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Kafiluddin Ahmad - The Miracle Man

Denis Compton with young Mushtaq and Sadiq Mohammed at his resident nets - Karachi 1950.
Denis Compton with young Mushtaq and Sadiq Mohammed at his resident nets - Karachi 1950.
With M.I.Merchant
With M.I.Merchant
A Portrait
A Portrait
A Portrait
A Portrait

On the day that the National Stadium, Karachi (NSK) celebrated its 66th birthday as an international cricket venue, it was time to remind ourselves of the brains behind its creation, back in the amateur days of the game in 1955.

The installation of a special plaque to salute and honour Kafiluddin Ahmad, a civil engineer and sports administrator par excellence, was a case of better late than never.

The PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani, once reminded of the original marble plaque having ‘vanished’ during the refurbishment of the NSK in the early 1980s, ensured that the necessary was done. He not only made sure a new replacement plaque was installed during the PSL6 event but also invited Mr Kafiluddin’s son: Hyder to be present on the occasion.

Hyder recalls

‘Yes, I accompanied Abbu (father) to the office-cum-residence of Mr A.T. Naqvi, the-then Chief Commissioner, Federal Capital, Karachi, in November 1954. Abbu held the opinion that we could not possibly play India in a Test at the Karachi Gymkhana; our country’s honour was at stake. Although Mr Naqvi and many others thought Abbu was crazy in entertaining such thoughts since the Test match in Karachi between Pakistan and India was scheduled to be held during the last week of February 1955, barely over three months away, once Abbu got Mr Naqvi’s nod to go ahead, he took my hand and whisked us out of the Chief Commissioner’s office, not even waiting for the sharbat (cold drink) that was on offer.’

‘Such was Abbu’s determination that on the same evening he started making phone calls to contact all the professionals he needed for the ambitious project. The very next day, work was started on a 200-acre plot of land on Dalmia Cement road by the contractors – Gammon Pakistan Ltd and Sheikh Gulzar Ali – and Abbu made sure he visited the site for a daily inspection. He simply could not leave anything to chance and almost miraculously, with the help of the officers of the Pakistan PWD and against all odds, was able to achieve his mission in just over three months. The purpose-built National Stadium hosted the fifth and final Test of the 1954-55 series with the respective sides led by A.H. Kardar and ‘Vinoo’ Mankad.’

Born on November 13, 1913 in Mymensingh in East Bengal (British India), Kafiluddin Ahmad qualified as a Civil Engineer from Calcutta University in 1937.He qualified for the prestigious Indian Engineering Service (IES) and, in his initial service years during World War II, was posted in Bushehr, Iran and in Bahrain and Dubai in the Middle East.

Following a three-year period in Dacca (now Dhaka) as Executive Engineer, Pakistan Public Works Department (Pak PWD), where he also had the honour of being the founder-secretary of the Institution of Engineers Pakistan (IEP) at an inaugural function graced by the presence of Mr M.A. Jinnah, the Governor General of Pakistan, Kafiluddin arrived in Karachi in 1950 to join as the Superintending Engineer, Administration Circle, Pakistan PWD, responsible for the development of the-then federal capital of Pakistan. This proved to be a turning point in his life, for it was here that he would make his name as a noted civil engineer and patronise the game of cricket in the newly independent Muslim state of Pakistan which in 1947 was carved out of British India.

Hyder recalls,

‘Our government residence in one of the MES Bungalows all of which had large compounds and were situated across Bunder (now M.A. Jinnah) road from Jacob Lines, allowed Abbu the luxury of adequate space to set up a proper practice cricketing net at home. Almost all of Pakistan’s leading cricketers including Hanif Mohammad, Waqar Hasan, Alim-ud-din, Ikram Elahi, Anwar Elahi, Nasim-ul-Ghani, Haseeb Ahsan, Mohammad Munaf and Salim-ud-din, honed their skills here, more so in the off-season. Not only that, most of the above-named were provided jobs at Pak PWD, which at that time only featured in the local Karachi Cricket Association (KCA) League. A few years down the line, Antao D’Souza (my classmate at St. Patrick’s School), Shahid Mahmood, Mahmood-ul-Hasan and Asif Iqbal were also on the Pak PWD payroll, and the departmental team achieved first-class status in 1964 which allowed it to participate in Pakistan’s domestic cricket.’

During the 1950s, Mr Kafiluddin was a Vice-President of KCA at a time when cricket in Karachi was being administrated by people of the calibre of Adam Ali Alvi, Saeed Ahmed Khan, Essa Jaffer, Suleman Jaffer and B.D. Jagus. It was also the time when Kafiluddin as the patron-in-charge of the Pak PWD cricket team had employed Idrees Baig, Test umpire, as Sports Officer to manage the team.


In 1957 the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) held its first six-week long summer camp at NSK for talented cricketers from all the leading universities in Pakistan. It proved a grand success for the likes of Saeed Ahmed, Ijaz Butt, Nasim-ul-Ghani and Haseeb Ahsan, who not only came to the selectors’ attention but were deemed good enough to be picked for the 1957-58 tour of Pakistan’s cricket team to the West Indies. Impressed with the initiative, Kafiluddin, the very next summer extended the invitation to also include talented school and college students from around the country. The fourth and last such summer camp was held in 1962 and, Kafiluddin was often present to keep an eye on the progress of the players.

Hyder adds

‘I recall watching Abbu supervising the preparations on the eve of the summer camp as I was also amongst the attendees, along with cricketers such as Asif Ahmed, Mahmood-ul-Hasan, Masood-ul-Hasan, Masood ‘Chik’ Akhtar, in 1961. Abbu insisted on strictly merit-based selection across both the wings of Pakistan for the total batch of 150 enthusiastic cricketers. He not only ensured that the boys were tutored and assessed by leading cricket coaches of the country such as Master Abdul Aziz, Maqsood Ahmed and Nazar Mohammad, but that they also took away great memories of the event. Besides NSK, matches were also played amongst the camp attendees at the Sind Madrassah School ground. Abbu’s keen attention to grassroots cricket stemmed out of his genuine desire to see young talent flourish but he never ever sought any publicity or reward in return.’

Hyder adds

‘Abbu was associated with the Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan (BCCP) in its inception period and, as long as the Board’s head office remained in Karachi, he along with Group Captain M.M.A. Cheema and Mir Mohammad Hussain, rose to the challenge of running the BCCP in the key positions assigned to them. Abbu was the Honorary Treasurer and Member of the Executive Committee of the BCCP during 1954-57. We also had the opportunity to host at our home besides others three foreign stars: Denis Compton, Keith Miller and Syed Mushtaq Ali, who were either arriving or stopping over in Karachi.’

East Pakistan

‘In 1963 when Abbu was posted to East Pakistan to build the second capital of the country at Dacca (Dhaka), we as a family moved with him. Although the main Pak PWD cricket team remained in Karachi, Abbu invited some half a dozen players including Naushad Ali, Mufassir-ul-Haq, Mahmood-ul-Hasan, Rehman Ali, Atiq-ul-Ghani etc to Dhaka to strengthen the local Pak PWD cricket team for a number of tournaments. The Pak PWD team received BCCP affiliation to play first-class cricket in 1964, and all-rounder Shahid Mahmood was its first captain. There had not previously been any urge to enter domestic cricket as the Pak PWD players were getting exposure whilst representing various Karachi teams.’

Kafiluddin’s interest in the game lasted till the late 1960s and during this period the Pak PWD team was led by Nasim-ul-Ghani, followed by Saeed Ahmed. Strengthened with the inclusion of stars such as Alimuddin, Ikram Elahi and Intikhab Alam and the rapid development of players such as Zaheer Abbas, Naushad Ali, Masood ‘Chik’ Akhtar, Atiq-ul-Ghani, Ijaz Hussain, Aftab Baloch, Niaz Ahmed, Rehman Ali, Khalid Rafiq, Shahbaz Baig and Tehsin Javed, Pak PWD continued to challenge the best teams in the country.

Probably the only player to represent the Pak PWD in non-first-class matches without being on the payroll was Abdul Dyer - who always speaks very highly of Kafiluddin as a ‘great man’. He also captained the team for a short while. Although the Pak PWD team enjoyed the advantage as the only team to have its nets at NSK with Kafiluddin being still in charge of the stadium, the downside was that many of the upcoming talented youngsters were easily spotted and often ‘poached’ by either the KCA or PIA. Though it was located far outside the city at that time, KCA league fixtures at the stadium nevertheless attracted a couple of hundred spectators.

Kafiluddin also had an interest in other sports and had accepted office and/or chair of several other sports bodies including football, hockey, squash, cycling, etc, but cricket seemed to have a softer spot in his heart than others. On the day of his death, November 28, 1985, he had played two sets of tennis with his friends but, a short while later, still on the tennis court, suffered a heart attack that took him on his onward journey to the heavens, bringing an end to a life that for the best part epitomized the tireless work principles laid out by M.A. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. As Abbu’s old friend: Dr M. Sharif commented after signing the death certificate that evening, ‘I think he went as he would have liked to go, with his tennis shoes on’.

Down Memory Lane

Wazir Mohammad

‘Kafiluddin was an extraordinary man and in my view, he along with Justice A.R. Cornelius, K.R. Collector and Soli Mehta, will go down as the father of Pakistan cricket. He had a cricket net at his house that was visited by all the Karachi-based players of the Pakistan team, including myself. Once we had Denis Compton amongst us and we were all keen to listen to his experience as a top-class international player. We simply can’t forget Kafiluddin’s contribution in the early days of our country’s cricket and his role in the building of National Stadium, Karachi, was nothing short of a miracle.’

‘He was very fond of my younger brother Hanif Mohammad and loved to see him develop into a world-class batsman. Besides that, he enrolled a number of other cricketers with Pak PWD, with a wage packet waiting for them at the end of the month, without doing a day’s work. It was simply his way of showing his appreciation of the cricketers and providing them with a financial incentive. Although not a cricketer himself, Kafiluddin took great satisfaction in seeing that players were provided with the right environment and taking up the opportunities to reach their potential.’

Hanif Mohammad

in his autobiography, ‘Playing for Pakistan’ (1999)

‘In 1951, Mr Kafiluddin, then Superintending Engineer of the Pakistan Public Works Department (PPWD) and a great benefactor of sports, offered me employment in his organization, which I joined as a Road Inspector. He hailed from the-then East Pakistan and was a person who assisted the players by providing them jobs in his department, giving them the opportunity to play for Pak PWD. My financial worries were now over. Due to his support and patronage, I was able to pay undivided attention to cricket, and was included in the team that played against the MCC in 1951-52. This earned me recognition as a player of ability. A lot of my colleagues, along with my brothers, also went to the nets which were put up in his backyard.’

Mushtaq Mohammad

in his autobiography, ‘Inside Out’ (2006)

‘Another stepping stone to my Test status was my first job in the Pakistan Public Works Department (Pak PWD) where my brother Hanif was employed. He recommended me as a promising young cricketer, but they refused to employ me as they couldn’t employ anyone under eighteen and I was very young, probably just twelve years old at the time. Then they found a way out by offering me a ‘scholarship’. However, even that scholarship had to be justified in some way and my ‘services’ to the organization had to be entered into the employees’ register. So they designated me a ‘cement clerk’. I was Mushtaq Mohammed, cement clerk, on scholarship!


‘My first interaction with Mr Kafiluddin, dates back to 1957, when Alimuddin asked me to attend the nets at Mr Kafiluddin’s home opposite Jacob Lines. In fact I owed my selection for the West Indies tour to those net sessions, as bowling to the leading Test batsmen – Hanif Mohammed, Waqar Hasan, Alimuddin, Wazir Mohammad and A.H. Kardar – provided me the means to measure myself and present myself to the selectors. Thereafter, I was made an offer to join PWD and subsequently was also appointed the captain, replacing Hanif Mohammad. I remained with PWD till 1972 and during this period it served as a major nursery for talented players. PWD was proud of the fact that it could feed players to PIA, banks, and even Karachi and they would then go on to eventually represent Pakistan.’

‘The PWD management which also included Test umpire Idrees Baig since the 1950s, never stopped any player from leaving if they were offered better terms elsewhere. With a number of players, including Waqar Hasan, Mahmood Hussain, Shuja-ud-din, Munir Malik, Saeed Ahmed, Pervez Sajjad, etc., arriving in Karachi from Punjab, there was an even bigger pool of players to absorb for Karachi, PIA and Pak PWD – the three top teams in Pakistan’s domestic cricket. As captain, I had been given a free hand to induct players and Intikhab Alam, Asif Iqbal and Zaheer Abbas, got recognition from the Pak PWD platform.’

‘When Kafiluddin was posted to East Pakistan, he called me over. His vision was to get some experienced Karachi players to take part in the development programme of cricket in East Pakistan. With that in mind, myself, Rehman Ali, Naushad Ali, Mahmood-ul-Hasan, Masood -ul-Hasan, Muttaqi Hasan and Mufassir-ul-Haq were more than happy to engage in developing the game there and to represent East Pakistan. The team was led by Abdul Latif, a local, and it won a Quaid-e-Azam Trophy match against Karachi Whites, captained by Saeed Ahmed. As a result of the six-month presence of Karachi players, the cricket activities in Dhaka produced local players such as Niaz Ahmed and Abdul Latif and pace bowler Daulat Zaman, who were all invited to the national camp. Besides this, East Pakistan also benefited at that time from the presence there of A.H. Kardar and Maqsood Ahmed, who both appreciated Kafiluddin’s commitment to the development of young talent.’

Ikram Elahi

‘Kafiluddin was a very fine gentleman and used to attend the matches played by PWD, where he was one of the top engineers. The practice net at his residence was used by all the leading players of Pakistan, including Hanif Mohammad, Alimuddin and Waqar Hasan. He had appointed Test umpire Idrees Baig as the Pak PWD sports officer, who made sure all the players were looked after and in good spirits. Kafiluddin would also invite us to his office from time to time, and made sure the players were paid their monthly wages on time. Short in height, standing barely at five feet, he was blessed with a strong desire to do a great deal for Pakistan cricketers.’


‘Mr Kafiluddin made a great contribution to Pakistan cricket, and I was fortunate enough to watch him from close quarters during my association with the Pak PWD team. I was a student at Sind Muslim College, Karachi in 1964 when I was invited to join the Pak PWD team by Idrees Baig, the Sports-in-charge. The team already featured players like Nasim-ul-Ghani and Shahid Mahmood, as it prepared for its entry into Pakistan’s first-class domestic cricket. I had the honour of being selected in its first ever line-up, against Bahawalpur in the 1964-65 Ayub Zonal Trophy.’

‘As employees of Pak PWD, we were all given designated titles but were only required to focus on our cricket. I found Kafiluddin to be a very decent human being and his providing of a matting wicket at his government residence was the start of his love affair with Pakistan cricket. Despite offers of substantial increment in wages by bosses of the Karachi Cricket Association and others to change my allegiance, I simply could not desert Kafiluddin. I was one of the players he asked to come over to Dhaka, when he was transferred to East Pakistan. We also had A.H. Kardar, who valued Kafiluddin both as a friend and a cricket administrator, coming to PWD net practice and matches. I also led PWD in the absence of senior players.’

Masood ‘Chik’ Akhtar

‘I was offered employment with Pak PWD by its captain, Nasim-ul-Ghani, whilst I was touring Dhaka, capital of East Pakistan, with PIA. We all knew how influential Kafiluddin was as a senior engineer and one of the top bosses at Pak PWD. In those days the National Stadium, Karachi (NSK), was under the supervision of Pak PWD. The players were dealing with Idrees Baig, who was responsible for the welfare of the players. He used to join us in the nets, along with Kafiluddin and it was always good fun to have them around. Through the efforts of Kafiluddin, Pak PWD created employment for cricketers in Karachi on similar lines to that being done by Railways in Punjab.’

Khalid Rafiq

‘I was appointed as Road Inspector in Pak PWD in 1962 while pursuing my Masters in International Relations. Kafiluddin Sahib saw me for a minute to approve my candidature. He was a gem of a person and loved sportsmen from the core of his heart. We would practice in his bungalow as well as the National Stadium which was managed by his department. I remember vividly when we visited East Pakistan to play Quaid-e-Azam trophy against East Pakistan. We stayed in the second capital MNA's rest house – a luxurious place. He came over and instructed the management to take all possible care of his cricketers. The team was captained by Nasim-ul-Ghani and?had some upcoming youngsters in the squad. He would feel happy on our winning matches. Apart from that, he was always at hand to help solve the cricketers’ problems without any personal gain. This became obvious when he opted to stay back after the fall of Dacca and lived in his house in Nazimabad Block 4, - his only asset.‘

Izhar Siddiqi

‘I was offered to appear in Pak PWD trials after its sports officer, Idrees Baig, had watched me score 99 on my first-class debut, for Karachi University against Quetta at Karachi Parsi Institute (KPI) Ground in the 1964-65 Ayub Trophy. I was happy to be given the opportunity and knew that the final approval though came from Kafiluddin Sahib. I had known him through my attendance in the 1961 month-and-a–half-long camp at the National Stadium for promising cricketers from educational institutions and was as good as one, run for the national Pakistan team.’

‘Prior to my joining Pak PWD in 1966, Kafiluddin Sahib had extended his hand to a number of cricketers, including the great Hanif Mohammad. The department was the third behind Railways and PIA, to gain affiliation with the BCCP. Our employment with Pak PWD in salary and rank was equal to any Government clerical position, the only difference being that we were not expected to do any official work, and Kafiluddin Sahib had made it quite clear that cricketers were just to report to Idrees Baig at the National Stadium, practice regularly and be available for the matches.’

‘During this period, Kafiluddin Sahib called a number of players to Dacca and I represented Pak PWD in both Kardar Summer Cup and Sher-e-Bengal Cricket Tournament. I was also part of the Pak PWD squad that twice overpowered a strong PIA team in domestic cricket and was appointed its captain in the 1969-70 Ayub Trophy, replacing Saeed Ahmed, who had been banned by the cricket Board. A soft-spoken gentleman, Kafiluddin Sahib, often came to watch our matches and motivated us to better ourselves, both individually and collectively. His services to cricket in the first two decades of what then was a united Pakistan, shall remain a source of inspiration for future generations.’

The writer is indebted to Hyderuddin Ahmad and all other contributors for the article.