the-south-asian.com July / August 2006
Lahore Gymkhana Cricket Club
A Great Innings
Photos courtesy Najum Latif
First published April 2005
Whilst British Colonial Rule reduced the dimensions of indigenous cultures, they nevertheless also raised many positive dimensions of life in the Indian continent of South Asia. The British left behind in South Asia a legacy of sports. Cricket, Squash, Snooker/Billiards, Bridge, Golf are some of the uniquely British contributions, which over time have been assimilated, innovated & dominated by the south Asian peoples.
Around 1885 to 1900, the British Company "Bahadur" [aka East India Company Inc.], as part of the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s birthday, built some of the finest architectural buildings of Lahore. The Museum, the old Punjab University campus on the Mall, the Lawrence Hall Library and the Mian Mir Institute [later the Lahore Gymkhana] were some of these buildings. Nestling within the old Lawrence Gardens, the Lahore Gymkhana Cricket Club (LGCC) sits inside the Bagh-e-Jinnah, originally called Lawrence Gardens. LGCC faces the Governor house with the Mall Road separating the main old Gymkhana Building and the Bagh-e-Jinnah garden grounds. The outer perimeter of the LGCC ground is ringed by tal,l giant Shisham and Peepal trees; other trees, each more than 80-100 years of age, still cover the gardens of Bagh-e-Jinnah and act as the lungs of central Lahore.
The LGCC cricket pitch is laid out in a north–south direction for the convenience of the cricket players, so that they are not blinded by the morning or evening sun. The bowling ends/ sightscreens are the Governor house end and the Police club end or the GOR [government officers residence] end. The LGCC main pavilion contains the players’ dressing rooms, showers, and bathrooms. There is a central high ceiling hall which is the museum. This contains memorabilia, old visiting cricket teams photographs, important LGCC cricket scores and players’ achievements at the ground.
The LGCC remains sacrosanct and of a special pedigree. Fazal Mahmood recalls that LGCC "was the most prestigious in the province. Every cricketer dreamt of playing there". These days about 40-overs matches are played on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Only club cricket players and members of the Lahore Gymkhana are allowed in. A few cricket lovers are allowed to sit and watch on the benches that space the circumference of the LGCC. This has allowed its grounds to be maintained at a very high level. The LGCC building’s architectural style is very similar to the Tollinton market, on the Mall next to the Museum.
Early LGCC Test Matches
The Maharajas of Jammu & Kashmir and Patiala, had regular cricket matches against Lahore Gymkhana. A match between the British Army and World XI, was played at LGCC in 1911. The World XI had most players from Gloucestershire and Lancashire while the Army team was drawn from the 87th Punjab, 17th Lancasters, 15th Sikhs and the King's Regiment. The World team won by 61 runs - one Henderson with 59, being the top scorer.
A team led by D.R. Jardine played here in the mid-1930s. The team had G.O. Allen, Hedley Verity, Earl Clark and Mitchell in it and played an unofficial Test against India here. The Verity-Mitchell combination apparently prevented the great Wazir Ali from scoring double figures in either innings. It was followed by a Jack Ryder led team that included the 'Governor-General', Charlie Macartney, in which Ryder, a former Test cricketer, hooked S.M. Nissar, then one of the fastest bowlers of the world, at will.
The ground's acceptance as a venue of standard saw Lord Tennyson's team play an unofficial Test here against India. The Indian team led for the first time by Vijay Merchant, including the debutant Vijay Hazare, Lala Amarnath, Mushtaq Ali, Amar Singh, lost. A Commonwealth XI also played here after the war, and included Keith Miller, Lindsay Hassett playing against a Punjab XI for whom both Imtiaz Ahmed and A.H. Kardar scored a century.
The ground hosted the first unofficial Test, against West Indies, from Nov 27 through to Nov 30, 1948, recording a draw. The West Indies led by Goddard, had G. Carew, J.B. Stollmeyer, C.L.Walcott, E.D.Weekes, K. Rickards, C.M. Watt, R.J. Christiani, G.A.Headley and J. Trim in the team. Pakistan led by Mian Mohammad Saeed had Nazar Muhammad , Imtiaz Ahmed, Maqsood Ahmed, Anwar Hussain, M.E.Z. Ghazali, M. Aslam, Fazal Mahmood, Shujauddin, M. Amin and Munawar Ali Khan. Imtiaz (76) and Nazar Mohammad (87) shared an opening stand of 148 runs in the first innings while Imtiaz Ahmed (131) and Mian Saeed (101) recorded a 205 runs stand in the second. Scores: Pakistan 241 and 285/6 dec. West Indies 308 and 98/1. Walcott scored 41, Weekes 55, Rickards 72 and Headley 57.
The Bagh-e-Jinnah cricket ground played host to yet another Commonwealth XI after independence. Led by J. Livingstone, with such luminaries like Frank Worrell, J.K. Holt, M. Oldfield, G. Tribe, W. Alley, Pettiford, Pepper, Lambert and Pope. Pakistan lost by an innings and 177 runs, scoring 176 and 66 respectively. Pepper posted 29-6-57-4 and 7.4-4-13-2 in the two innings while Tribe had figures of 33-13-39-4 and 10-8-8-5 in the second innings. The match was played from Nov 25 through to Nov 28, 1949.
The third Unofficial Test saw Pakistan beat Celyon (now Sri Lanka) on March 25,26,27,28, 1950 by an innings and 145 runs. Imtiaz Ahmed (127), Maqsood Ahmed (56), Asghar Ali (73), helped Pakistan to 362 while Fazal Mahmood (5/56, 3/48) and Khan Mohammad saw Ceylon restricted to 166 and 151.
The 4th Unofficial Test saw Pakistan draw with MCC here from Nov 15 through to Nov 18, 1951. MCC led by N.D. Howard had J. Robertson, R.T. Spooner, T.W. Graveney, D.B. Carr, A.J. Watkins, D. Shackleton, D.V.Brewin (wk), M.J. Hilton, J.B. Statham and R. Tattersall in the team. MCC scored 254 in the first innings and 308/1 in the second that saw Spooner and Graveney make unbeaten scores of 168 and 109 runs respectively. Pakistan posted 428, thanks mainly to Maqsood Ahmed (137 run out), Nazar Mohammad (66), Ghazali (86) and Kardar (48); a match that saw Hanif Mohammad's debut with 26 runs.
The Bagh-e-Jinnah cricket ground became a Test centre, the 35th Test ground in the world, when Pakistan played India after earning Test Status. The four-day Test was played from Jan 29 through to Feb 1, 1955 resulting in a draw. Pakistan made 328 in the first innings and declared at 136/5 in the second innings, with India replying with 251 and 74/2. Maqsood Ahmed got out for 99 while Gupte, the Indian leg spinner had figures of 73.5-33-133-5 in Pakistan's first innings. The Indians led by Mankad had Lala Amarnath as playing manager.
The Second Official Test between Pakistan and New Zealand was the first five-day match and was played, from Oct 26 through to October 31, 1955. It resulted in a Pakistan win by four-wickets due to some very sporting spirit from the Kiwis, who ran between over changes, to give Pakistan a chance to score the runs. Pakistan were 111/6 at one time, were rescued through a 308 run stand between Waqar Hassan (189) and Imtiaz Ahmed (209) to post 561. New Zealand led by Cave, scored 348 and 328 in their two innings and Pakistan posted the winning score of 117/6 in failing light, thanks to the sporting Kiwis who completed the required overs.
The Third and last Official Test match was played here between Pakistan and West Indies on March 26 through to March 31, 1959 and lost by Pakistan by an innings and 156 runs. West Indies scored 469 runs, thanks to Rohan Kanhai's 217 and an eye pleasing 72 by Sobers. Pakistan could only manage 209 and 104 in each innings where Wesley Hall recorded the only hat-trick on this ground and where Mushtaq Mohammad made his Test debut, lbw to Hall for 14.
As part of a general South Asian syndrome that buildings and gardens do not need any maintenance, the LGCC became a victim of this great malady. By 1980 it had succumbed to the ravages of time. The Ghost of Time breathed and demanded its pound of flesh. The LGCC main pavilion’s roof had started to leak. Historic group photographs, once part and parcel of the pavilion, were lost as a result of gross neglect, along with some masterly portraits of English governors of Punjab and some renowned Viceroys of India, endorsing the history of the patronage of this club. In those days the "Burra" sahibs [aka British gentry] witnessed the game from a vantage point where at present the score-board is located. A few cricket score-books remain, thought to be of little use by the petty thieves who had taken off with the rest of the LGCC valuables.
By 1980, due to the patronage of Gen. & Governor Gilani and Finance Minister and later Chief Minister and Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, the fortunes of LGCC started looking up. A total of Rs 1.5 crores [Rs 15 million] were spent on renovating the LGCC. The upgrading included new turf on the grounds with special soil & Dacca grass ["Khabbbal" or local grass was not used]. About 700-1000 daily visitors were stopped for a year from going into LGCC. A new turbine tube-well was installed [donated by an Azam Cloth Market businessman]. The edges of the ground were raised to act as a viewing stand. The idea of putting in a perimeter wall was discarded on the advice of Justice Bashiruddin. It is reported that once Nawaz Sharif saw the brown dried up grass, and the zealous grounds staff sprayed green paint on the grass on his subsequent visits. Benches were made with the letters LG in the metal supports, and shisham wood was used for the viewers benches tilted at a special comfortable angle. The sight screen [donated & still maintained by Syed Engineers] is made in metal in the same style as the Adelaide Cricket ground. Other contributions came from Majid Khan, Nadeem - the actor. Nayyar Ali Dada, the architect, was brought in for help with the Main Pavilion building. New two feet high pavilion iron railings replaced the original wooden rails in front of the main pavilion. New bathrooms, showers, lockers & floors were installed. The old steel support beams are still used. A new roof was put in and covered with red brick tiles. The second building now used as a club house for lunch has sofas & TV on the ground floor, a viewing gallery on the first floor, complete with sofas and easy chairs. In the early days it was used as a bar for drinks. The LGCC is today under a strong management team of Nasrullah Khan [Hon. Secretary] and Najum Latif [curator museum], Zia-ur Rehman [Chairman] & Zia Haider Rizvi [cricket convener] who work together in reconstructing the LGCC with its Museum for future generations . The black & white pictures presented here are courtesy Mr. Najum Latif, curator LGCC Museum.
Other LGCC matches & anecdotes:
After 1959, a stadium was built on Ferozepur Road which became the Test Cricket stadium. It was later named Qaddafi Stadium.The LGCC nevertheless, retains a grandeur as a cricket ground and wicket that easily surpasses any other cricket ground in Pakistan.
In 1946 Nazar Muhammad [a product of Islamia High School & College, Mamdot Cricket Club played for the North Zone, India; later his son Mudassar Nazar played for Pakistan] hooked the second ball [ a bouncer] of fast bowler Keith Miller [ the Australian XI famous fast bowler] for a six. The ball struck the Gymkhana pavilion clock and the glass was broken.
LGCC has continued to interest visiting teams, especially the English – MCC team. Virtually on every visit they have played official three-day features or unscheduled one-day games, like the 1980/82 Mike Brearley led MCC match against Lahore Gymkhana where Boycott notched up a century. The 1996 England team led by Atherton also played here against Lahore Gymkhana. Apparently Boycott had asked for a few local fast and spin bowlers for practice after which he left without even a thank you to these local cricketers. Dennis Lillee, the Australian fast bowler is reported to have been delighted with the LGCC pitch/wicket after he got his first wicket here.
On March 19, 2005 a group of members from Delhi High Court Bar and Lahore High Court Bar were brought to the LGCC at the request of some cricket fans of the Delhi High Court Bar. Ladies were also present on this occasion and "Gol Gappas" were served as snacks. Cricket was then played using tape covered tennis balls, a famous innovation of Pakistan cricketers.
In March 1999 former Cambridge Blue and Pakistani Captain, Majid Khan, invited the Cambridge University Cricket Club, to play at LGCC.
The great innings of Pakistan’s greatest cricket grounds will continue in The- South-Asian.com.
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