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Abdul Dyer - a legendary figure

Under the British rule in the Asian sub-continent., the Indian Rajahs, Maharajahs and the Nawabs, took to the game of cricket, to emerge as its chief patrons.

In the post-1947 period, Pakistan cricket owed it to the high society and the 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 Dyer, an industrialist, based in Karachi, then the capital of Pakistan.

All the more remarkable, for Abdul Bhai, emerged as a benefactor of cricket and cricketers, without ever showing any inclination of holding any official position in either KCCA or BCCP. It will be no exaggeration to say that he remains one of the most respected and lovable personalities, in the cricket circles of Karachi.

In the period of 1955-82, almost every Karachi cricketer of some standing had the good fortune of benefiting from Abdul Dyer’s generosity. He adds, ‘I loved the game and took it upon myself to help the cricketers, in any way. Air-travel, clothing, shoes and other expenses, was not a big deal for me. I helped them all, regardless of their ethnicity. At ‘Dyer House’ in Karachi, we hosted a number of Pakistan teams, a day prior to their departure for overseas tours. Saeed Ahmed’s ‘Baarat’ when he married Salma in 1962, arrived in our household. It was a great pleasure and I am so fortunate that they all respect me to this day. The t20 generation do not know their history but the previous generations had good old-fashioned respect for elders. ’

Sitting down with Abdul Dyer in UK in 2011, proved to be an eye opener, for an amazing treasure of cricket anecdotes, up his sleeves. An-hour long candid conversation took us back in some interesting times, narrated in the most pleasing blend of Gujrati and Urdu dialect, flavoured with his pet phrase ‘Samaj mein Aaya Na’ (you know what a mean). Alim-ud-din, Hanif Mohammad, Waqar Hasan, Ikram Elahi, Haseeb Ahsan, Nasim-ul-Ghani, Saeed Ahmed, Mushtaq Mohammed, Mohammed Munaf, Mohammad Farooq, Aftab Saeed, Intikhab Alam, Asif Iqbal, Afaq Hussain, Naushad Ali, Salah-ud-din, Sadiq Mohammed, Zaheer Abbas, Iqbal Qasim, Shoaib Mohammed, Jalal-ud-din, …….. The list goes on and on and all these top-notch cricketers have had the highest regard for Abdul Bhai.

Abdul Dyer’s name naturally revives great memories for the Karachi-based cricketers, for he played a part, in shaping their successful careers. As a humble and down-to-earth individual, he has an admirable passion for the game, to this day. Now 83, Abdul Dyer, stays fit through regular walking routine (now though forced to stay indoors due to coronavirus epidemic) and follows it up by catching up with his circle of friends in Karachi Gymkhana, of which he has been a member, since 1961.

Dyer was the name given to the family, by the British, for they initially engaged in dying of clothes in Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat. Abdul Rehman Dyer was born on 15th August, 1936 and inherited love of cricket for both his father Ramzan ‘Ramjoo’ Dyer and uncle, Haji Noor Mohammad Dyer (captain) had established Dyer Cricket Club in Ahmedabad. Such was the club’s standing that three guest players - Alim-ud-din, Azeem-ud-din, U.R.Chippa - accepted an invitation to participate for the Dyers in the All Muslim Cup, in the winter of 1945-46.

After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Dyers settled in Karachi and had enough resources, enthusiasm and skills to continue with Dyer CC and competed in the local inter-club tournaments. Umar Khan ‘Master Gatoor’, (1919-1990), who had represented Western India in the Ranji Trophy till 1945-46 winter and 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 Mill and coached Abdul. Abdul also played for Ahmedabad CC, Kathiawar Gymkhana and later for PWD that was captained by Kafil-ud-din. 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.

Abdul Dyer recalled, ‘I was cricket-mad and loved the idea of being amongst members of the Pakistan team. What better way of being close to these cricket stars as to share nets with them. Cricket balls (Sialkot) and matting (East Pakistan) were purchased from Khan Mohammad, who in those days, was engaged in a number of business ventures. My ustad (coach) Umar Khan, immediately identified my strengths as a batsman. Master Abdul Aziz, a truly devoted cricket coach, too came to our nets to help anyone who required it. I was fond of cut short which Master Aziz compared it to ‘Hazrat Ali ki Talwar’. It was a compliment for me.

‘Some cricket friends used to call me, as ‘Tom Graveney of Pakistan’. Perhaps it was over the top to compare me with the great English batsman but it was all good fun. I must tell you I also faced the pace bowling of Dilawar Khan Jee, Nawab of Junagadh. Dilawar Khan Jee was close to the Mohammed brothers. Once matting got out of fashion in the late 1950s, we decided to have a turf wicket. After experimenting with the local clay, which did not last long, we imported clay from Nandipur in Punjab.’

The 1955 Pakistan Eaglets batch was a fourth such venture that brought players of varying ability and social standing, to develop as potential international cricketers. Leading pace bowler, Khan Mohammed, captained the Pakistan Eaglets that also included Mohammad Munaf, Wallis Mathias, Ismail Ibrahim, Sagheer Mirza, Pervez Cheema and 18-year-old, Abdul Dyer, ‘baby of the team’, on his first overseas trip, undertaken by sea. Abdul describes 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 touring MCC ‘A’ at Dring Stadium, Bahawalpur. The 19-year-old was the only player in the Ameer of Bahawalpur’s XI, captained by Khan Mohammed, with no previous first-class experience. He was pushed back to number eight and nine, respectively in the two innings. Slow left-arm spin of Tony Lock undid him in both innings, each time caught, without reaching double figures.

In the second game, for Karachi Whites against Sindh at Municipal Gardens Ground, Hyderabad, Abdul was named, along with debutante, Mushtaq Mohammed in the line-up for a Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, National Championship fixture. 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, coming at number 9, scored 87 and Abdul, remained unbeaten with 77 to his name. It was to remain his highest first-class score. The partnership broke the opposition’s spirits as there were bowled out for 84 in their second innings, having been dismissed for a partly total of 44 on the first day. Karachi Whites thus wrapped up the match, by an innings and 268 runs, on the second day.

The Karachi Cricket Association (KCA), entered three teams in the 1957-58 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. Abdul found his name in the Karachi ‘C’ squad. For second winter running, he would sit out the knock-out stages but had the consolation of being runners-up, in the competition.

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.

The 1962-63 season, got underway on a positive note for Abdul, when he won back his place, with an inclusion in the Karachi ‘A’ squad, led by Wazir Mohammed. Karachi ‘A’ wrapped up the final at National Stadium, Karachi, inside three days, by beating Karachi ‘B’ with a margin of an innings and 163 runs, thus becoming the deserving winners of 1962-63 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. It indeed was a proud moment in Abdul’s career, to feature amongst Pakistan cricket’s distinguished names, as the winners of the National Championship.

The 1963-64 Commonwealth team, captained by England’s left-hand opening batsman, Peter Richardson, opened its tour with a three-day warm-up game against BCCP XI at Niaz Stadium, Hyderabad. Abdul Dyer’s selection, alongside Shuja-ud-din (captain), Saeed Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Naushad Ali, suggested that the selectors would like to have a look at him against a strong bowling attack.

Pakistan cricket’s premier domestic tournament, Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, was played in March-April, 1964. On the past evidence, Karachi Whites and Karachi Blues were potentially, the two best sides of the tournament. Abdul’s inclusion in the Karachi Blues, captained by Waqar Hasan, was as a middle order batsman. In the first game against Lahore Whites, at Lahore Stadium, coming at number 5, Abdul was bowled, without scoring, by Asif Masood, making his first-class debut.

In the semi-final, Karachi Blues beat Rawalpindi by 277 runs, at Railways Stadium, Lahore. Batting first Karachi Blues reached 407 with Naushad Ali top-scoring with 110. Not so good for Abdul, who demoted to number eight, was bowled by Fida Hussain for a duck. In the second innings, whilst his side was taking the match out of reach of its opponent, Abdul, hit an undefeated 51, adding 68 runs for the 3rd wicket with Ziaullah (81).

In the final, played at National Stadium, Karachi, Karachi Blues registered an exciting 18-run win against their arch-rivals, Karachi Whites, led by Wazir Mohammad, to become the 1963-64 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy champions. In a thrilling finale, Karachi Whites, chasing 334, found themselves out of the game at 98 for 4, before their spirited fight took the game into the 5th day. Although Abdul had for two years running, been in the winners’ camp, his personal contribution with the bat was just 1 and 7, on each occasion, each time falling lbw to Mohammad Munaf.

With Saeed Ahmed absent, Karachi Whites were led by Faqir Aizaz-ud-din, in its opening match of the 1965-66 Ayub Trophy, against Punjab University at Punjab University Ground, Lahore. On the first day, Abdul Dyer, played what certainly was his best knock at first-class level. Saleem Altaf, a promising new-ball bowler had taken three wickets to reduce Karachi Whites to 55 for 5. The visitors were looking to regain the lost ground with a bit more application. In a 6th wicket partnership with Masood-ul-Hasan (74), that produced 130 runs, Abdul fought well to score 73, before being bowled by Mohammad Ashraf.

Humayun, son of Yaqoob Dyer, was the only cricketer of some merit in the next generation, of the Dyers. Born in 1957 in Karachi, Humayun represented Sind U-19 and Pakistan U-19, as a slow left-arm spinner. He toured England in 1974 and Sri Lanka in 1974-75, alongside Javed Miandad and Mudassar Nazar. In a first-class career, that stretched 7 winters (1972-73 to 1978-79), in 25 games, mostly for Karachi and United Bank, Humayun captured 50 wickets @ 25.10 and scored 499 runs @ 16.09. His best bowling, 7-48 and highest score of 60, were both achieved in 1977-78. Humayun is now settled in USA.

At club level, Abdul is very fond of sharing the memories of his unbeaten 180, on his way to enjoying a match-winning partnership with his friend Mushtaq Mohammed, who hit 122, in Karachi in the 1961-62 period. In his 18 first-class match career, Abdul scored 428 runs @ 21.40 with 4 fifties. As an occasional bowler, he claimed 4 wickets @ 15.25 with best figures of 2-23, achieved against Rawalpindi at Railways Stadium, Lahore, in the semi-final of 1963-64 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.
 
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.
 
Horse racing was another of his passions and at one time in the 1970s, Abdul owned no less than thirteen horses. Twice married, he has two sons, three daughters and 16 grandchildren. He remains one of the most respected figures in the social circles of Karachi.