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How a young Mushtaq Mohammad carried forward a rich family tradition – Almanack

Mushtaq Mohammad
by Almanack Archive 7 minute read

A 15-year-old Mushtaq Mohammad earned his maiden Test cap in 1959 and two years later registered his maiden hundred against India in Delhi. He was named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1963.

A dark-haired, swarthy youngster delighted English cricket-lovers last season with displays of attractive and mature batsmanship which would have done credit to an established player twice his age. Mushtaq Mohammad, one of a noted family of cricketing brothers, once of India but now – after that country’s partition – of Pakistan was the lad concerned.

The lad is certainly a correct description of this remarkable stripling. He was ten months and seven days younger than record-books showed him to be!

Wisden has Mushtaq’s signature to his verification of the date of his birth as November 22, 1943, instead of the hitherto accepted date of January 15, 1943.

Mushtaq, a well-educated and intelligent youth who is a sales representative with the Pakistan International Air-Lines organisation, explains the discrepancy by saying that many of his family’s documents were lost in the migration from India in 1948, and that the birth-date of 15/1/1943 was unofficially given him for school purposes in Pakistan.

His mother and his eldest brother Wazir – the Pakistan Test cricketer of the 1950s – have, however, assured him of his November birthday and the family have always celebrated it. Mushtaq, a modest boy, had not previously troubled about altering his published birth-date, but the disclosure makes him more of a prodigy than ever.

He was only 13 years and 41 days, not 13 years and 352 days, when he became the youngest player to appear in first-class cricket, and 15 years and 124 days, instead of 16 years and 70 days, when he gained the distinction of being the youngest cricketer to play in a Test Match.

The matches in question were for Karachi (Whites) against Hyderabad, on January 2, 3, 4, 1957, and for Pakistan against West Indies in the Third Test Match, at Lahore, on March 26 to 31, 1959. He was only 17 years and 82 days, not 18 years and 28 days, when be took his place in cricket history as the youngest batsman to score a Test century – 101 against India in the Fifth Test, at Delhi, on February 12, 1961.

Cricket came naturally to Mushtaq as it did to his four brothers, Wazir, Raees, Hanif – holder of the world record individual score of 499 – and Sadiq, all of whom have played in first-class cricket.

Their father, a military man who had to stay behind in India when partition occurred, was not a cricketer of any particular standing, but their uncles, who looked after them when they reached Pakistan, and their mother, who came with them, were extremely keen sports-enthusiasts. The mother became a champion Badminton player and her ambition to see her children develop into sportsmen of note inspired them.

The story of Mushtaq would not be complete without telling of the progress of his brothers. Wazir and Raees had learned to play cricket while the family were still in India, but Hanif, 14 when India was divided, and Mushtaq, five years of age, were taught all their cricket in Pakistan. Hanif advanced so rapidly that in the space of three years he was playing alongside Wazir and Raees in the National Cricket Championship for Karachi.

So Mushtaq, encouraged by his mother and relatives, had plenty of incentive to follow in the footsteps of his older brothers. When 11, Mushtaq, who attended the Christian Mission High School at Karachi, played in his first representative match for the School first XI, and he went from stage to stage as his physique and technique improved. He practised with his brothers and also received valuable instruction from Abdul Aziz, the well-known coach, who was also largely responsible for Hanif’s correct batting methods.

With the growing-up of Sadiq – a left-hand bat – the five brothers set a record in 1961 when all played together in a first-class match in the Ayub Zonal Trophy. Raees, Hanif and Mushtaq were on one side, Karachi Whites, and Wazir and Sadiq on the other, Karachi Blues.

With so much evidence before them about the cricket skill of Wazir, Raees and Hanif, the Pakistan selectors were quite ready to give another brother his chance.

On his first-class debut in 1957, Mushtaq scored 87 and took five wickets for 28 with his leg-spin bowling, but he did little when first called on by his country two years later. He was, in fact, given his place as a leg-spin bowler, but he sent down only six overs, for 34 runs, without taking a wicket and scored 14 and 4.

The selectors chose Mushtaq again – this time for his batting – when Pakistan visited India in 1960/61. He finished second to his brother Hanif in the averages for the drawn 15 first-class matches comprising the tour, and by making his maiden Test century at Delhi, when India were on top, he helped to save the game and the rubber for Pakistan.

Mushtaq rates this innings of 101 as his best. Realising that the prestige and reputation of his country was at stake, he was determined to make a do-or-die effort and his resolution brought reward.

Mushtaq had sampled English pitches when he made a junior tour with the Pakistan Eaglets in 1958 – he often kept wicket then and opened the batting – and he gained first-hand knowledge of senior English bowling in the 1961/62 winter when MCC visited Pakistan. Mushtaq was selected for the three Test matches, but apart from a splendid innings of 76 in the First Test, at Lahore, where he shared with Burki a fourth-wicket stand of 153, he achieved nothing of note.

Still, in the same season he gave his countrymen a rare taste of his liking for free stroke-play by hitting 229 not out – his highest score – for Karachi Whites against East Pakistan. He reached his hundred before lunch. There was, therefore, little hesitation on the part of the Selectors to pick him, together with Hanif, for last summer’s visit to England.

With Hanif handicapped by knee trouble, Mushtaq had the opportunity to come into the limelight, and considering the generally disappointing performances of his team he did exceptionally well to head their batting aggregates in all first-class games with 1,614 runs. The next highest tally was 320 runs fewer.

Mushtaq demonstrated his fluent stroke production in the first game at Worcester where he scored 55 and 86 not out. He went on to trounce the Cambridge bowlers for 176 and in the First Test, at Birmingham, took 63 in good style. He was out for seven and 18 in the Second Test at Lord’s, and for 27 and 8 in the Third Test at Leeds, but he hit Hampshire for 108 at Bournemouth before adding to his growing reputation with splendid innings of 55 and 100 not out in the Fourth Test at Trent Bridge. As in his rubber-saving effort against India at Delhi, Mushtaq once more subordinated his attacking propensities to the necessity of saving the match.

For five and a quarter hours he defied everything his rivals could bring against him and he enjoyed the great satisfaction of helping Pakistan to snatch the game out of the fire. So, at 18, he had the honour of being the only player in history to score two Test centuries before reaching the age of 20.

Mushtaq concluded his Test displays by scoring 43 and 72 in more characteristic style at The Oval and Pakistan though having lost the series, were happy in the possession of a grand player for many years to come.

For one so young, Mushtaq is quite composed at the crease, and a twirl of the bat between strokes is his only idiosyncrasy. He is not so slight in build as he appears, for although he stands only 5ft. 7in. he tips the scale at just over 12 stone. His strength – and quickness of foot – is particularly evident when he moves inside the line of the ball to hook, and this stroke gives him just as much pleasure as does his entertaining off-side repertoire of cover-drives, square-drives and cuts. His preference is for fast bowlers.

As for fielding, anywhere in the region of cover or in the deep affords Mushtaq the chance to exhibit his ability in this department of the game.

Thus, Mushtaq has added lustre to the wonderful record of his family who have so far given three players – Wazir (33 years age), Hanif (28) and Mushtaq (now 19) – to Pakistan Test cricket. There will be another in due course, if Mushtaq’s estimate of his youngest brother’s prowess comes true. Mushtaq forecasts that the 14-year-old Sadiq, at present at College, will grow into a really dashing batsman as good as, if not better than, any other son of their much-loved mother.

Mushtaq Mohammad went on to score 3,643 runs from 57 Tests. In 502 first-class games, he aggregated 31,091 runs, with 72 hundreds – 17 more than Hanif.

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