When Nasim-ul-Ghani conquered Lord’s as nightwatchman!
PLAYING at Lord’s, the home of cricket, is every cricketer’s dream. And to represent your country on the venue at Test level is not only the ultimate thing, but even a greater honour if one happens to perform there by scoring a hundred or picking up a haul of five or more wickets in an innings.
No sooner such feats are achieved, the name of the performer is pasted on the ‘honours board’ before the day is over. The list of those illustrious men glitters in gold if you happen to walk into the dressing rooms or in the Lord’s museum.
It is not surprising then that Pakistan also has its fair share amongst those luminaries who grace the honours list. The ‘Little Master’ Hanif Mohammad, Javed Burki, Mohsin Khan, Mudassar Nazar and Mohammad Yousuf to name a few but none so unique in performance than the left-handed all-rounder from Karachi, Nasim-ul-Ghani.
As Lord’s braces itself to stage the 2000th Test of history this month against India, Nasim still remains the only batsman ever to have scored a Test century at the venue as a nightwatchman.
Not only that, Nasim also remains the first ever player to hit a hundred in Tests in the role of nightwatchman. His 101 in 1962 in a losing cause, though, also enabled him to become the first Pakistan batsman to make a century in a Test match on English soil. Not even the great Hanif Mohammad can boast of that.
So far, only five other players in Test history have achieved the feat of scoring centuries as nightwatchmen, but none have had the honour of doing so at the headquarters of the game.
Few minutes after Nasim had reached the three-figure mark at Lord’s, his captain Javed Burki too reached his hundred. However, for Pakistan that 1962 England tour was a most pathetic one as the visitors lost the five-match series 4-0 while barely managing to draw the fourth Test at Trent Bridge.
Pakistan lost the second Test by nine wickets at Lord’s despite the heroics of Nasim and Burki. Freddie Trueman had destroyed them in the first innings, bowling Pakistan out for a 100 in which Nasim made 17.
England then took a lead of 270, thanks to a superb 153 by Tom Graveney and a fluent 65 by Ted Dexter. Pakistan gave a much better performance in the second innings by scoring 355 but it was not enough and England were left to make only 85 for victory.
Nasim had come to the crease at the fall of the fourth wicket after Mushtaq Mohammad had fallen to Trueman’s swing. The young all-rounder dug up to defy and defend stoutly and remained unbeaten in nightwatchman’s role to score his maiden century the next day, putting on 197 for the sixth wicket with Burki.
Lord’s rose to its feet to acknowledge Nasim’s feat and deservedly so.
A bowling all-rounder, Nasim was one of the trainees of the first-ever coaching camp consisting of combined universities players, organised by the then BCCP in 1957 at the National Stadium, Karachi of which I was also a part. Saeed Ahmed, Ijaz Butt and Haseeb Ahsan were also selected from that coaching camp.
Nasim’s talent then was very much on show as he excelled at all levels, bagging in the bargain a place in Pakistan team to tour West Indies in 1957-58 under Abdul Hafeez Kardar. His debut at Brabados, where Hanif made that mammoth 337 to save the Test, was not very significant but he progressed as the tour went on.
He did not bowl much in the third Test at Jamaica because of injury where Garfield Sobers broke Sir Len Hutton’s record by scoring 365 runs. But at British Guiana (now Guyana) he did pick 5 for 116 in 41.4 overs to become the youngest at 16 years and 303 days to take a five wickets bag in Tests that included the wickets of Sobers and Walcott. The record is still intact.
His 52 wickets and 747 runs in 29 Tests do not really speak much of the talent that Nasim possessed. One of the six brothers, he could have achieved even greater heights had he not been at the wrong end of the stick at times of the officials responsible for running the game.
A very fine and an accurate left-arm spinner of pristine quality, he was a great team man. As a batsman Nasim even opened the innings as he did against Dennis Lillee in his last Test in Australia in 1973, making 64. At times, he even batted at number 11.
With the bat he was no mug at all. In fact, when on song he was a treat to watch, driving and cutting with relish as he displayed at Lord’s in 1962.
Later in his career he became a very efficient administrator as the ICC Development Manager for South Asia, helping Bangladesh become a Test-playing nation. He also rendered commendable services as ICC referee, as a selector and as a PCB Advisory Council Member.
Even in retirement he remains a role model and a beacon for aspiring cricketers.