt and sported a white cravat round his neck. Wazir Ali captained India in two unofficial ‘Tests’ against a visiting Australian side. Wazir Ali also led the Muslim side in the local Quadrangular and Pentangular tournaments.
After partition Wazir Ali migrated to Pakistan where he ended up living in poverty in a small abode in Soldier’s Bazar. He died in 1950 at the prematurely young age of 46, following an appendicectomy operation.
Wazir Ali played in the inaugural first-class match in Pakistan in 1947, when he captained a West Punjab side against a team representing Sind.
The younger brother Nazir Ali was an attacking batsman and a fast medium bowler. He also toured England with the Indian side in 1932. He scored 1020 runs and picked up 23 wickets but is best remembered for the match against Yorkshire when India were bowled out for 66, of which Nazir Ali made 52 with five fours and three sixes. This is still the lowest innings total in first class history to include an individual fifty.
Syed Nazir Ali also has the honour of being the first Asian and only Muslim bowler to get Don Bradman’s wicket. He did his when playing for the Club Cricket Conference side versus the visiting Australians in a two day match at Lords in September 1930.
Nazir Ali migrated to Pakistan, where he played a few first-class matches before becoming an administrator. He was a Test selector from 1952 to 1968 and Secretary of the BCCP in 1953-54.
Syed Wazir Ali’s son, Khalid Wazir, toured England with the Pakistan team in 1954 as an 18 year old. A surprise selection after playing only two first-class matches, he played in two Tests on the tour. After the tour Khalid Wazir never played first-class cricket again. He is thus the only Test cricketer who retired from first-class cricket before the age of 19.
The three Test playing members of this family scored just 281 Test runs between them and took 4 wickets. In all first-class cricket their tally is 10,923 runs with 29 centuries and 206 wickets.
Our trek through Pakistan’s Test cricket history continues next week with stories of more families who have contributed to this saga.
Dr Salman Faridi is a senior surgeon, poet, sports aficionado and an avid reader with a private collection of over 7000 books.