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Aslam Qureishi - An Obituary

Sixty-six year old Mohammed Aslam Qureishi, former medium-fast swing bowler for Karachi and Habib Bank and part of the PCB curator team in Lahore, passed away on June 6, 2020 in Lahore.

He suffered a cardiac arrest in the period covid-19 had grown into a world-wide pandemic, including Pakistan.

Born in Karachi (Sind), Pakistan on February 3, 1954, Aslam as an upcoming paceman did create stir in his home city in tournaments run by Karachi Cricket Association (KCA).With a string of impressive haul of wickets for Karachi Port Trust (KPT), he was certainly one to watch. Turning out for National College, Karachi and Karachi University and armed with a natural outswing and effective yorker, he was often causing havoc, particularly on matting, to become a feared opponent.

Akhtar Quraishi, no relation to Aslam, was himself part of the Karachi club cricket in the late 1960s, and shared his memories, ‘It was 1968 when we both were with KPT and Aslam with his jolly nature and singing talent often accompanied me on a Yamaha scooter, from the old city to Kamari. At KPT we got paid Rs.13.50 twice in a month and used to head for Chandni Lounge at Pearl Continental Hotel for a meal. The friendships established through cricket were worth holding on to and it was a great time of our lives.’

Test all-rounder, Ejaz Faqih recalled his association, ‘Aslam Quresihi, a couple of years senior to me, was my neighbour in the Kokan Cooperative Housing Society and very helpful by nature. A thorough gentleman. Such was our keenness for cricket that we used to be on our bicycles heading for a sharp 2.30pm practice session, in Karachi’s searing heat.’

At 18, Aslam stepped into the first-class arena for Karachi Blues and was handed the new-ball by skipper, Asif Ahmed, in the 1969-70 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. He justified his inclusion with 4-38 in the second game against Lahore B at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore and went on to swing the bat merrily for 40 runs whilst adding 61 runs for the last-wicket with Azam Khan (21 not out) in his side’s first innings total of 267, so much so that he would feature in the Ayub Trophy as well with Karachi Blues, now much stronger with inclusion of five Test players in the squad. He would claim 5-11 against Rawalpindi Greens at Karachi and toiled hard for his figures of 3-131 (62 overs) against start-studded PIA in the final, his team lost.

In his third season, whilst representing Karachi Greens, in the 1971-72 BCCP Trophy, his 8-75 snatched an unlikely win by 17 runs against Sargodha at Lyallpur Stadium (now Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad). The opposition failed in their attempt to chase 177 on the final day, as Aslam ripped through the top order and ended with a career-best return. In the 1972-73 BCCP Patron’s Trophy, Aslam paired with left-arm seamer Liaqat Ali, to spearhead Karachi Blues, now led by Aftab Baloch. Their team were the winners of the tournament by beating Railways in the final at Lahore.

An offer from Habib Bank was an exciting proposition for Aslam as leading banks of the country were given affiliation to the BCCP by its head, A.H.Kardar. It began a new era of departmental cricket in Pakistan as Habib Bank entered the first-class set-up in 1975-76. Although it offered financial security when he joined them in 1975, Aslam’s cricket did suffer as the team often went into first-class games, with only one specialist new-ball bowler, instead banking their hopes on spinners - captain Abdul Raqeeb, Abdul Qadir and Javed Miandad.

Aslam returned to the playing eleven after a gap of almost two years and in 1979-80 BCCP Invitation Tournament, produced some of his best bowling spells at this level. Habib Bank, particularly on pitches in Punjab were now happy to have a three-man pace attack consisting of Liaqat, Aslam and Jamshed Hussain. In a clash against United Bank at Lahore, Aslam was on song with figures of 7-36 as the opponents were bowled out for 100 and he followed it up with 4-33 in the second innings to lead his side to a 9-wicket win.

His 11-wicket haul got his name amongst the national selectors for the Pakistan’s forthcoming tour of India but eventually it was Ehtesham-ud-din, who got the nod. On his day, his outswing was a main threat for batsmen which Aslam had honed very well in Karachi and during his league cricket experience in UK. Abdul Raqeeb, who also toured India in the winter, recalled, ‘Aslam was a very fine bowler with a natural outswing. The day I dropped three catches in slips off him in 1985, I knew I had to leave the game at first-class level. I soon packed my bags.’

Statistically, Aslam’s best season with the ball was worth 26 wickets @ 20.07 before his career drifted to an anti-climax end. Habib Bank, led by Javed Miandad, continued to sign new players and Aslam only got picked when conditions suited his bowling. He only bowled 13 overs in two innings in a heavy defeat against PIA in the 1986-87 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy at Lahore, which proved to be his last first-class outing.

More than a useful hard-hitting tail-end batsman, Aslam was capable of frustrating the opposition and there was evidence of that from the very first season. Later in his career, he would go on to reach the fifty mark on two occasions – an unbeaten 59 for Karachi Blues against National Bank at Bakhtiari Youth Centre, Karachi, at No.10 in the 1972-73 BCCP Patron’s Trophy and with a fighting 54 at No.9 as a top scorer in Habib Bank’s 215 all out, after being 98-7 when Aslam walked in against PACO at LCCA ground, Lahore.

Aslam was part of the 1983-84 Habib Bank squad that lifted its first Wills Cup – the country’s premier limited-overs tournament. In his 53-match first-class career (1969-70 to 1986-87), Aslam scored 800 runs @ 16.00, claimed 120 wickets @ 24.56 and 21 catches in the field. His selection and success for two major sides in domestic cricket – Karachi and Habib Bank – was testament to his quality as a cricketer.

Following Pakistan senior team’s historic unbeaten tour of England in 1974, Aslam was one of dozen players, along with Wasim Raja, Aftab Baloch, Javed Miandad, Mudassar Nazar, Shafiq Ahmed, Mohsin Khan, P.J.Mir, Anwar Khan, Arshad Pervez, Afzal Ahmed, etc. to be offered contracts to appear in league cricket in UK. Aslam would spend a number of summers in England as an all-rounder, initially with Daisy Hill and Roe Green in the Bolton & District Cricket Association Leagues. For the 1976 summer, he was snapped up by Radcliffe in the Central Lancashire League (CLL) and he proved himself to be a match-winning seamer, in the first three of his four seasons with the club. He kicked off with 85 wickets @ 15.54 to be followed by 95 wickets @ 13.24 in 1977 and 68 wickets @ 13.88 in 1978.

Azhar Khan, his Habib Bank colleague, pays his tribute, ‘Aslam was in the first batch when Habib Bank picked players for their squad to enter the first-class arena. He was competitive on the field but hilarious in the dressing room. One felt after his experience in England with Radliffe, his approach became more professional and his experience was fed into the rest of the Habib Bank squad.’

His long-term Habib Bank colleague Agha Zahid, was happy to accommodate Aslam in his team of PCB curators at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore. His official designation was Assistant Chief Curator, in which role he was employed by the Board in the period of 2009-20. He is survived by wife, three sons and a daughter.

The writer acknowledges the contribution of Abdul Raqeeb, Agha Zahid, Akhtar Quraishi, Azhar Khan and Ejaz Faqih, for the obituary.