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A Cricketing Messiah – Abdul Dyer

The city of Karachi mourned the passing away of 84-year old Abdul Dyer, on a scale that befitted his stature. The man of jovial outlook, equally adored and respected in business, cricket and showbiz circles, breathed his last on July 13.  Above all, leaving behind a legacy of one of the best known patrons of Pakistan cricket.

Touching base with Abdul in UK in2011 - courtesy of common friend Arslan Mirza – was nothing short of a privilege, both for his persona and an amazing trove of cricket anecdotes. An-hour long candid conversation took one back in some interesting times, shared in the most delightful blend of Gujrati and Urdu dialect, flavoured with his pet  phrase ‘Samaj mein Aaya Na’ (you know what a mean).

In the days of British rule, the Indian Rajahs, Maharajahs and the Nawabs, came forward to emerge as chief patrons of the game of cricket in the Asian sub-continent. In the post-1947 period, Pakistan looked towards business community, to play a similar role. Amongst some of the prominent names that stood out in steering the ship in the right direction was that of Abdul, an industrialist and cricket lover, based in Karachi - the capital of Pakistan till 1960. 

Dyer was the name given to the family, by the British, for they were initially engaged in dying clothes in Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat. Abdul Rehman Dyer, born on 9th August, 1936, inherited love of cricket from his father Ramzan ‘Ramjoo’ Dyer and uncle, Haji Noor Mohammad Dyer, who captained the family club - Dyer Cricket Club in Ahmedabad. Such was the club’s standing that three guest players - Alim-ud-din, Azeem-ud-din and U.R.Chippa - accepted an invitation to participate for the Dyers in the All Muslim Cup, in the winter of 1945-46. 

The Dyers, who came to Pakistan, at the request of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of the new Muslim country, soon established itself in the Textile industry in Karachi. Abdul also owned Modern Studio, built in the early 1960s, that became one of the hubs of the Karachi film industry with ‘Salgira’ and ‘Badal aur Bijli’ as two hit films to its credit.  In the latter years, till now, the location has been used for TV dramas, chat shows and commercials.

After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Dyers re-established the Dyer CC and competed in the local inter-club tournaments of Karachi. Umar Khan ‘Master Gatoor’. Western India player in Ranji Trophy till 1945-46 winter and who later stood as an umpire in a Test match between Pakistan and New Zealand at Lahore in 1969, worked as store in-charge at the Textile Mill and coached Abdul, who would also turn out for Ahmedabad CC, Kathiawar Gymkhana and later for PWD, under the watchful eyes of Kafil-ud-din and Idrees Baig. It was Kafil-ud-din who would appoint Abdul as in-charge of the National Stadium, Karachi, an honorary position he would hold for almost a decade. 

Once Abdul had been taken into the family business, after completing his school education, he took to cricket in a big way. To fulfil his own ambition to one day emulate the feats of the wonder boy, Hanif Mohammad, a matting wicket was laid in Pakistan Textile Mill, in the early 1960s. The Dyers were only too pleased to invite members of the Pakistan team, to come and hone their skills, on those wickets which by now had nets erected as well.

Umar Khan, immediately identified his strengths as a batsman. Master Abdul Aziz, a devoted cricket coach, too came to the nets to help anyone who required it. Abdul was fond of cut short which Master Aziz compared it to ‘Hazrat Ali ki Talwar’. Some cricket friends, after watching him bat in the nets, used to call him, ‘Tom Graveney of Pakistan’. Perhaps it was a bit over the top to compare him with the great English batsman but it was all good fun. Once matting got out of fashion in the late 1950s, Abdul decided to have a turf wicket. After experimenting with the local clay, which did not last long, the soil was imported from Nandipur in Punjab.

The 1955 Pakistan Eaglets batch featured players of varying ability and social standing, to develop as potential international cricketers. Leading pace bowler, Khan Mohammed, captained the team that also included Mohammad Munaf, Wallis Mathias, Ismail Ibrahim, Sagheer Mirza, Pervez Cheema and 18-year-old, Abdul, ‘baby of the team’, on his first overseas trip, undertaken by sea. Abdul, who attended Alf Gover’s Coaching School in London, shared his experience, ‘England, to me, was the most difficult place to bat for I saw some very ordinary seam bowlers, playing havoc in overcast conditions. I was forced to learn to play the ball late and primarily on the back foot.’

On his return from England, Abdul made his first-class debut in a three-day match against the 1955-56 MCC ‘A’ at Bahawalpur. In the second game, for Karachi Whites against Sindh at Hyderabad, Abdul was named, along with debutante, Mushtaq Mohammed in the line-up for Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. The two enjoyed themselves at the expense of Sindh bowling by adding 140 runs for the 9th wicket, after coming together with the scoreboard showing 215-8. Mushtaq scored 87 and Abdul, remained unbeaten with 77 to his name. It was to remain his highest first-class score.

In 1961, Abdul Dyer, accompanied young Pakistan players, on a brief training tour of England which was not a full-fledge Eaglets tour. Led by Pakistan batsman Saeed Ahmed, besides Abdul, it also included, Afaq Hussain, Antao D’Souza, Rashid Fasih-ud-din, Intikhab Alam, M.A.Latif, Mohammad Farooq, Mushtaq Mohammad, Nasim-ul-Ghani, Shafqat Rana, Shahid Mahmood and Zafar Altaf.

It indeed was a proud moment in Abdul’s career, to feature amongst Pakistan cricket’s distinguished names, as twice winners of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, with Karachi ‘A’ in 1962-63 and Karachi Blues in 1963-64. He was also included in BCCP XI against the 1963-64 Commonwealth team led by Peter Richardson, at Hyderabad. His 73 was perhaps his best innings at this level of cricket as he rescued Karachi Whites from a perilous 55-5 to reach 206 all out on the opening day against Punjab University attack led by Saleem Altaf at PU Ground, Lahore in the 1965-66 Ayub Trophy.

In the period of 1955-82, almost every Karachi cricketer of some standing benefited from Abdul’s generosity. The cricketers who migrated from Lahore to settle in Karachi or just represented the city – Waqar Hasan, Mahmood Hussain, Shuja-ud-din, Saeed Ahmed, Javed Burki, Pervez Sajjad, etc. – too were made welcome by him. He simply loved the game and took it upon himself to help the cricketers, in any way. Air-travel, clothing, shoes and other expenses, for those who could not afford it, was not a big deal for him, He reached out to all, regardless of their ethnicity. At ‘Dyer House’ in Karachi, he hosted a number of Pakistan teams, en route to overseas tours. Leading batsman Saeed Ahmed’s ‘Baarat’ when he married Salma in 1962, arrived in their household.

In the pre-coronavirus world, Abdul, stayed fit through regular walking routine and followed it up by catching up with his circle of friends in Karachi Gymkhana, a membership of which he acquired in 1961. Horse racing was another of his passions and at one time in the 1970s, Abdul owned no less than thirteen horses. His nephew Humayun, son of Yaqoob Dyer, was the only cricketer of some merit in the next generation, of the family. Twice married, Abdul is survived by second wife, two sons, three daughters and 16 grandchildren. Ali Azmat, a leading vocalist of Junoon group, is his son-in-law.


Tributes to A.R.Dyer

Asif Iqbal

‘Abdul Dyer belonged to a group of well-established businessman in Karachi, who were willing to support Pakistan cricket. I got to know him after my arrival in Karachi in 1961 and his wholehearted help to cricketers, in any shape and form, was well appreciated. Himself a first-class cricketer, in his Dyer Textile Mill compound, he had prepared a turf wicket, only the second one in Karachi, besides one at National Stadium. All leading cricketers were made welcome to practice their skills on a wicket that was maintained by a groundsman. Abdul himself appeared in the nets and had the potential to establish as a very decent batsman. For some unknown reasons, he didn’t quite transfer his batting ability in the domestic cricket matches. He will live forever in our hearts, more for his personality, than anything else he achieved. A gem of a human being, who always had a smile on his face and displayed kindness and generosity, to the very end.’

 

Asif Masood

‘Abdul Dyer was a well-known figure in Karachi cricket circles and his generosity was extended to visiting players from Punjab as well. On my first-class debut for Lahore Whites against Karachi Blues in 1964, we dismissed each other, in that Quaid-e-Azam Trophy fixture played in Lahore. I remember Abdul very well for he stood out for his silk (boski cloth) shirt and English cricket equipment – a rarity in those days in Pakistan. It is also a fact that he travelled outside Karachi by air and his car would be transported through the rail in first-class carriage. He certainly had a style of his own, befitting to his industrialist status.’

 

‘The turf practice wicket in his factory compound was used by all the leading Pakistan cricketers, including the great Hanif Mohammed. Abdul had earned respect from A.H.Kardar and Karachi Cricket Association (KCA) for his positive role in the game. He was exremely helpful to the players. He also owned Modern Studio that was a hub of showbiz artists and it was a central point for a number of social events in the city of Karachi.’

 

Intikhab Alam

‘I am extremely saddened to write a brief obituary for my late friend Abdul Dyer. I knew Abdul since the early 1950s. He was a very good cricketer who played for Karachi in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. He also toured England with Pakistan Eaglets. His services for cricket in Karachi are unmatchable. In the early fifties there were no turf pitch in Karachi but Abdul had one in his textile mill for practice purposes. All of us benefited from his great gesture. Besides the playing facilities, he used to provide all the cricket equipment, food and drinks. He was very soft spoken, humble, courteous and generous person and had a heart of gold. I will never forget his kindness. May Allah bless his soul in internal peace and give strength, courage to his family for this great loss.’

 

Khalid Rafiq

‘Abdul Dyer the name was magnanimity. Throughout his life he was always the giver to cricketers from all parts of Pakistan. He never turned a blind eye to others needs. He was always first when it came to helping, till his last days. He had an excellent cricket facility in his Textile Mill, providing all the playing gear. His net was attended from the legendary Hanif Mohammed down to most first-class cricketers. I myself was part of the set-up.’

 

‘If I am not wrong it was in the beginning of 1960's that the net practice at his facility was underway and Abdul Bhai was batting in full cry against some top-class bowlers of the time when the late Khan Mohammed, who was a personal friend, came along with the great Rohan Kanhai. West Indies star batsman saw Abdul Bhai batting and asked Khan Sahib, whether he will be playing against us tomorrow? He was highly impressed by his attacking style pummelling all bowlers with scant respect. Even some of the film industry heroes would come and practice at his nets, namely the late Rattan Kumar and Nadeem to name a few. He was a man with a heart of gold and I am quite certain there never will be a man like Abdul Dyer.’

 

Mohammad Farooq

‘It is sad and disturbing news regarding the demise of Abdul Dyer, as we had known each other, since our early cricket playing years. Gujrati was first language for both of us. He was a gentleman of highest quality, a philanthropist, a true sports personality and a true devoted sponsor of games. I played cricket under his dynamic leadership when he was leading Kathiawar Gymkhana and sponsoring the club. If there was any turf wicket beside National Stadium in Karachi, it was at his Pakistan textile factory where the cream and star of yesteryears practiced. I am happy to share that my first tour with Pakistan Eaglets to England in 1959 was sponsored by Dyers, as my family could not afford such a luxury. Afterwards we became a very close friend and he once visited my house in England. His death certainly has created a vacuum that will not be filled.’

 

 

Mushtaq Mohammed

‘Abdul Dyer was a great friend of mine and in fact of the entire Mohammed family. We both made first-class debut in the same game for Karachi Whites against Sind in the 1956-57 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. I scored 87 and Abdul an unbeaten 77 but we were both dropped for the next game. Since it was a semi-final, our skipper Hanif Mohammed wanted to have the full strength team but his explanation didn’t impress our mother – Ameer Bee. She took our captain to task and said that he had been most unfair with myself and Abdul. I was fortunate to speak to him the day before his passing away. A great loss to his family and friends.’

 

Nasima Munaf

‘Abdul Dyer, a dear, humble and jolly friend whom I shall always remember always is no more amongst us. The friendship between my late husband, Mohammad Munaf, was unique. I will never forget how warmly he received us in Dyer House in Karachi in 1978. He gave us his blessings for the success of our mixed marriage. He understood why Munna (Munaf) fell in love with me. Abdul Bhai did not have any objections, while others frowned.He also introduced us to Tariq Aziz, resulting in a performance in his program Nilam Ghar. Munaf sang one of his ghazals while our mixed marriage was discussed to remove existing prejudices.’

 

‘Abdul Bhai was a great moral support to me for the nine years of Munaf's illness. He encouraged Munaf to return to the cricket field picking up his special trainer activities for VRA in Amstelveen. His words: “Nasima will stand by you, Munaf. You must go!”  still echo in my ears. Dementia took a terrible toll on Munaf but Abdul Bhai continued to cheer him up. Their cricket memories and fun were hilarious during phone calls. 

 

‘The value of our friendship cannot be better characterized by the fact, that he was the first person I informed of Munaf passing away. He broke down with shock and sense of loss. His daughter Huma caught him off guard and took over the conversation so that her father could deal with the shock. He remained a true friend, as we always called each other as he supported me in my grief. Abdul Dyer, Alimuddin and Mohammad Munaf, the three musketeers are no more amongst us, however their pictures are on a cabinet in my study, keeping an eye on me….’

 

Nasim-ul-Ghani

‘It is my privilege to write about Abdul Dyer. He was a thorough lovable gentleman with brotherly attitude. Besides, he was not only a fine sportsman but also contributed in development of cricket by providing playing facilities, cricketing equipment and financial support to the players. Most of the Pakistan Test cricketer, particularly from Karachi, till 1980s, had best possible practice facilities at his Textile Mill which benefited in their career.’

 

‘My first contact with Abdul was in the second half of 1956, whilst in my teens. I played a match for City Gymkhana against Kathiawar CC at his ground situated within the vicinity of his Mill. City Gymkhana was managed by Shujauddin, an outstanding Test umpire, seen my talent and pitched me against a strong club side. There, l got five wickets and won the match. After the match, Abdul, through Master Gatoor, invited our team for tea. Since my bowling impressed him, he had a long cheat with me. Besides his gesture of good wishes, he, on his way returning home, dropped me at my house which was situated on the same route. Since then, l regularly practiced at his nets and on his way back home he used to drop me at my residence.’

 

‘He was considered as one of the most hard hitting, attractive and attacking batsman. He was talented and played for Karachi and purely on merit, was selected for the National Camp. Everybody was of the opinion that he should have represented national team. Later he played and captained PPWD cricket team. Since then, l along with other cricketers became close friends that we used to practice and spend most of the evenings with him.’

 

‘Lately, during corona virus, he regularly had telephonic conversation with close friends. On 12th July, just a day before he breathed his last, l had a call from him and could not imagine that will be our last communication. We have not only lost a good friend but a man of character, who shall remain alive in our hearts’