A symbol of dedicated service - An obituary of Said Shah
Mian Said Ahmed Shah, an international umpire and an eminent cricket figure in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province of Pakistan, passed away on February 5, following a prolonged illness. The 80-year old leaves behind, a legacy of a kind, thoughtful Pashtun, in a number of roles in both education and sports.
As a professor of history in Government College, Peshawar and later its Principal, he also headed the sports division and encouraged the students for active participation in physical disciplines. After initial backing from Pakistan wicket-keeper Imtiaz Ahmed, who was based in Peshawar for a period, Said would go on to play a major role in pulling KPK cricket out of obscurity with attention to grassroots and see it flourish to produce world-class players in the early 1990s which continues to this day with the strong impact of Yasir Shah, Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Afridi, in beating South Africa in the two-Test series.
Said, born on April 28th, 1940 in Peshawar, North West Frontier Province (NWFP), British India, recently renamed (KPK), took to a number of sports in his youth. He introduced himself as a right-hand batsman and an off-spinner at the Peshawar Gymkhana, where he would play for eight years: (1953-61). As a student of Islamia College (1957-63), he did his masters in political science and followed it up with similar qualifications in history, the latter enabling him to become the head of the department in Peshawar University. Said’s first appointment as a lecturer was in College Charsaddah before being transferred to Government College, Peshawar in 1980, a position he would hold till his retirement, twenty years later.
In 1970 he donned the white umpiring when, he volunteered as a compromised candidate to defuse a dispute in an inter-school tournament between City HS No.1, Peshawar vs Charsadda HS. An umpires’ course in Peshawar, initiated by A.H.Kardar, former Test captain, simply fanned the flames. At 31 Said was appointed for the three matches – all at Peshawar Club Ground - in the 1971-72 BCCP Trophy, for his entry in the domestic first-class arena. At the same venue, he stood in a match between the NWFP Governor’s XI against the 1973-74 touring Sri Lankans. He was also asked to supervise the match between Rawalpindi and Sri Lanka at Pindi Club Ground in 1988-89.
The first of five ODIs that Said would go on to supervise as an umpire was 1984 Pakistan vs New Zealand match in Multan. His last ODI being the day/night South Africa-West Indies match at Lahore in the 1997-98 four-nation Wills Golden Jubilee Tournament. He also served as TV umpire in four ODIs in the 1990s.
Kicking off with 1989-90 Wills Gold Flake League (Patron’s Trophy) that was his first List A limited-overs match in domestic cricket, all in all he would officiate in 47 such matches, a number that also included the five ODIs to his name. In addition to that Said also stood in 47 matches in Grade II and u-19 cricket.
An appointment in a Test match at Arbab Niaz Stadium, Peshawar against West Indies in the 1997-98 series was a feather in Said’s cap as a respected official. He accompanied England’s David Sheppard in the period ICC was working with one neutral umpire. The opening Test of the series was over in less than three and a half days and Pakistan with an innings defeat, would go on to register a 3-0 clean sweep. On top of that Said also took position as a TV Umpire in four other Test matches in the 1990s.
As an educationist and a Government employee the first half of his umpiring career seemed restricted to matches in Peshawar and close-by regions of Rawalpindi and Wah Cantt. His first match outside his initial parameters in Lahore was in 1987 and from that point he would travel, although infrequently, to other parts of the country too.
In 1993-94 he was chosen to stand in the match between Bank of Khyber and the touring Zimbabwean side. There were one Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final in 1996-97 played between Karachi Whites and Lahore City in Thatta. The last of his 90 first-class matches as umpire was a fixture between PCB XI against the 1999-2000 touring Sri Lankans at Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) Ground, Rawalpindi. It proved Said’s last winter in the white coat, whilst complying with the cricket Board’s policy of all umpires retiring at 60
As the first recognized umpire from the region, allied with a keen eye of the laws of the game, raised his status as a father figure of cricket in KPK. In fact the region was fortunate to have a man of Said’s standing, who having attended Umpires Refresher Programme 1994, the first of its kind run by Pakistan Tobacco Company, the official sponsors of the game in the country, in conjunction with the cricket Board in Lahore, would after his retirement in 2000, devote time as a PCB faculty member in conducting lectures and seminars for both new and existing umpires. His refresher courses were attended by umpires from Pakistan, Qatar and Bahrain and held besides Peshawar, in Karachi, Islamabad and Faisalabad.
Buried in his ancestral village Sherkara in District Nowshera, 35 miles away from Peshawar and a strong base of Mian Tribe, he is survived by wife and three daughters.
Farrukh Zaman, Pakistan Test player and manager of the KPK that created history in the 2020-21 domestic season by claiming Pakistan T20 Cup, Pakistan one-day Cup and being a joint winners of Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. ‘As an elder member of the cricket fraternity in Peshawar, I learned a lot from Mian Sahib, in my playing days and he had a unique role in the sense that he distanced himself from the politics of regional cricket. Such was his way that at Peshawar Gymkhana, in the days we had around 14 nets, he would offer help to all, regardless of the clubs’ standing. His neutrality and fair-mindedness meant he did not seek affiliation with a particular club or even with Peshawar cricket association and rather looked at KPK (previously NWFP) as one unit and devoted himself for the promotion of the whole region.’
‘His efforts, we all know, bore results in the 1990s, with improvement in the playing facilities, for the region to feed the national team with Arshad Khan, Kabir Khan, Fazl-e-Akbar, Wajahatullah Wasti and of course, Younis Khan. My personal interaction with Mian Sahib was far more in the period he was regularly standing as an umpire and I was appointed a match referee, in domestic cricket. He was more than happy to share his excellent knowhow of cricket laws with fellow umpires, more so with the juniors.’
Mahboob Shah, one of the most reputable international umpires of Pakistan, ‘Mian Sahib was a very good friend of mine and his death has come as a shock. I had only spoken to him a few weeks ago and despite being on dialysis, he retained his liveliness and would rather exchange his views on Pakistan cricket, recent international results of which in both England and New Zealand, had frustrated him considerably. I can assure you he was a great company and his sense of humour kept us all amused. As an umpire his competency was never in doubt and I know how likable he was amongst the players. Mian Sahib’s tireless energy for the game, not surprisingly has led to his tutees taking positions all over Pakistan, in the present domestic set-up. He would take advantage of his residence being close to both Islamia College and Peshawar Gymkhana, to watch the matches on the two venues, even when not well.’
Mian Mohammad Aslam, leading ICC ‘Mian Sahib was one of my good friends amongst the Pakistan umpires and his passing away has saddened me for it is a great loss to the game. He had a reputation of a cool-minded official and I enjoyed working with him in the 1999-2002 period in the PCB Cricket Umpiring Committee, chaired by our senior colleague, Mahboob Shah. Mian Sahib’s knowledge and understanding of the domestic cricket and him being in education made him a good choice for an examiner in the umpiring courses that would lead to appointments in Grade 1 and Grade II domestic cricket.’
Kabir Khan, Pakistan Test and ODI player and now an international coach, ‘I recall seeing Mian Sahib in Peshawar, since my childhood. He was a very kind and loving personality who as head of sports at Government College, Peshawar did all in his powers to encourage sports, particularly cricket. He was well respected as an umpire at domestic level and in the pre-Match Referee days, had additional challenge to stifle the over-exuberance of players in tough situations. Mian Sahib’s diplomatic skills would win over situations which, if not checked, had the potential of boiling over into full-scale brawls. He loved cricket and his friendly nature brought him close to the young generation, seeking to take up the game.’
Sajid Shah, Pakistan A paceman, originally from Mardan and with a distinguished first-class career with Peshawar and Habib Bank. ‘Mian Sahib was a familiar face for me since my youth. A very kind man and his presence in KPK was always very reassuring for both players and official. A real gentleman and whose knowledge and experience of cricket were second to none, at least in our region. After his retirement from the Government College, he switched his energies to the development of umpires in the region, for which he was the right choice made by PCB.’
Mohammad Ashraf, chief curator in Rawalpindi since 1992, ‘I am so sorry to hear the death of Mian Sahib. He always entered the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium with a smile and enjoyed talking to me and my team of assistant curators and groundsmen. He had earned a great respect in Pakistan cricket and I shall always treasure the memories of the hours spent in discussion of the game with that elite batch of Pakistan umpires – Mian Said, Khizer Hayat, Shakoor Rana – a different breed altogether.’
Imran Ullah Khattak, an understudy of Said and present secretary of the KPK Umpires’ Association, ‘I was extremely fortunate to work under his influence and he always encouraged and pushed me as a teacher and a guide. His emphasis on character building and straight talking, spoke of his own personality. I owe him a great deal and his role in the development of cricket umpiring in KPK is unequal. He also inspired me whilst I was establishing myself in cricket broadcasting in local matches in KPK. Sajid Afridi, Ahmed Nadeem and Jamshed Iqbal are three among good number of umpires from KPK, contracted with PCB to stand at Grade II and other age group in domestic cricket.’
The writer is indebted to all the contributors for the obituary.
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