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Lawrence’s Legacy - An Obituary

Ben Lawrence, who passed away at the age of 81, in Karachi, on August 13, was one of the leading statisticians in world cricket and his role with Pakistan Television and Radio Pakistan was not far from what the great Bill Frindall did as part of the Test Match Special team in England.

Ben’s dedicated service to the game as a scorer and a statistician were of the highest standard, whilst fulfilling his professional role in the advertising world. Ben merits an obituary for his work as a representative of a minority Christian faith in Pakistan and one who never sought publicity for it.

Bernard Lawrence, was born in Lahore (Punjab), British India on June 28, 1939, before the family chose to settle in Karachi, where he would study at St Patrick’s High School and followed by Institute of Business Administration (IBA). A keen eye for detail was an attribute for Ben to emerge as the first cricket scorer and statistician of international standing, in Pakistan. It was all the more creditable in the pre computer era with Ghulam Mustafa Khan at BCCP (now PCB) as the only reliable source of accuracy of scorecards in both domestic and international cricket, in the country. Having adopted the latest and somewhat complex version of scoring sheets, that required six entries after each delivery, in 1976, Ben was at par with the official Pakistan scorers on the ground and the one operating electronic scoreboard.

Having joined PTV in 1970, in the days when only partial play was televised, Ben would go on to enjoy a career as a cricket scorer cum statistician for almost three decades. In this period he would work alongside a good number of commentators, who were household names, i.e. Omar Kureishi, Iftikhar Ahmed, Chishty Mujahid, Tariq Rahim, Shahzad Humayun, Munir Hussain, Hasan Jalil and Bashir Ahmed in addition to developing good rapport with Maqsood Ahmed, Shuja-ud-din, Fazal Mahmood, Hanif Mohammed, Intikhab Alam, Saleem Altaf etc. whilst appearing regularly as expert summarisers.

In 1972-73, Ben contributed 'Around the Globe' feature to The Cricketer (Pakistan), in the format years of the magazine. He met Geoffrey Saulez, a reputed scorer from England, during the 1974-75 Test series at home between Pakistan and West Indies and formed a friendship that was built on exchanging information from each other’s scoresheets. After the introduction of computers in the mid-1980s, two of his sons, were of great help to Ben in the transfer of all the data into an electronic format. He toured overseas and enjoyed interaction with international scorers during the two World Cup tournaments: 1983 in England and the 1992 in Australia and New Zealand.

Inspired by Frindall’s work on production of Test scorecards, Ben edited and compiled two books - Pakistan Test Cricket (1952-53 to 1988-89) and 195 Pakistan One-Day Internationals (1972-73 to 1989-90) – that remain to this day an outstanding reference material. In doing so, Ben made sure each and every international match played by Pakistan, received its due merit which perhaps Frindall and his contemporaries, didn’t deem it worthy. His legacy as a torchbearer in the game’s statistical minefield in Pakistan, has been taken forward with extreme care and diligent by the likes of of Gul Hameed Bhatti, Abid Ali Kazi, Nauman Badar and Saqib Irfan, to name a few.

In 1990, Ben shared his thoughts in an introduction to his book, ‘Some people might say I tend to over-burden myself by taking on unnecessarily difficult tasks. But then, for me challenge has always been the breath of life, and enlightening those who wish to acquire knowledge gives me the satisfaction of a job well done.’

Ben received several awards in the field of advertising whilst employed with some of the top organizations: MNJ Communications, Manhattan Pakistan, Argus Advertising, Spectrum Communications and Paragon Advertising. Buried in Karachi, he is survived by his wife and six children – Jeffrey, Zinnia, James, Petunia, Leslie and Jarvis.

Tributes

Omar Kureishi, whilst writing a foreword of Ben’s book in 1989, summed up his colleague’s style and contribution, ‘In the course of my broadcasting career, I have worked with all manner of statisticians including Arthur Wrigley, Roy Webber and the formidable Bill Frindall. Like the commentators with their distinctive styles, these statisticians had their own way of working. Some will not speak unless spoken to, others will be more forthcoming. Ben Lawrence is among the quiet ones, maintaining a low profile. But in every respect he is of the same calibre even more informed because he has developed an excellent equation with the players as well and manages to ferret out the most unlikely information from them. All of which he makes available to the commentators.’

Iftikhar Ahmed, leading cricket commentator, expressed his views, ‘I had a long association with Ben, firstly at Singer in Karachi and then in a commentary box. A quiet figure in the box, he was extremely diligent in his work and was not prone to mistakes. His contribution to the game certainly went beyond the scoring sheets and statistics and his dedication and professionalism was never compromised. Even in the very exciting moments, when one could be forgiven to be distracted, Ben, head down had an ability to focus on the minute details on his scoring sheet and missed very little.

‘No praise could be high enough for Ben worked on his own in the pre-computer days and in no time would reach out to his reference books for a confirmation or an answer, to a question asked by one of the commentators. I usually got a reply within a couple of minutes. A well-known figure but fame never went to his head and he was polite to all. He was well regarded and had close contacts in the media. Farewell to a true gentleman.’

Chishty Mujahid, a leading English cricket commentator, in his foreword of Ben’s second book in 1990, spoke very highly of Ben’s role, ‘I can tell you from experience that keeping records updated is a very rigorous and time consuming job. Mercifully all this changed in the early-seventies when a young, dedicated, philosopher looking, cricket crazy, quietly efficient and compulsively genial ‘scorer’ Bernard Lawrence, arrived in the commentators’ box. Once space had been made for Ben to display his two brief cases, I heaved a sigh of relief, took out the notes I had stuffed in my trouser pocket, tore them up with some delight and threw them away with undisguised glee. To this day I have depended on Ben and his ‘baggage’ for updated records.’

Tariq Rahim, well-known cricket commentator since 1968, ‘I had a long association with Ben Lawrence, who was a very nice man, starting in the early 1970s. He was the first professional cricket scorer and statistician in Pakistan in the days where one didn’t have technology to rely on. He was both organized and meticulous and that was an ideal combination for his role. His books and a bundle of notes, provided us with relevant information and with near enough perfect timing. Ben had a quite presence in the commentary box but we were all were fond of his pleasant manners and ever-smiling face. After his return from advertising work in Oman, I always addressed him as ‘Lawrence of Muscat.’

Taher Memon, the man behind Pakistan Tobacco Company’s 21-year (1977-98) sponsorship deals with the cricket Board, ‘One of the first regular treasure trove of statistical information of cricket and a quiet unassuming scorer in the commentary box for good three decades, Ben Lawrence was part of the commentary team in each and every international game played in Pakistan. Any commentary team travelling abroad for Radio commentary was incomplete without him.

‘I saw him as a highly dedicated professional having commitment to accuracy and vision to the expected information for any match. He was a digital arm of the TV and Radio broadcast of the time. Content with his role in electronic media, where he commanded respect due to his ever-smiling and humble presence, he seldom appeared in the Press.’

‘He was not only a role model but a motivational factor for the new generation of scorers and statisticians. An unsung hero, who played his role for the promotion of the game, as well as players, passed away quietly. It was unfortunate that with all my efforts to locate him for the launch of my book in March 2019, I could not track him down.’