When one looks back at the long line of fast bowling greats produced by Pakistan, Fazal Mahmood appears as the indisputable torchbearer.
He was the engineer of their first ever Test victory, at Lucknow against India, in Pakistan's very second Test match. He did it again at The Oval in 1954, in their very first tour of Ole Blighty, when the fledgling cricketing nation drew 1-1 with the strong England side. And he did it on several more occasions.
Fazal could cut and seam it at considerable pace, and make the ball talk on matting wickets. Quite often was he compared to Alec Bedser.
13 five-wicket hauls in 34 Tests is testimony to his quality, as well as 139 wickets at 24.70. He led 10 of those 34 Tests he played in. Tall, fair, handsome and an early pin-up boy of cricket with his Brylcreemed hair, he goes down, alongside Imran Khan and Abdul Hafeez Kardar, as one of the most charismatic characters of Pakistan cricket.
Before the partition, he might have played for India. Indeed, he was not picked despite Nawab of Pataudi Sr insisting on his inclusion for the tour of 1946. He was perhaps too young. By the time the 1947-48 tour of Australia came along, India and Pakistan had been torn apart into two separate countries.
Fazal also served as a police officer, ending up as the Deputy Inspector General. He wrote books too, about his life in cricket, as well as about his ideas on applying Islamic principles to economy and society.
Fazal Mahmood was born on Febraury 18, 1927.
Text: Arunabha Sengupta