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Khalid Wazir - An Obituary

Syed Khalid Wazir, the only survivor of Pakistan’s opening Test eleven against England at Lord’s in 1954, breathed his last on June 27, aged 85.

He peacefully passed away in Countess of Chester Hospital, having struggled to keep on top of multiple health issues.

Born in Jullundur (Punjab), British India, on April 27, 1935, cricket was very much in the blood for Khalid Wazir, as his father Syed Wazir Ali and uncle Syed Nazir Ali, were two of the leading Muslims’ players of the 1920s and not surprisingly featured in India’s first ever Test match, against England at Lord’s in 1932.

The family would move to Karachi, the capital of Pakistan – a newly independent state after the partition of the sub-continent, in 1947. Tall and athletic Khalid cut a dashing figure and attracted a large fan-base as he took to a number of sports at St. Patrick’s High School and competed on equal terms in a triathlon event with Leslie Vaz, from a well-known Goan family.

In no time Khalid would make a name for himself as an all-rounder, with a string of match-winning contribution, in the Rubie Shield inter-school cricket tournament in Karachi. In that period St. Patrick’s battled with Sind Madrassah for the top honours. At school he played under Wallis Mathias but was named to lead Pakistan Schools on the tour to Ceylon in 1953-54. Khalid continued to improve whilst at Pak Moghul CC, and performing roles of middle-order batsman and a right-arm medium-fast bowler.

Eyebrows were raised, when Khalid as an 19-year old, with only two prior first-class matches to his name and no participation in the inaugural Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, won selection for the 1954 tour to England, more so with his uncle Syed Nazir Ali, being one of the selectors. The two first-class matches he had played - both at Karachi Goan Association (KGA) - were of relatively ‘friendly’ nature. His first two victims being Hanif Mohammed (24) and Wazir Mohammed (2) – both clean bowled - for The Rest against Pakistan in March 1953.

Amazingly, picked as a front-line bowler for seaming England conditions, Khalid did not bowl at all in the two Test matches he featured in, when preferred over his Rubie Shield rival – Ikram Elahi. In the opening Test at Lord’s, with rain playing havoc, England’s only innings (117-9 declared) lasted for just 31 overs – bowled unchanged by Khan Mohammad and Fazal Mahmood. It was even a bigger surprise when Pakistan skipper, A.H. Kardar did not give Khalid a bowl at all in England’s innings of 359 for 8 declared off 129 overs, in the third Test at Nottingham.

Outside the Test matches, in the 14 games first-class matches, opportunities were again limited as England was in the middle of its wettest summer in fifty years. On a rare occasion that he was given a decent stint with the ball, he returned figures of 3-82 – his best in first-class cricket – against Combined Services at Army Ground, Catterick Garrison. He notched up his maiden fifty in scoring 53, coming in at number 7, against Derbyshire at Derby. His brief first-class career was over.

During the 1962 tour Khalid was summoned to the Pakistan side while performing well in league cricket in England, following the breakdown of a few of the pacemen. But lack of liaison between captain Javed Burki and administrators in Pakistan, denied him the opportunity to display his talents. Having stayed behind in England in 1954, eight years on and much wiser and experienced at 27, he would have fancied himself to do well for the national side but alas.

In 1955, Khalid took the field alongside Charles Barnett, Harold Gimblett, Frank Worrell and Sonny Ramadhin, in the two limited-overs matches for R.W.V.Robins’s XI against V.Mankad’s XI, in Colwyn Bay. In his only appearance in the Lancashire League, he picked up 5-57 for East Lancashire against Rawtenstall in 1957.

In 1960 playing as professional for Great Chell in the North Staffordshire and District League, Khalid scored 427 runs @30.50 and took 89 wickets @ 8.15, making his side Senior B Champions. In 1963 for Congleton in the same league he scored 403 runs @33.58 and also claimed 74 wickets at 9.70. The following summer he appeared for Nantwich and took 54 wickets at 13.57.

In 1950, whilst still at school, Khalid lost his father, Syed Wazir Ali, aged 46 leaving behind two sons and five daughters. Named after him, the Wazir Ali Summer League, no doubt with Syed Nazir Ali’s influence besides others, i.e. A.R.Cornelius, Jehangir Khan, Dilawar Hussain, Agha Ahmed Raza Khan, etc. was to remain one of the main prestigious tournament in Lahore’s club cricket and after being run so effectively for almost two decades, ran out of steam in the early 1980s.

Khalid’s death sadly leaves behind just Wazir Mohammad and Ikram Elahi – as the two survivors of Pakistan’s maiden Test tour of England in 1954.

Wazir Mohammed

‘Prior to the 1954 tour of England, Pakistan team was based in Bahawalpur for the trials and selection purposes. If I am not mistaken all three – myself, Alim-ud-din and Khalid Wazir – all scored hundreds in the trial matches, to guarantee our place in the final squad. As a son of Wazir Ali, Khalid had a cricketing knowhow and was picked primarily on his medium-pace bowling for English conditions. On reflection, I am bit saddened that the two teenagers – Khalid Hassan & Khalid Wazir – stayed behind in England and chose to pursue their careers, outside the game. Both were lost to Pakistan cricket.’

Ikram Elahi

‘Khalid Wazir was my rival in the days we competed against each other in the inter-school tournament – Rubie Shield. The cricket played at that level, in the 1950s, was much more intense than the Universities. St. Patrick’s had a good team with Khalid challenging the opposition with his all-round role. The matches held at venues such as Karachi Parsi Institute (KPI), Bai Virbaijee Sopariwala (BVS) School, Bohra Gymkhana, Karachi Goan Association (KGA) Ground, Jehangir Park and Patel Park, attracted large crowds, as all the students of the competing schools, were given a day off, leading to a great atmosphere in the school cricket matches. On the 1954 tour of England, I found Khalid to be quite reserved but very focused on learning from the experienced players..’

Khalid settled in England after the 1954 tour and was involved in the Business Management Insurance sector with Canada Life. He distanced himself from the affairs of Pakistan cricket and was contented with his low-key presence in Chester. Khalid is survived and was very much loved by his wife Kitie and step-son, step-daughter, family and friends.

The writer is much indebted to Khalid Wazir’s wife Kitie, Dr. Mohammed Hussain Baluch, Wazir Mohammed and Ikram Elahi, for their assistance in the obituary.