Masood Chik - The High-flying Bird
Amongst the Pakistan cricketers, now expatriate, Masood Chik stands at the summit alone, for his highly impressive sporting portfolio.
After representing his adopted homeland in cricket, he has held a number of distinguished positions in administration of the game in USA, where he arrived in 1972 after a decade-long presence in the Pakistan domestic scene, as a competent middle order batsman for Pakistan Education Board, Karachi, PWD and PIA.
A qualified sports health professional, the 74-year old Masood is a resident of Glendale Heights, a Chicago suburb and as a fitness buff with 12 Chicago marathons to his name, continues to enjoy the benefits of a regimental routine and nutrition-based diet.
Born in Delhi (British India) on August 18, 1946 and sixth in line amongst eleven siblings, Syed Masood Akhtar accompanied his family which in 1948 chose to migrate to Karachi, the capital of Pakistan, a new Muslim state.
‘Our father Syed Mumtaz Hussain, an educationist and one of the founders of Ayesha Bhawani school, would then take up an appointment of Head Master (Principal) of Marie Colaco. I was a student of PECHS and with cricket in mind switched over to Government Secondary High School, Jacob Lines and represented it in the Rubie Shield inter-school tournament. I had the highest batting aggregate in 1959-60, including a hundred against Marie Colaco with Mushtaq Mohammed and Masroor Mirza in the opposition’
Masood was present at Karachi Parsi Institute (KPI) to witness Karachi’s Hanif Mohammad creating a new first-class individual record of 499, overtaking Don Bradman’s 452 scored in 1929-30, ‘I never played at KPI but followed the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy with interest as Jamil Khalid, my cousin was representing Bahawalpur. The ground was about 4-5 miles from my house and I happily walked. I remember Hanif being run out and I thought it was quite close and was surprised when umpire Daud Khan, raised his finger. I would later have the honour of playing under the captaincy of the great Hanif Mohammad, both at Pak Crescent and PIA.’
When only 15, Masood was identified as one with the batting potential and invited to the 1961 summer cricket camp held at National Stadium, Karachi, by Pakistan Sports Board (PSB). The three-man coaching team included Master Abdul Aziz, Nazar Mohammad and Alim-ud-din. It was during the camp that Masood got the name of ‘Chik’ translated from Urdu word ‘Chooza’ first referred by Mahmood-ul-Hasan, for being the youngest and the shortest among the 25 players. To this day he is referred as Masood Chik. Shortly afterwards, cancellation of Pakistan Combined Schools tour of Ceylon was a blow to all selected, including Masood.
Masood, introduced by a school friend Taj-ul-Hasan joined Shaheen Cricket Club, run by Riaz Sheikh, in good terms with former Pakistan captain A.H.Kardar, with matches played in the PECHS society ground. By the time Masood took the field, in his second year, for D.J. Science College (1961-64) team, captained by Salah-ud-din ‘Balli’, he had made a name for himself in the Karachi cricket and not surprisingly received an invitation to join Pak Crescent, run by Saadat Ali BhaiJan, with the three Mohammad brothers – Hanif, Mushtaq and Sadiq in the side. In 1968, on Pak Crescent’s four week-long tour of East Pakistan, Masood hit two hundreds in the Sher-e-Bengal tournament, impressing Nasim-ul-Ghani for him to put forward an offer to join PWD. He was happy to accept Rs.99/ a month salary and returned to West Pakistan by air.
With cricket ambitions still running high, Masood enrolled at Islamia College and would represent Karachi University in the Pakistan Inter-University Championship, scoring a hundred against Peshawar and 70 against Punjab.
1964 NATIONAL CAMP
In six months’ time, after the PSB camp, Masood represented Pakistan Education Board in the 1961-62 Ayub Trophy and would catch the eye of Karachi Cricket Association (KCA) selectors, who backed him and Ghulam Abbas for the national camp, held for the selection of 1964-65 Pakistan tour of Australia and New Zealand. During the duration of the camp, the captaincy of Pakistan changed hands with Hanif Mohammad, taking over from Imtiaz Ahmed. Masood describes his experience.
‘In the 25-day long camp, to my utter disbelief, I was never once asked by the selectors to bat in the nets. All I did was fielding. Despite being cold shouldered I still scored 50 in a practice match between Pakistan vs The Rest at the end of the camp and that was very satisfying. Having done athletics at school, I was one of the best outfielders in the camp, a fact acknowledged by senior journalist, Anwar Hussain, in Dawn. In 1979 when I met Khalid Ibadullah in Birmingham and mentioned the 1964 camp, he said. ‘What was your role? It made me chuckle.’
In the 1964-65 season, Masood was ready to show his worth and prove his selection for Karachi, to be led by former Test player Waqar Hasan. With a number of hundreds in the KCA leagues, he was included in the Karachi team, on the insistence of his skipper. In the first game of the Ayub Trophy against Karachi University at Karachi, he scored 112 (14 fours), coming in at number six and sharing two profitable stands: 109 for the 5th wicket with Wallis Mathias (109) and 130 for the 6th wicket with Salahuddin (86). In the final against Lahore Education Board at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore, despite demotion to number eight, he still managed to hit 116 and added 127 runs for the 8th wicket with Wasim Bari (35), to raise his side’s total to 516, leading to an innings and 91 runs win.
Masood’s good run win the bat continued in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. Now representing Karachi Blues and sent one-down against Bahawalpur at Karachi, he scored 113. His team went on to beat Lahore Greens in the final at Karachi and Masood had a unique honour of being part of the winning sides in both major first-class domestic tournaments, in his first full season. His three hundreds in five innings, certainly represented a pretty good run with the bat.
The 1965 Indo-Pakistan war had an adverse effect on the domestic cricket to leave the cricketers short on competitive cricket. On his return to first-class cricket after an absence of 21 months, in January 1968 Masood scored 47 for Karachi Whites against Bahawalpur at Bahawalpur in the Ayub Trophy. He was picked for two three-day matches against the 1967-68 Commonwealth touring team. With scores of 26 not out and 48 for Pakistan Universities against an international bowling attack featuring Richie Benaud and Ken Shuttleworth, at PU Ground, Lahore, Masood could look forward to more opportunities from national selectors but it was not to be.
In the first of his two seasons with Pakistan Works Department (PWD), Masood featured in the top order alongside, skipper Saeed Ahmed, Zaheer Abbas, Ijaz Hussain, Mahmood-ul-Hasan and Rehman Ali. In the 1969-70 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, his innings of 71 included 148-run stand for the 5th wicket with, Aftab Baloch (104) in his side’s massive total of 714, against Quetta at Racecourse Ground, Quetta. His side lost to full strength PIA, comprising of nine Test players and the other two to make their debut few weeks later against New Zealand, in the final at Karachi by 195 runs.
An offer to join PIA, the top side in the domestic cricket, was considered a lucky break and Masood had little hesitation in accepting it. The PIA management, in view of the size and depth of its squad, was able to persuade the BCCP to include its two teams in the first-class tournaments. The first XI, if you like, was more or less made up of top Test players and the remaining players made up PIA ‘B’. In 1970-71, Hanif Mohammad and Mohammad Munaf, were leading the two PIA teams, respectively.
In what turned out to be his last first-class innings, Masood top scored with 73 for PIA ‘B’ against his old team-mates at PWD, but could not save his side from a defeat at Karachi.
Masood in his first-class career (1961-62 to 1971-72) of 33 matches, scored 1408 runs @ 33.52 with three hundreds and five fifties, caught 15 and picked up 4 wickets @ 54.25 with a best of 2-34.
Pakistan’s ace batsman, Zaheer Abbas, a close friend of Masood, recalls the 1960s, ‘I would say Chik was Karachi’s Don Bradman, for he was a prolific run-getter at all levels of cricket in the city. No wonder his picture was often to be found in newspapers covering KCA-run leagues and that was a big achievement in those days. I watched him with interest and would stand next to Chik to listen to his thoughts on the game. He was a very good batsman and along with Masood-ul-Hasan, two of the best fielders in Karachi. Chik with better luck could have played for Pakistan. On top of his cricket skills, he followed the going fashion and always dressed well. I am pleased he is leading a happy retired life in USA.’
With a number of his siblings already settled in USA and Canada, Masood with his cricketing ambitions not fulfilled in Pakistan, followed suit. Initially arriving in Chicago in state of Illinois in 1972, Masood now 25, was more focused on his career though it didn’t stop him to play for Greater Chicago against the touring Ireland team in 1973. In 1976, his debut for USA was against Canada at Philadelphia in the Auty Cup that represents the oldest international cricket rivalry dating back to 1844, older than The Ashes between England and Australia that kicked off in 1882. Masood’s 23 runs in a 51-run sixth-wicket stand with skipper Don Weekes (66 not out) carried USA to a narrow two-wicket win.
Once he had attained a license to practice as a physical therapist, he was now a professional in the medical sphere and keen to resume cricket which he did so by accompanying USA team to England to play in the 15-nation 1979 ICC Trophy. It was a ground-breaking moment for USA, as an affiliate member of ICC and the composition of the team understandably was heavily reliant on expatriate from India, Pakistan and the West Indies, especially Guyana. Besides Masood, Kamran Rasheed (now Kamran Khan) and Hasib Khan, were the other player of Pakistani ancestry. Both Masood and Kamran, were present in the 1982 ICC Trophy too.
In his four decades of cricket administration, Masood refused to duck any challenge and is deservedly admired for that. In 1982 he had two-year stint as Vice President of the Central Zone and in 1996 elected as the President of USA Cricket Association (USACA) a role in which he remained for three years. In that period he was responsible for great strides in the infrastructure of the game, including securing World Tel sponsorship for USA. He also managed the USA team’s tour to Karachi in 1998 that played matches against PIA, UBL, Karachi Gymkhana and Asghar Ali Shah CC, before heading for ICC Trophy in Malaysia.
Masood was chairman of the selection committee (2000-04) whilst Kamran Khan was President of USACA in 2000-01. It was Bob Woolmer, present in UAE as ICC High Performance Coach, whose timely tip to overtake Scotland’s net run-rate, helped USA to lift the 2003-04 ICC six-nation Challenge Trophy, with a prizemoney of $160,000, and qualification to play in the 2004 Champions Trophy. Understandably one of the proudest moments for Masood, who had accompanied the USA team as a physiotherapist.
Masood twice responded to an SOS call from Pakistan team when contacted by vice-captain Javed Miandad, for his consultation over the fitness of players. The first occasion was in 1989 when Imran Khan was leading Pakistan in a series of exhibition matches against India in Canada and USA and on the second occasion, he arrived a few days prior to the 1992 World Cup final in Melbourne.
He accompanied the national team that became champions of the Americas in the ICC World Cricket League Americas Region Division One 2008-09. In 2015 as the Regional Director of USA Womens cricket, he worked with Haroon Rasheed at PCB in inviting Pakistan womens team to tour USA and each member of the team was offered 5-year visa entry to the country. In his 30 years at Oak Forest Hospital of Cook County in the rehabilitation centre, Masood has treated and comforted the USA cricket players.
In 2010 Masood was serving as Regional Representative (Central East) of USACA and in the same year he became only the second Pakistani, after Mushtaq Mohammad, to be inducted in US Cricket Hall of Fame. This award was to honour his life-long commitment to the game and a number of achievements as a player, administrator and above all as a physiotherapist of the USA national team.
Masood has also been a recipient of 'ICC Medal of Honour’ ‘Catch the Spirit’, primarily for organising free youth clinics in various suburbs and helping to provide playing fields for local cricket leagues. Masood has also hand in forming eight leagues in the Central East Region, which is made up with seven states of USA.
According to Masood, ‘ICC over the years have not been very complimentary of the political take in the USA cricket, which even to this day is still being run by men originating from India, Pakistan or the Caribbean Islands. In light of the corruption charges against it, in September 2017 the ICC Board suspended the membership of USACA with immediate effect and expressing ‘significant concerns about the governance, finance, reputation and cricket activities of USACA. It also meant the cutting off of the ICC funding. I believe ICC is to be blamed for insisting and interfering in the making of a new constitution. The national governing body for all cricket in the USA has been rebranded as USA Cricket in 2019 but for me, it is merely a cosmetic change.’
Despite some high points which included its participation, as the first associate member, in the ICC Champions Trophy 2004 held in England, USA cricket has failed in their bid to reach the level it has desired and hoped for. Its domestic cricket consists of limited-overs leagues and inter-state tournaments but still no sign of three-day first-class cricket. In April 2019 USA has re embarked on its journey with matches against other associate members, in the ICC World Cup League Two.
The author acknowledges the contribution of Zaheer Abbas, Masood Chik and Salah-ud-din ‘Balli’, for the article.