The ancient city of Multan, as the hub of cricket in southern Punjab, ought to have produced many more international stars than they have, since emerging as Division, in the new administrative set-up in 1958.
The monopoly and indeed the domination of Multan Cricket Club (MCC), most observers will agree, has been the prime reason for stifling the talent pool in the region. The successive administration teams led by Maulvi Sultan Alam, Basharat Shafi and Israr Ali, all seemed prone to influence from outside the game, in order to holding on to their offices.
A ‘tug of war’ between the power-hungry cricket officials, ensured all the doors were slammed on Javed Ilyas, the first Multan-born player of international potential and later mentor to one of the greatest batsmen produced by Pakistan – Inzamam-ul-Haq. The all-rounder dejected and disheartened to such depths that not only he set fire to all his cricket gear and most of the memorabilia, he has also not set foot in any cricket ground in Multan, for the last few decades.
The game of cricket was the biggest loser in this scenario as Javed, an articulate individual, has been completed overlooked by Multan cricket authorities and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), despite number of assurances of being accommodated. Almost ‘forced’ to walk away from the game, the 65-year old has every reason to be bitter on the events of the last three decades, which has seen cricket in his home city, in serious decline. Now resident of Islamabad, without severing his ties with Multan, he at last opens up having previously resisted any temptation of seeking media attention.
Born on April 25, 1955, in a landowning family of Multan, Javed Ilyas’ father, Mohammad Ilyas Qureishi, was a government servant. Javed took to cricket at Cantonment Board HS (matriculation 1970-71) and would captain the school team and soon was a well-known figure. Besides cricket, he also took the opportunity to try his hand at football, which he played at the divisional level, besides keen participation in tennis, squash, hockey, badminton and table tennis. Whilst at Government College, Sahiwal (intermediate in 1972-73), in the inter-collegiate tournament, he competed with Bahawalpur’s Farooq Shera, his main rival in the southern Punjab. For his third year Javed got admission in Government College, Bosan Road, Multan.
‘In our city, due to a limited number of matches, we only had a small cricket circle and by 1968 , there were only three registered clubs i.e. MCC, Tariq CC and Crescent CC, in Multan. The entire All Pakistan Tournament was played on one decent ground, owned by MCC. As the leading club MCC only played at home, i.e. Multan Cricket Club Ground. We amongst our friends launched Sabria CC in the same year and managed to persuade my older brother, Ghyas Ilyas, to switch over from Crescent CC. In 1972-73 season we managed to get some space to have our nets in the local sports ground. It was all very un-organized but we were happy to have our own identity and our hard worked paid when we managed to beat MCC. We also took the team to Karachi, once a year.’
Domestic Cricket – 1st Half
By 1971-72 Javed was seen good enough to represent Multan which he did whilst making his first-class debut in the Patron’s Trophy. For few years he was given the new ball to bowl medium-pace in-swing, before the slow bowlers took over.
‘By 1972, Sabria CC had enough experience and team combination to beat MCC, which sparked noisy celebration from our supporters. The fire crackers and beating of the dhol (drum) still echoes in my ears. I believe it was the 1972-73 winter when I captained Multan in the Inter-Divisional tournament and we lost to Lahore in the final played at Bohranwala Ground in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad). The BCCP head, A.H.Kardar was the chief guest on the occasion and was surprised to see Multan possessing so much depth in talent despite being quite backward in facilities and infrastructure. It was an exciting contest and we lost by one wicket.’
After his selection in Punjab u-19, he was asked to sit out to allow a fellow player to appear in the final against Sind u-19 but in April 1974, Javed’s name came up for the Pakistan u-19 team that played against the touring Sri Lankan team at Multan. Run out for 12 on the opening day whilst batting with Javed Miandad, he stroked a confident 32 in the second innings. It was a period when the selectors very rarely looked beyond Karachi and Lahore and for 1974 Pakistan u-19 tour of England, Javed’s inclusion from Multan and Farrukh Zaman and Humayun Mirza from Peshawar, was nothing short of a shock.
‘Both manager Imtiaz Ahmed and his assistant Ghulam Mustafa Khan, were very kind to all us boys on the tour of England. I knew they both liked me for having attended a reputed school. We had a good squad and a number of players on the tour – Mudassar Nazar, Javed Miandad, Qasim Umar, Anwar Khan and Farrukh Zaman – went on to play internationals for Pakistan.’
In the 1974-75 Patron’s Trophy his top score of 69 in second innings failed to save Multan from a five-wicket defeat against Bahawalpur at Bahawalpur. Javed’s progress was steady rather than spectacular as in the same season, Javed was drafted into Punjab B for the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and at twenty-year old, was named captain of Multan for the 1975-76 season. In his very first innings in that role, he scored 72 against Income Tax Department at MCC Ground. At the same venue against the same opposition, Javed hit his only first-class hundred – unbeaten 102 in the 1977-78 Patron’s Trophy and put on 238 for the opening stand with Aftab Butt (151).
‘Despite resentment from certain quarters, I had the honour of leading Multan Division for almost a decade till 1985-86 season. At the beginning I was leading Multan which featured a number of senior players, not very mobile in the field and relied on their primary role to retain their position in the team. During this period we often challenged the big teams and came very close to beating Income Tax and PIA. The crucial decisions, so often the case in Pakistan domestic cricket, seemed to go in the favour of established teams. We were left to rue the missed opportunities and sub-standard umpring.’
Domestic Cricket – 2nd Half
Multan’s four-year absence from the first-class circuit, certainly held back the region as the cricket Board had decided in demoting Patron’s Trophy matches to simply as a qualifying stages for the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. In this period Javed suffered a number of blows when, despite being the city’s leading all-rounder was not considered for the side matches against touring teams – India 1978-79, Australia 1979-80, Australia 1982-83 and India 1982-83 – to the huge disappointment of the local crowd, which had always owned him as their own.
Javed’s non-selection also revealed that Multan Divisional Cricket Association (MDCA) had chosen not to back him. The big wigs of cricket in Multan, it seemed, still had not forgiven the all-rounder founding a cricket club – Sabria CC – in the 1970s, to challenge the stronghold of MCC, for decades, the only club of standing in the city with its own ground.
‘I was at the peak of my career at the time Australians arrived to play a three-day match at Ibn-e-Qasim Bagh Stadium, in March 1980. The squad practiced at MCC Ground and were staying in the Shezan hotel. The night before the match, I was assured of my name in the playing eleven and captain of the Punjab Governor’s XI, Shafiq Ahmed, said to me that as a local player you ought to bat well and score runs. On the morning it was a heart-wrenching feeling when, on the insistence of Basharat Shafi, Chairman MDCA, I was replaced with MCC’s own Bashir Kardar, the present curator at the new Multan Cricket Stadium, with an explanation that he had been included at the last minute, to acknowledge his services to the cricket in the region. The venue in the heart of the city attracted crowd in the region of 15,000, who did not have a nice word to say for Sahibzada Ibrahim, the then secretary of MDCA’
In the 1983-84 Patron’s Trophy clash against Karachi Greens at Sahiwal, Javed after taking a career-best 4-95 with his off-breaks, also top scored with 92 in his side’s first innings total of 274. In his 28-match first-class career (1971-72 to 1985-86), for Multan, Punjab and Zone B (Bahawalpur-Multan-Lahore), Javed scored 1232 runs @ 26.21 with one hundred and six fifties, he caught 28, and claimed 23 wickets @ 50.73.
In 1976, Javed joined MCB, Karachi, along with Qasim Umar, Nadeem Yousuf and Ilyas Khan but wasn’t picked for any first-class cricket for the bank and accepted a transfer to Multan. He would accept a golden handshake from MCB in 1996-97 winter.
With his own personal ambitions, now on the back burner, Javed was more focused on Multan. As a senior player he was happy to take youngsters under his wings as MDCA unearthed some very fine players that originated from Sahiwal, Khanewal and Burewala. Besides Manzoor Elahi, Masood Anwar, Shahid Anwar, Zahoor Elahi, Mushtaq Ahmed, Waqar Younis, Saqib Ali, Mohammad Zahid and Shabbir Ahmed, there was a real gem in Inzamam-ul-Haq, his own nephew.
All Pakistan Tournament
‘All Pakistan Tournament was a yearly event in Multan that attracted leading players from all parts of the country including Karachi, Lahore, Sialkot, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Sukkur, Khairpur, etc. It was hosted by MCC and kicking off in the late 1960s, lasted for almost 30 years. Its venue was only half a mile outside the old city and that guaranteed strong crowd participation. My very good friend, the late Ashiq Qureishi, used to bring a franchised-style team – Pepsi CC - made up of some of the biggest names in Pakistan cricket. Their team would go straight into the quarter finals. The huge expenses he paid to the players for maximum of three matches was I believe, at the expense of establishing a cricket academy in Multan, which in the long run would have been far more beneficial to the regional cricket.’
‘Although local Multan sides were the ones who got more crowd support, Pepsi CC won the title more than other teams. Ashiq belonged to an aristocratic Multan lineage but always chose to bring a side from Lahore, where he had business interests, and would accommodate the star players at the White House – the old family home. Sabria CC twice reached All-Pakistan final but found Pepsi CC, too strong.’
‘As his maternal uncle, I was happy to take Inzamam under my wings. At the same time I also came across Rizwan Sattar, who I felt was equally talented and on his day even more destructive than Inzamam. They were close friends, Grade VI students at Muslim HS and with great appetite for food, when they joined Sabria CC. In an inter-district clash, Rizwan smashed the ball to all parts of the ground.’
‘I was so proud of Inzamam’s selection, for the 1987-88 Youth World Cup in Australia and was happy to furnish him with the best available cricket gear so he looked the part at that level of the game. A year or so later I introduced him to Imran Khan, who had come to watch a cricket match at Ibne-e-Qasim Bagh, in the middle of his fund raising campaign in Multan. Though he was impressed with Inzamam, he called him and let him know that he would need to lose weight. Once he had done that that there was a confirmation of an invitation to a national camp. Previously he trained very little and didn’t fancy fielding as well. Soon it had to change, if he had any international ambitions.’
‘I made sure Inzamam understood how lucky he was to get an invitation from Pakistan captain. He was put on a diet plan which he didn’t like but had to go through with it. I made sure his batting technique got tighter and that he could then work on the range of strokes. Soon everyone noticed he pulled and hooked with so much ease. This he achieved when he was asked to bat, without a helmet, on a cement wicket against the two of the fastest bowlers in Sabria CC – Sultan Ijaz Dogar and Hasnain Baqri Naqvi - armed with new balls. I would stand behind him at a distance of 2-3 feet to make sure he didn’t back away, not even a millimeter. We saw him use those strokes so productively, often on the front foot, against Sri Lanka in the 1991-92 one-day series’
‘In 1992, after he had been named in the World Cup squad, I had a disagreement with Inzamam and to my disbelief, he not only left Sabria CC that had polished him from day one, he also persuaded 16 other players to do the same. The whole group of players went back to Combined CC. It was very hard for me to take and although I carried on for a little while but I was left with no option but to quit the game.
‘Soon I was off to USA (1999-2005) and it allowed me to focus on my family priorities. I am proud to share the fact that all three of my sons have done very well in their chosen careers, to provide myself and my wife with peace of mind. In fact their success has kept me on the right track and I have no reason to complain to my Allah.’
‘The construction of Multan Cricket Stadium and return of international cricket has been two great positives for the game in the city. The appointment of key positions in Multan district is still contentious and the registration of fake clubs for voting purposes, continue to this day. I would love to play a role in the development of cricket in Multan but my presence is likely to upset many, as I will be prepared to take difficult decisions for the uplifting of standard of cricket in my beloved city. In that regard, in not too distant past, I met both Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Multan and offered my services as a volunteer, but even that was not entertained.’
‘In Multan, Javed Miandad of all people said, ‘Javed Ilyas was better than me and was a victim of local politics.’. When picked for an u-19 tour of England, I was much more mature as a player, compared to other members of the squad. As a front-line batsman, who also bowled, I was considered a natural all-rounder for I was also one of the best fielders at the time. In the 1980s, MDCA also appointed me as a liaison officer in Multan, to both New Zealand and West Indies touring teams.
‘I was also Multan-based representative of Imran-Pepsi cricket clinic and also helped in fund raising on behalf of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital. Even then I have not been considered good enough to play a role in Multan cricket. I even tried through top-level politician to get me a suitable appointment to play a part in the promotion of cricket in Multan. I was also completely overlooked when I put forward my name as a manager of Multan Stadium.’
Javed’s playing career has been clearly overshadowed by the fact that he was denied the chance to show his talent. MDCA was not prepared to take him on even when he offered his services on volunteer basis. The justice surely has not been seen and his home town of Multan has completely ignored Javed.’
Azhar Khan – ‘I do remember Javed Ilyas accompanying us on Pakistan u-19 tour of England in 1974. Unfortunately as he was not in our first playing eleven, he didn’t get much opportunities on the tour and hence could not produce any outstanding performance. The game of cricket in those days was completely dominated by Karachi and Lahore and some of the hidden talents in small cities were lost due to that. I know Javed belonged to Multan and polished his skills by playing regular first-class cricket. But it is often quite difficult to evaluate a player who had far less exposure but I do recall on the England tour, he was one of the best fielders.’
Manzoor Elahi – ‘The players of my generation in southern Punjab, had tremendous respect for Javed Ilyas. In my first years at first-class level, I watched him bat, bowl and captain Multan. Standing next to him in the slips, gave me more opportunity to discuss the game. We were aware a player from Multan or Sahiwal would need to be twice as good to stand any chance for selection. We looked up to Javed and he supported us all the way. As a sober personality, to this day we address him as ‘Kaptaan’ and wish him well.’
Riwan Sattar – ‘Both Inzamam and myself owed it to Javed Ilyas, who supported us in our early days, when we were still at school. In Multan he was looked up for he had good reputation, both as a batsman and a captain. Javed was leading Multan on my first-class debut. He was an intelligent captain and encouraged the rest of us to appreciate the fine points of the game. It is a shame that he was not offered any administrative or coaching positions in the Board.