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Waqar Hasan – A pioneer with a touch of class

The passing away of Waqar Hasan, in the early hours of February 10 in Karachi, is a significant blow to Pakistan cricket, as the stylish right-hand batsman remained the only survivor of its first Test team that took the field against India at Delhi in October 1952.

Outside the game, Waqar was best known as a successful businessman and a gentleman of the old school with no ill word to speak of.

Waqar’s presence in the first 18 Test matches played by Pakistan – all under A.H.Kardar - was ample evidence of his role as a front-line batsman and his emergence as a household figure, after featuring in four memorable victories – Lucknow 1952 against India, The Oval 1954 against England, Bagh-e-Jinnah 1955 against New Zealand and Karachi 1956 against Australia – thus ensuring a lasting legacy in the folklore of Pakistan cricket history.

Born in Amritsar (Punjab), British India, on September 12, 1932, Waqar Hasan Mir was eighth in line of eleven children to Mir Khurshid Hasan and Sughra Bano. He was brought up in Lahore, where his father as an educationist and headmaster of Mozang Boys High School, had settled near the Chauburji Quarters. Originally Waqar’s ancestors had migrated from Kashmir to Amritsar and tragically at the time of the partition of the sub-continent in 1947, most of the family property was destroyed and his paternal grandparents and a few other relatives were burnt alive in the bloody riots.

Influenced by his father, who played the game in Amritsar and eldest brother Asghar Hasan, Waqar joined Chauburji CC with its matches played at Islamia Park. In his teens, with Universal CC which he joined on the insistence of journalist Mohammad Ghaus, in 1945, Waqar had a reputation for being a strong leg-side player and an above-average cover point fielder. In the 1945-46, Waqar travelled to Delhi for an inter-school tournament. At Universal, he learned a lot from, Mohammad Aslam, an attractive batsman who would later on win a Test cap against England in 1954. In the words of Waqar, ‘It was a club with great atmosphere with no compromise on discipline, led by Mr. Q.D.Butt and Justice A.R.Cornelius, George Barne, the Bishop of Lahore and the Principal of Aitchison College, being its three patrons.’

In December 1949, Waqar was invited to represent Pakistan Universities against the touring Commonwealth team at Karachi. As a third-year student at Government College, he held the Punjab University batting record of smashing a phenomenal 337 in just 4 hours and 10 minutes of stay at the wicket against MAO College in 1950-51, the year his team would beat their arch rivals Islamia College, in the final, after a gap of 13 years. In the same winter it was Waqar’s quality unbeaten 115, when he walked in with Northern Muslims on 17-3, against Karachi and Sind Muslims on a matting at Karachi Gymkhana, that would further boost his standing, in the eyes of selectors.

In 2011, Waqar paid tribute to one of the biggest influence on his cricket career, ‘Professor Siraj-ud-din, Principal of Government College played a strong role in making me a Test cricketer. After scoring 40 at Sialkot for Punjab against the 1951-52 MCC team lead by Nigel Howard, I was disappointed at not being selected for any of the two unofficial ‘Test’ matches but Siraj Sahib continued to lift my spirits and financed my expenses for the 1952 Pakistan Eaglets tour to England and assured me that I will play one day for Pakistan’

On the 1952-53 tour of India, after scoring 81 and 65 in the third Test at Bombay, Waqar cemented a place for himself in the Pakistan team. On the opening day, he walked in at number seven, with his side having lost five wickets for 56 runs. He battled for 140 minutes, hitting 9 fours and took Pakistan total to 186. His fighting knock, persuaded skipper A.H.Kardar to promote the 20-year Government College, Lahore captain, to a crucial one-down position, ahead of Imtiaz Ahmed and Maqsood Ahmed. It proved a wise move.

In the second innings he batted for 5 ½ hours and shared 165-run stand for the 2nd wicket with Hanif Mohammed, in their vain bid to save the Test match. Batting in pith hat, he often stepped out to counter the threat posed by the India spinners, ‘Vinoo’ Mankad, Subash Gupte and Ghulam Ahmed. In the final Test at Calcutta, Waqar played another dour innings of merit as his 97 (315 minutes, 12 fours) saved Pakistan from a certain defeat. He recalled, ‘My aggregate of 357 runs @ 44.62 was the highest in the Test series, from either side. Not bad by someone who could have missed the entire tour with a troublesome shoulder.’

Waqar would hold on to the No.3 slot till he surrendered it to Saeed Ahmed, ironically also of Chauburji CC, Universal CC and Government College on the 1957-58 tour of West Indies. In his words it was simply, ‘Saeed taking my position because he was the fittest man at the time for the job. It was a natural process with youthful batting talent coming to the fore.’

During his year-long stint in the Royal Pakistan Air Force, he represented Combined Services – along with A.H.Kardar, Imtiaz Ahmed, M.E.Z.Ghazali, Shuja-ud-din and Baseer Shamsi - in the inaugural Quaid-e-Azam Trophy in 1953-54. In the same winter, Waqar’s highest score, an unbeaten 201 for Air Vice-Marshall L.W. Cannon’s XI against Hasan Mahmood’s XI, in the Syed Wazir Ali Family Benefit Match, on a matting at Karachi Goan Association (KGA) ground, watched by crowd of 12,000, was the first double hundred scored, in a first-class match in Pakistan.

On the 1954 tour of England, his tour aggregate of 1263 first-class runs @ 32.38, was behind only Hanif Mohammed (1623) and Maqsood Ahmed (1314), amongst the Pakistan batsmen, after in the words of skipper A.H.Kardar, ‘Waqar made a wretched start and took longer to settle down.’ Despite his early struggle, it was not a bad effort from Waqar with the bat in the ‘worst summer of the past fifty years, hit by rain, chill and winds.’ A match-saving 53 on a wet wicket in the opening Test at Lord’s, was Waqar’s one noteworthy performance in the four-match series. His highest score on the tour, 123 arrived against Surrey at the Oval, when he defied Jim Laker and Tony Lock, the spin twins, in their backyard.

In the first Test series on the home soil against India in 1954-55, Waqar opened his account with 52 & 51 at Dacca and followed it up with 48 at Bahawalpur and 43 at Peshawar. He saved his only Test hundred, for the 15,000 strong crowd at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore against New Zealand in 1955-56. In reply to the visitors’ first innings of 348, Pakistan were in deep trouble at 111 for 6 on the third day, when Waqar Hassan (189) and Imtiaz Ahmed (209), pulled it back in an entertaining 7th wicket stand worth 308 runs – still the second best in the history of Test cricket - that laid foundations for their side’s four-wicket win. In his words, ‘It was my best innings, flawless and full of orthodox strokes.’

After the ‘worst tour’ of the West Indies in 1957-58, Waqar didn’t lose the hope of a return to the side. By scoring 77 whilst leading President’s XI against the West Indies at Peshawar, he was included for the final Test at Bagh-e-Jinnah in the return series in 1958-59. In the heavy defeat, Waqar with 41 and 28 to his name was second top-scorer in both innings and in 2011 recalled the match, ‘I completed 1000 Test runs and still to this day remember on-driving Eric Atkinson’s out swing for a beautifully timed boundary. On that day, batting had become a real challenge following rain on an uncovered wicket with overcast conditions and Wes Hall tearing in from the sight screen.’

On the domestic front, Waqar finished as the winners of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, on no less than four occasions. For the 1954-55 season, Waqar represented Karachi, who beat Combined Services in the final at Karachi, to win the title. In the 1956-57 final at Punjab University Ground, Waqar’s good form with the bat in scoring 69 & 51, failed to save Karachi Whites from a defeat against Punjab. In the 1958-59 final though, his second-innings 119 was a major contribution, in Karachi’s win against Combined Services at Karachi Parsi Institute (KPI) Ground.

On his return to first-class scene, after a four-year gap due to business commitments, Waqar scored 126n.o for Karachi Blues against Lahore Whites at Lahore (now Gaddafi) Stadium in the Quaid-i-Azam Trophy. As a captain he also had the honour of lifting the trophy at the end of the season and the success was repeated in 1964-65 by Karachi Blues. In the 1964-65 season, Waqar also captained Karachi to win the Ayub Trophy as well. In this period, the upcoming talent of Karachi - Naushad Ali, Muffasir-ul-Haq, Ghulam Abbas, Salahuddin, Wasim Bari, Munawwar Hussain - all benefited from playing under Waqar.

In the winter of 1972-73, Waqar Hassan was member of the National Selection Committee, that picked the side for the tour of Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand. In 1978-79 he was member of the three-man BCCP Ad-hoc committee that negotiated the return of five leading Pakistan players – Asif Iqbal, Imran Khan, Majid Khan, Mushtaq Mohammed and Zaheer Abbas - from the Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket in Australia. He was chief selector in 1982-83 winter when Pakistan led by Imran Khan recorded a convincing 3-0 Test series victory against India.

Following Pakistan team’s return from the 1954 tour of England, Waqar and two of his friends – Mahmood Hussain and Shuja-ud-din – all shifted from Lahore to Karachi, then capital of Pakistan. Initially Waqar was offered a job in the Public Works Department (PWD) by Kafil-ud-din Ahmed, who also had a practice net at his residence. After the 1959-60 home Test series against Australia in the days Pakistan cricketers received Rs.15 daily allowance, Waqar decided to pull himself out of the game and switc his focus to business.

His Test career figures of 1071 runs @31.50 needs to be seen in the light of Waqar entering the international arena with only club and University cricket to his name in a new Test playing country, uncovered wickets, switching from matting to turf throughout his career and on average solitary Test series per year. Amongst his teammates, only Hanif Mohammed (1785 @ 40.56) and Imtiaz Ahmed (1293 @28.10), scored more Test runs than Waqar, in that period.

Waqar’s first taste of business in the late 1950s, was a joint venture with a childhood friend, Khalid Hussain of textile machinery indenting. He held the Managing Directors’ post of National Food Industries in Karachi, for over a quarter of a century after setting it up in 1971. ‘It was a business I set up from scratch with rented godown to start with. After years of hard grind, it established itself as a household name. I would not hesitate to call it my biggest achievement and after retiring I have handed over the business to my son.’

In his youth with a heavy crop of black hair and supporting a pencil moustache, Waqar could have been tempted into a film career, which he resisted. His marriage to Jamila Razzaq, a classical dancer, film actress and the daughter of Abdul Razzaq Bawla of Adamjee Group of Companies, in 1963 was not surprisingly a high-profile social event in Karachi. Jamila gave up her career immediately to became full-time housewife. The couple were blessed with a son – Abrar Hasan and two daughters - Aaliya and Laaiqa.

Tributes (in alphabetical order)

Former Punjab University and Railways opening batsman, Aijaz Baig, looks back, ‘I watched Government College and Islamia College fixture in the early 1950s and Waqar Hasan stood out as a very attractive batsman, worth copying actually. Waqar and Khawar Butt were the youthful contenders for the best batsman with their success for Punjab University. As amateurs, Pakistan cricketers of that era, pursued financial security outside the game and Waqar was no exception. Off the field, a soft-spoken gentleman, who left a strong impression on me as a dignified personality.’

Former Pakistan captain Asif Iqbal, recorded his thoughts, ‘My recollection of Mir Sahib as we addressed him as junior players. One thing that stood about him that he paid great attention to his appearance on the field as his cricket kit and shoes were always spotless. Off the field too he was well-dressed and as an articulate person, he was both friendly and helpful. In the days he was member of the cricket Board’s Ad-hoc committee in the late 1970s, he took time to advise young players in contention for national honours. At the time of the turmoil in world cricket caused by Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, Mir Sahib was sympathetic towards the five Pakistan professionals and once said that he would have probably done the same in our situation.’

Dr. Haroon Mohammad, a retired GP based in south London, recalls WH, ‘Waqar Hasan’s death means we now only have Wazir Mohammed, as the only survivor from our team of 1954 Oval heroes. As a school boy in Karachi, I watched Pakistan team beat MCC at the Gymkhana in 1951 and then the Test matches at National Stadium against India, New Zealand and Australia in the 1955-56 period. Waqar later became a good family friend, based on our meetings in London, which he visited every summer till poor health prevented him from travelling. My wife always referred to him as a ‘perfect gentleman’ and it saddens us, to lose a man of such calibre. In London, I always made myself available for consultation on health matters and his wife Jamila had contacted me regarding Waqar Hasan’s condition and I was scheduled to meet the family on Monday 17 February. Sadly, it was not to be.’

An exciting all-rounder from Karachi, Ikram Elahi, now only one of three survivors of the 1954 Pakistan touring squad to England, besides Wazir Mohammed and Khalid Wazir, recalled his team-mate. ‘I accompanied Waqar Hasan on two major tour with the Pakistan team to England in 1954 and West Indies in 1957-58. Besides that, we also went with Pakistan Writers’ Club on a tour of East Africa in 1956 with games in Uganda, Kenya, Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania, all on matting. Waqar was a good batsman and always displayed keenness for net practice. I recall him as being stronger against slow bowlers. When presented with an opportunity, he chose to step out of his crease and it came naturally to him. In later years, for Pakistan, both Asif Iqbal and Javed Miandad, too like Waqar were delightfully good players against spin bowling’.

A first-class cricketer and former secretary of Lahore Gymkhana, Jamil Rana, takes us back, ‘Waqar Hasan was captain of the Government College, when I enrolled there in 1952. He was a unique personality and a role model for my generation. He was very conscious of his appearance as a cricket player and also took extra care and pride in his cricket gear. I can visualise Waqar walking into the nets, immaculately dressed and his bat, gloves and pads in pristine condition. During his batting stint, he would pick bowlers of all variety to make the practice worthwhile. He would also keep two bats – long handle and short handle – and when needed would swap the two. As a seam bowler I had the first-hand experience of bowling to this class batsman.’

‘As a batsman he was rock solid and for first 3-4 overs of his innings, would just play orthodox strokes. He was more productive on off side with cover drive and square cut as his prime strokes with clip off his pad to mid-wicket too providing him with runs. When required, I can assure you Waqar could also play a patient role and once entrenched was quite hard to remove. In my view Waqar’s knowhow of the game and administrative qualities were second only to Pakistan skipper, A.H.Kardar and he refused to play politics in various roles that he performed for the cricket Board. Even outside cricket, he dressed immaculately and in his youth was often spotted on the dance floor at the Faletti’s Hotel in Lahore, accompanied by his good friend, S.F.Rehman.’

Former Pakistan captain, Majid Khan, shared his thoughts, ‘Waqar Hasan and Pervez Sajjad belonged to a very decent and respectable family. I recall Waqar as always being well dressed, both on and off the field. In the 1955 Test against New Zealand at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore, as a spectator, to me he seemed the only Pakistan fielder with mobility and the will to chase the ball with the rest simply going to retrieve the ball.’

‘As a player, I came across Waqar Hasan, when in the twilight of his career, he was leading Karachi Blues in the 1964-65 Ayub Trophy final against Lahore Education Board at Bagh-e-Jinnah. I used to take the new ball in those days. On a rain-effected wicket, after the loss of the two openers, Waqar showed his gritty side in getting through an hour or so when the surface was at its hardest. Whilst scoring 41, he made sure young Salah-ud-din too did not throw away his wicket. When the wicket eased out the later order batsmen made hay as Karachi Blues finished with 518.’

‘In my period (1996-99) as the Chief Executive Officer of PCB, Waqar Hasan replaced Salman Taseer as Treasurer of the Board. In view of his business acumen, Waqar was the right choice and he along with Zulfiqar Bokhari, the Chairman,were two fine gentlemen with whom I enjoyed productive working relationship.’

A cricket writer, historian and founding curator of museum at the Lahore Gymkhana pavilion, Najum Latif, shared his thoughts, ‘My friendship with Pervez Sajjad was the doorway to Waqar Hasan, who as a member of the 1954 Pakistan team to England, was a cricket hero to my generation. I was present at the 1955 Bagh-e-Jinnah Test against New Zealand and as a 10-year old schoolboy took a photograph from within the pavilion to capture Waqar Hasan and Imtiaz Ahmed, walking out, during their well- documented 7th wicket stand.’

‘In 2004, we invited Waqar Hasan, the Old Ravian as a Guest of Honour at the annual sports day at Government College University, Lahore. It proved to be a memorable evening also attended by Fazal Mahmood, Imtiaz Ahmed, Zulfiqar Ahmed, Khalid Hasan, S.F.Rehman, Brig. Baseer Shamsi and Sultan Mahmood.
I decided to present the 1955 photo in a frame to Waqar Sahib and to my delight he not only appreciated my gesture but also immediately contacted the printers for the photo to be included in the second run of his autobiography, For Cricket and Country. I was absolutely overjoyed and honoured.’

An urdu cricket commentator and accomplished cricket administrator, Syed Naseem Ahmad, shares his sorrow, ‘Today I feel so sad having lost yet another good friend of mine -Waqar Hasan. For the first time I met the following trail blazers of Pakistan cricket in Lucknow Test Match in 1952:  Imtiaz Ahmad, Nazar Muhammad, Hanif Mohammad, Waqar Hasan, Maqsood Ahmad, A.H.Kardar, Fazal Mahmood, Mahmood Hussain, Zulfiqar Ahmad, Khan Muhammad and Amir Elahi. Out of the lot I developed close friendly relations with Waqar Hasan till he left for his eternal abode. A gentle soul, soft spoken, very religious and God-fearing person will always remain in my heart. Now Kardar’s XI has gone to play yet another kind of Test cricket in heavens but their footprints will always remain as a guideline to our new cricket generations.’

The youngest of the eleven siblings, Pervez Sajjad, who followed in the footsteps of his older brother to represent Universal CC, Government College and Pakistan in Tests, now settled in Paris, added his tribute, ‘Waqar Sahib’s death leaves only two of us alive now. Although he had shifted to Karachi by the time, I started playing club cricket in Lahore, he was always available for guidance. Because of the age difference, we never played together but came up against each other in the 1964-65 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final, played in 1966. He was captaining Karachi Blues who beat Lahore Greens, to win the title but I managed to clean bowl him for a duck in the second innings, which turned out to be his last first-class outing.’

Test cricketer Qasim Umar, adds his tribute, ‘I had the highest respect for Waqar Hasan, a true gentleman. I was in awe of former Pakistan greats, including Waqar Sahib, A.H.Kardar, Hanif Mohammed, Imtiaz Ahmed and Agha Saadat Ali and after initial greetings, preferred to keep a distance as a mark of respect. As a chief selector, during the 1982-83 home Test series against India, I got to know Waqar Sahib better, as he respected all junior cricketers.’

A passionate cricket supporter and well-known community figure in west London, Sheikh Sarbuland, shared his thoughts, ‘As a schoolboy I travelled from Rawalpindi to Lahore to attend the Test matches against West Indies at Bagh-e-Jinnah. Pakistan were bowled out for 209 & 104 and after Imtiaz Ahmed’s run out on the second evening, it suffered collapses in both innings. I do recall watching stylish Waqar Hasan fighting hard against an attack led by Wes Hall, a giant of a fast bowler. In 1959 Jang CC led by Munir Hussain played a couple of matches in Rawalpindi and that team also featured Waqar Hasan, Ikram Elahi and S.F.Rehman, with Javed Akhtar standing as an umpire. In the memorial service held for the great Fazal Mahmood in Southall in 2005, Waqar did not agree with my assessment of the paceman being a very good captain after he drew the 1960-61 series in India.’

Captain of Islamia College, first-class cricketer and retired PIA officer, Khawaja Shuja-ud-din, shared his appreciation, ‘Whilst at Mozang HS, Waqar Hasan, along with Mahmood Hussain, Khursheed Ahmed and Khalid Ibadullah, was coached by wicket-keeper Nisar Ahmed, a Railway employee. Waqar was a wonderful batsman and a highly respected individual, both in and outside the game. As a former player of the Universal CC, on the request of Q.D.Butt, he would willingly travel from Karachi to attend the annual festival match on December 25, at Aitchison College ground in Lahore. That is the time I had an interaction with him and found him to be a gentleman.’

One of Waqar’s closest friends, Sultan Mahmud, whilst recovering from a bout of pneumonia in Islamabad added his tribute, ‘It was a terrible moment when I had to ‘break’ the news of my dear friend, Waqar Hasan, on Facebook. In 1948, we both along with Mahmood Hussain enrolled at Government College and represented the cricket team in Year 1. As a second year student, myself and Waqar were picked for Pakistan against the 1949-50 touring Ceylon team and in the 1950-51 winter when I captained the college cricket team, Waqar was my deputy and also the secretary.

‘We were also roommates on the tour of England with the 1952 Pakistan Eaglets and this association led to our lifelong friendship. He was a stylish batsman and one of the finest produced by Pakistan, besides being a thorough gentleman who always dressed well. He played the innings of his life and did it so beautifully and I shall always treasure his friendship.’

Taher Memon, an Advertising and Corporate Communications Manager at the Pakistan Tobacco Company, who initiated the first sponsorship deal with Pakistan cricket Board in 1977, spoke of his admiration of Waqar Hasan,‘ My association with him began in 1982 with the visit of Indian cricket team to Pakistan, under Sunil Gavaskar. I remember an incident that took me to him for his expert advice. It was when objections were raised to playing against Wills red colour banners placed on both sides of the site screen. It was claimed that the slip fielders are unable to pick the red ball.’

‘We were asked to change colour of our banners that were in use over the years and every visiting team had played without any objection, including England, Australia and the West Indies. Waqar Hasan having heard the objection of the Indian team smiled and told me to tell the tourist that any fielder in the slip position looking beyond the edge of batsman’s bat, should not be fielding in that position! His expert opinion closed the controversy for good.’

Waqar Hasan was a regular distinguished guest at all the Annual Media briefings, we as leading sponsors of the game in Pakistan, used to hold at the beginning of the cricket season. During the last three decades, I had the opportunity to work with Waqar Sahib in different capacities at the Pakistan Cricket Board, especially during the 1987 and 1996 World Cup, plus during the 50 years celebration of Pakistan in 1997, developing the relationship into a family friendship.’

‘I found Waqar Sahib a thorough gentleman with high level of integrity. He was found of my professional approach to management and was admirer of my organisational prowess. On my retirement from ARY Television, and with the advent of my Marketing Consultancy, he recommended to his son Abrar Hasan, CEO of National Foods Limited to acquire my services towards the marketing and distribution of their products in the UK. He was highly appreciative of my efforts towards the promotion of their products in the UK, and at times would accompany me to watch our promotion team in action in the market.’

Little is known to most of us that National Foods under him was one of the top corporate tax payers in Pakistan and that they are probably the only industrial establishment that provides a couple of hours off to its workforce and their parents and elders with adult education in the factory premises. A true patriot with a great sense of community welfare.’

On a personal note, I found him to be very humble down-to-earth individual with a caring nature. We had some memorable social engagements each year during his regular summer holidays in the UK. I am also proud of the fact that his last public appearance was at my book launch of Another Perspective in Karachi in April, 2019. He presided over the event and spoke on the occasion to the delight of the audience. We will remember him as a stylish cricketer, a thorough gentleman and a fine human being.’

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