Jahangir Khan – Why he matters more than ever before

August 28, 2022

If there was a vote for the most well educated gentleman cricketer from the subcontinent Jahangir would be a frontrunner

Jahangir Khan  – Why he matters more than ever before

India and Pakistan recently celebrated 75 years of independence and much has been written about the individual pride of the two nations. What is less written about and almost forgotten is the joint legacy of the two countries. Only a few individuals have had a legacy of influencing both India and Pakistan.

On February 01, 1910, one such remarkable individual was born in what was then Basti Ghuzan Jullundur which is now known as Jalandhar.

Jahangir Khan arrived on this earth as quietly as he played his cricket but little did he know that history would put him on a pedestal that few cricketers from the sub-continent can match.

The international cricketing world came to know of Jahangir in 1932. It was the first time that an Indian team toured England for a Test. The English side had such great batsmen as Herbert Sutcliffe and Wally Hammond. Then there was the artistic left hander Frank Woolley and the dangerous Eddie Paynter who had a Test average of 84 against Australia.

The middle order had wicketkeeper-batsman Les Ames who averaged 40. This was unheard of in that era as far as wicketkeepers were concerned. Then there was the wily skipper Douglas Jardine who as we know was as keen to win a cricket contest as anyone.

On the other hand there were the inexperienced Indians touring England for the first time. England batted first in that Test and Jahangir bowled 7 maidens. The mighty English batting line up could not dominate Jahangir.

In the second innings he clean bowled opener Percy Holmes and had Frank Woolley caught. If this was not enough, Jahangir bowled an unplayable delivery to the great Wally Hammond who met the same fate as opener Holmes. A well set Eddie Paynter could not do much about another unplayable delivery of Jahangir and was clean bowled.

In 30 overs, he took the wickets of four top order English batsmen - three of them clean bowled. The fact is that along with Mohammad Nissar and Amar Singh, Jahangir formed one of the best fast bowling attacks ever to come out of the Indian subcontinent.

The great Wally Hammond later told his captain Douglas Jardine that the ball from Jahangir that had bowled him had come in like a javelin. Little did Hammond and Jardine know that Jahangir was an ace javelin thrower of such high ability that he represented India in AAA in 1932 and again in the British Empire Games in London in 1934.

How many cricketers in history could claim that they represented their country in an international track and field event in the same year that they played test cricket! Yet Jahangir was as humble a human being as any.

Four years later in 1936 India toured England again. Jahangir, normally a man of few words, went out of the way to advise Indian opener Mushtaq Ali. His advice to Mushtaq Ali was to hit against the line and exploit the gaps in the field. It resulted in Mushtaq scoring the first century by an Indian overseas.

It was not surprising that Jahangir was a reticent man. Most human beings with varied life skills are. Jahangir was highly educated.

After the 1932 tour, he stayed in England to study for a doctorate at Cambridge University. He was called to the Bar from Inner Temple.

While at Cambridge Jahangir continued playing cricket, winning blues in all four years. Few would know that Dr Jahangir had rubbed shoulders with one MK Gandhi while studying at the Bar from Inner Temple.

It is interesting to note that in his diaries Indian independence freedom fighter Rt Hon Kesariya Pratap Singh, a friend of both Gandhi and Jahangir, described him as the perfect gentleman.

Long after his playing days were over came the events of partition in 1947. Jahangir was in a unique position.

An outstanding Indian cricketer entered a new role in a new country. The Indian legacy of Jahangir became a joint legacy of the two countries.

The man who played and captained Northern India from 1940-1946 then also played for the Punjab province of Pakistan from 1951-1956.

Jahangir served in various capacities in Pakistan and continued to play a stellar role after his playing days were over. He served as a selector for Pakistan and managed the Pakistani national side that toured India in 1960-61.

Such was his academic brilliance that he served as Director of Education in Pakistan.

In understanding the legacy of Jahangir it's very important to understand the gentleman he was. When his illustrious son became eligible for national selection, Jahangir resigned from the Presidency of Lahore Cricket and later quit as national selector so that no one could question his integrity and accuse him of favouring his son.

Thirty six years after partition when his birth city of Jalandhar hosted its first ever Test, the BCCI invited Jahangir as the chief guest. The BCCI chairman at that time was NKP Salve. It's not that Punjab did not have its local cricketing sons. Lala Amaranth was a towering figure from Punjab but it was Jahangir who was chosen as the chief guest. It was fitting that Burlton Park Jalandhar, now known as Gandhi Stadium, had a guest of honour in the form of Jahangir who was from the same law school as Gandhi. When then BCCI President NKP Salve began the inaugural festivities of the match he was promptly halted by the PCA authorities and politely told that the festivities had to be initiated by none other than Jahangir.

It was a rare occasion - while honouring a Pakistani national the Indians were actually honouring one of their own. This is why Jahangir is relevant today.

His human qualities of humility, grace and goodness are the need of the hour.

His unique status as a joint sports icon of the two nations must be celebrated. Sports lovers from India and Pakistan must recognise the joint legacy of their sporting icons. If there was a vote for the most well educated gentleman cricketer from the subcontinent Jahangir would be a frontrunner. This is why he matters more than ever before.

- Kush Singh is a cricket historian and columnist and founder of The Cricket Curry Tour Company. He is the great grandson of Indian freedom fighter   Rt Hon Kesariya Pratap Singh.

Jahangir Khan – Why he matters more than ever before