||01 January 1928
Khan Mohammad - A Prolific Speedster
By M. Shoaib Ahmed
The life story of Khan Mohammad is not much different from the first batch of Pakistan Test cricketers. Born on New years day 1928, he grew up in the old walled city (Kashmiri Gate) of Lahore. Son of a timber merchant, Jan Mohammad, Khan was the only among the four brothers to take up cricket. He recalls his introduction to the game at Central Model High School, Lahore. There was lot of encouragement to take up the game in that school. Once a week there used to be a thirty-minute period exclusively for cricket. The teachers during this period discussed various aspects of the game, generally without going into technicalities. However Khan shot into fame through club cricket which at that time was at its climax. It was through the annual matches of his club that Khan came into limelight with impressive bowling performances. The competitive nature of cricket in the region helped him to develop his cricket ability at a very young age. It was Khan's combined ability to generate pace without losing control over his line and length and great stamina, that enhanced his reputation among the top-notch pace bowlers of his time. Having a big heart was another essential ingredient that served him well even in poor fielding sides.
At 19, he was good enough to be picked for Northern India Cricket Association in the Ranji Trophy, India's leading cricket tournament. In the three zonal matches of the 1946-47 season, he grabbed ten wickets at just above thirty-three a piece to mark his entry into first-class cricket. After the partition of the sub-continent, while at Islamia College Lahore, he was an automatic choice for the Punjab University in the following two seasons.
When John Goddard's West Indies side arrived in November 1948 to play in a One-Off unofficial Test, Khan was named the twelfth man, Pakistan skipper Mian Mohammad Saeed having preferred Munawar Ali Khan and Fazal Mahmood to lead the bowling attack at Bagh-e-Jinnah. However, during the tour of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Khan made good use of the heavy atmosphere of the Island. Teaming up with his old Islamia College new-ball partner, Fazal, he topped the tour's bowling average by taking fourteen wickets in the two unofficial Test matches. On the strength of his performance, Khan was able to hold a permanent place in the Pakistan's line-up, until his premature retirement.
Looking at Khan's high ratio of bowled and leg-before victims, one might get an impression of him being an express paceman. In fact even at his best he was not more than fast medium, although a shade faster than Fazal Mahmood.
In the summer of 1951, Khan played a game for Somerset against the touring South-Africans. In those days an overseas player had to serve a three-year qualifying period to be eligible for appearing in country championship. Khan had also decided to take up residence in the country as well when he was summoned to represent Pakistan against Nigel Howard's touring MCC. In the first unofficial test at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Khan took five wickets in the first innings of a drawn game. In the historic win at Karachi his contribution was seven wickets, with a five wickets haul in the 2nd innings.
At this stage of his career, Khan was clearly Pakistan's leading paceman and there was no reason for him not to continue for the next few years. But luck deserted him on the country's first official tour of India in 1952-53. Having spent a summer in Lancashire league, Khan was included in the seventeen-man squad despite doubts on his trouble some groin. In the first Test at New Delhi, he achieved the distinction of taking his country's first Test wicket, of Pankaj Roy, who was bowled round his leg for seven. But after bowling twenty overs on the first day he broke down, that kept him out of the rest of the series. It was a serious below to Pakistan's young and inexperienced side.
Helping to establish Pakistan cricket in company with his new ball partner Fazal Mahmood, Khan, though steady and accurate and able to swing the ball considerably in a heavy atmosphere, was prone to strains, and injuries. Soon after the commencement of the first tour of India in 1952-53, Pakistan lost him through injury and in the Caribbean in 1958-59 he could appear in only two Tests. On the first England tour in 1954 his Lancashire league engagement prevented him from playing in more than a handful of matches. However, in the first Test, at Lord's, bowling unchanged with Fazal, he took 5 for 61. In the first official Test series at home against India in 1954-55, he was the most effective bowler on either side, securing 22 wickets (@15.86) in four tests. Specially penetrative in the first innings, he took 4 for 42 in 26.5 over at Dacca, 5 for 74 at Bahawalpur, 4 for 79 at Peshawar and 5 for 72 at Karachi.
Against New Zealand in 1955-56 he captured 13 wickets (@ 16.00). In the third Test at Dacca with the ball swinging and keeping low on the soaked matting, he was unplayable with 6 for 21 in 16.2 overs and 2 for 20 in 30 overs (19 maidens). In his last home Test, the first against Australia, at Karachi in 1956-57, he bowled unchanged with Fazal in the first innings, finished with a record 7 for 112, and Pakistan won comfortably. However, his last series, against West Indies in the Caribbean in 1957-58 was a dismal affair in which he played two tests, bowled 54 overs taking no wicket for 259.
After saying good-bye to his playing days, he took up MCC coaching courses and soon was to establish his name in this capacity. He served as a coach in MCC indoor school for more than twenty years. He holds an advance Standard Certificate, that qualified him to coach anywhere in the world. Since the early sixties he took up similar assignments in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Canada.
He also ran a travel agency in Ealing, West London before his death in July 5, 2009.