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Shahid Mahmood standing tall - An Obituary


In just four years after arriving from Bombay, Shahid Mahmood’s all-round credentials brought him under the radar for selection for Pakistan, his adopted homeland.

His death in New Jersey, USA, aged 81, brings down the curtains to an eventful journey. With, rare all-ten wickets in an innings, twice to his credit, Shahid ensured his name in the record books - not bad going for a batting all-rounder.

One of the eight siblings, born in Hyderabad, Deccan, British India on March 17, 1939, in a family of cricketers, both from his paternal and maternal side, featuring Asghar Ali, Ghulam Ahmed and much later joined by Asif Iqbal – all Ranji Trophy players – it seemed only natural for Shahid to take to the game. His father Mahboob Ali was a radio broadcaster, who set up a studio, at the family’s residence in Hyderabad.

At the turbulent times of partition, his family moved from Hyderabad to Bombay in 1947. As an eleven-year old he was inspired after watching Imtiaz Ahmed score 300 against a Commonwealth side in Bombay in 1950-51. He hero worshipped Hanif Mohammad, after watching him defying the Indian bowling in a Test at Bombay in 1952-53 and would often keep the batsman’s autograph under his pillow.

A left-handed batsman and bowling left-arm medium pace, Shahid’s came up with a memorable all-round display whilst captaining the Junior Section of All Saint’s School, Bombay. After scoring 97, he captured 8-23 with the ball, for his photograph to be printed along with a match report in ‘Times of India’. In 1950, he switched over to Anjuman-e-Islam, Bombay, before the family migrated to Karachi in September 1955.

In his only year at the Church Mission High School, Karachi, in the 1955-56 Inter-school Rubie Shield tournament, Shahid playing on the B.V.S. School cricket ground, scored 60 in his first ever innings on a matting wicket. He was selected to play for a Combined School team, led by Ziaullah Khan of Sind Madrassah, to tour Northern India and scored 125 in the second innings after the team had collapsed to 95 all out in the first innings, at Amritsar.

On his return from the tour Shahid developed typhoid but recovered soon to be part of large Karachi Cricket Association (KCA) squad that necessitated three teams – Whites, Blue and Green – participating in four-zonal 1956-57 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches. In his maiden first-class innings, 17-year old Shahid batting one down for Blues against Railways at Karachi Gymkhana, hit 43 and shared a stand of 69 runs for the 4th wicket with Wallis Mathias (45), to help his side recover from a wobbly start of 36-3.

The following winter he was asked to open for Karachi B and in his first outing contributed 55 in a 134-run stand with skipper Ikram Qureshi (80) at BVS Parsi School Ground, Karachi and was equal to the task in his match winning 75 in a dicey run chase against Punjab A at PU Ground, Lahore.

In 1958, Shahid was one of three young players besides Mushtaq Mohammed and Anis-ul-Ghani, whose expenses were borne by Government of Pakistan, for the tour of England with the Pakistan Eaglets. Only behind captain Mohammad Ramzan in averages, both with bat and ball, Shahid repaid the faith shown with an impressive showing – 891 runs @23.90 and 64 wickets @12.10. In a two-day match against Leicestershire II, it was the left-arm seam pairing of Garfield Sobers, in his guest appearance for Pakistan Eaglets and Shahid Mahmood, which shared eight wickets to bowl them out for 139. The highlight of the tour being the ten wicket haul (27-6-58-10), he claimed in an innings against Isle of Wight Cricket Association.

The presence of Nawabzada Ikram Ali (I.A) Khan, a CSP Officer and Shahid’s maternal uncle, who sat on selection committees for both The Pakistan Eaglets Society in 1958 and for the national team’s 1962 tour of England, gave reasons to media to raise a case of nepotism. A senior bureaucrat, I.A.Khan remained an influential figure in Pakistan, for he had also been President of Karachi Cricket Association (KCA) for two years, vice President of BCCP and after managing Pakistan’s 1967 tour to England, he eventually became the BCCP head, an office which he held till 1972.

At D.J.Science College, where he enrolled in 1957, Shahid’s reputation soared further after he smashed 220 (289 mins, 23 fours) for Karachi against Peshawar at BVS.Parsi School Ground, Karachi in the 1958-59 Inter-University Championship that his team went on to win by beating Punjab University. In a three-day match for President’s XI the 1958-59 West Indies team at Peshawar Club Ground, he was spun out by the guiles of Sonny Ramadhin and Lance Gibbs but was soon to prove his merit.

Having to fight every inch of the way, his top-score of 43 in a total of 132, on the opening day for President’s XI against the 1959-60 Australian pace attack of Ray Lindwall, Gordon Rorke and Ian Meckiff at Pindi Club, stands out as one of his finest. He was last man out having, ‘piled up as laboriously as a farmer ploughs a muddy field’ is how Qamar-ud-din Butt described it. The two successful bowlers in the match – Munir Malik and Intikhab Alam – made their debut in the Karachi Test whereas Shahid was once again the 12th man, a role he also performed in Pakistan’s defeats at Dacca and Lahore.

Included in the Karachi’s first team with Hanif Mohammed as its captain and another six Pakistan Test players, Shahid after a disappointing run with the bat found his touch with 53, at number eight, in the final against Lahore at Karachi, contributing in his side winning by 99 runs to win the 1959-60 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. He had the misfortune to develop Hepatitis (Jaundice) during the National Camp held in Lahore for the tour of India in 1960-61, when he considered himself, ‘a certainty’.

There could not have been much debate on Shahid’s selection for the 1962 tour of England for he had performed very well with the 1958 Pakistan Eaglets, both with bat and ball. More recently he had been in very good touch with the bat in the preceding domestic season (1961-62) at home.

In fact nothing could go wrong for Shahid in that winter as he was in the winning camp in both Quaid-e-Azam Trophy for Karachi Blues and in the Ayub Trophy for Karachi. Besides scoring runs he was displaying a temperament for the big occasion, evident in the final of both tournaments, held in Karachi. Assigned to opening the innings with skipper Alim-ud-din he scored 79 in a run-chase against Combined Services and again rose to the challenge in compiling a patient 174 (392min, 20 fours) against North Zone.

Any doubts were removed with innings of 56 and 45 with his side on the back foot BCCP XI against International XI led by Richie Benaud. Patient and watchful, Shahid often took his time and selected his strokes, mostly orthodox, with care. Alim-ud-din could be credited as the first captain, to recognize and utilize Shahid’s bowling talent, as he picked up 23 wickets @ 12.23 – his best season with the ball. The highlight being his two cheap five-wickets hauls at Bahawalpur – 5-12 off 19 overs against Bahawalpur in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and 5-18 against Central Zone in the Ayub Trophy. He also stood out whilst emulating Syed Wazir Ali and Syed Mushtaq Ali by tying a white handkerchief around his neck.

The 1962 tour of England did not bring much success to Shahid and a number of young players, knocking at the door of international opportunities. Following three heavy Test defeats Pakistan arrived in Nottingham, battered and bruised and struggling to pick eleven fit players for the fourth Test. Shahid with the exception of an unbeaten 77 at No.7 whilst facing a Lancashire seam attack featuring Brian Statham, Peter Lever and Ken Higgs at Old Trafford and 55 against Hampshire at Bournemouth had been all at sea in the English conditions.

In the game hit by rain and Pakistan batsmen having to bat in murky conditions on an uncovered wicket, Shahid was asked to open the innings with Hanif Mohammad, and shield the two experienced openers Imtiaz Ahmed and Alimuddin, who batted lower down the order. He scored 16 in the first innings and in the second innings, coming in at number seven, scored 9, as Pakistan managed to draw the Test. He was not considered for the final Test at The Oval and his first-class tally of 369 runs @ 16.04 on the tour, was a setback for Shahid.

The post 1962 period turned out to be an anti-climax for Shahid’s international ambitions. He was suspended by BCCP in February 1963, following an alleged misconduct. For the 1964-65 Ayub Trophy, he accepted appointment to become the first captain of Pakistan Works Department (PWD), recently affiliated with the Board to play first-class cricket. He often opened the batting and bowling and in one game, took 4-54 and hit 113 against Hyderabad to help his team to recover from 57-4, at Karachi. He did possess leadership qualities at this level of the game and was conscious of treating all with respect. In the same season he represented Karachi Blues, the winners of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.

In the 1969-70 Quaid-Trophy representing Karachi Whites, Shahid returned figures of 25-5-58-10 in Khairpur’s second innings at Karachi and it was the first instance of a bowler claiming all ten wickets in an innings in first-class cricket in Pakistan, beating Ahad Khan’s 9-7 for Pakistan Railways in 1964-65. With the shine still on, Shahid trapped most batsman with inswing and in the latter stages would prefer to bowl slow.

There is enough evidence to suggest that in this particular innings he bowled seam with the new ball but mostly orthodox slow left-arm. Shakoor Rana, Aslam Sanjrani and Razaullah Khan were amongst his victims as Khairpur were bowled out for 146 in their second innings, to lose by an innings and 56 runs, inside two days. It will be another twenty years before another Pakistani bowler – Imran Adil (Bahawalpur) - would achieve the same feat.

In the semi-final at Karachi against PIA, Shahid dropped anchor in compiling a patient unbeaten 110 whilst sharing a 120 run opening stand with fellow left-handed Sadiq Mohammad, soon to make his international debut, to draw the game. Although he was still in the reckoning, his double failure for President’s XI against New Zealand at Pindi Club Ground, proved to be the last throw of the dice. In his 66-match career, he scored 3117 runs @ 31.80 with 5 hundreds and 15 fifties, caught 25 and claimed 89 wickets @ 21.64.

Having acquired the highly sought-after Karachi Gymkhana membership in his college days, Shahid represented its cricket team for more than 10 years and was known for his generosity in inviting his friends at the club. In 1967, he came up with an idea to launch the first ever Single-Wicket Championship at Karachi Gymkhana. Ironically, Shahid was himself beaten in the 1968 final by Zaheer Abbas and the televised event was a great success. The game had provided Shahid with a strong PR network in Karachi, providing an opening in 1967 to join the sales team of Esso that offered him ten times the monthly salary paid by PWD. In this period he also commentated on the game besides Mohammad Farooq, for Radio Pakistan.

Shahid left Karachi in 1973 for USA, the country his paternal uncle had chosen to open an advertising agency Adart office in the 1950s, following their success in Bombay and in Karachi, in the post-partition period. After initially faced with ‘identity crisis’ and ‘no qualifications’, he worked as a life insurance agent and would settle in New Jersey, U.S.A, running a successful advertising business. In the last two decades, ‘Sid Mood’ to Americans, devoted much of his energy for the Pakistani community, through various projects, both as a social worker and a fund raiser.

He had served as an advisor to Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr. and Pervez Musharraf, on matters concerning the Islamic community of the United States. In 1991 Shahid was the driving force behind ‘Pakistan Celebration’ a cultural event held in Manhattan and attended by 120,000 people. Besides that he had managed 10 major events in New Jersey, primarily for inter-faith dialogue and harmony.

He successfully strove to challenge the stereotype perception of Pakistan expatriate in USA. Shahid was an avid student of spiritualism in Islam and his achievements in USA were all the more remarkable for since 1977 he had a number of health scares but fought it by gaining strength from the Holy Quran, which he referred to as ‘my companion’.

Tall and slim, Shahid leaves behind a positive legacy of a thorough gentleman, sincere friend, courteous, charming, cheerful, well dressed and well-educated individual, in both Pakistan and USA. Twice married, he is survived by two daughters and three sons.

The obituary is based on the writer’s interview with Shahid Mahmood in 2017 and he also acknowledges the thoughts of Intikhab Alam, Sadiq Mohammad, Duncan Sharpe, Mohammad Farooq, Najum Latif, Asif Ahmed, Masood ‘Chik’, Khalid Rafiq, Abdul Raqeeb and Khawaja Shujauddin.