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Historical Article

Dhaka waiting for 8th test

Md. Quamruzzaman

I am reminiscing about a time when the world was seen from, and had a different perspective. Umpires were addressed as 'Sir', players were restrained and gentlemanly with their success in the field, batsman was appreciated more for his grace and poise in execution of a stroke rather than his strike rate and bowler was judged by his away swinger or sheer pace, not just runs conceded per over. Life was then less complicated and whole lot more enjoyable.

About twenty six years ago, a handsome, well built medium fast bowler uncoiled from his lovely delivery stride, generated from a measured run up of twenty four paces and bowled to a diminutive young opening batsman. It was a fine sunny morning and Dattu Phadhkar had bowled to Hanif Mohammad. Magical names, mystical times. Thus started the first official Test in Pakistan; the venue was Dhaka (Dacca), it was the 396th Test to be played. The date was January 1, 1955. Dhaka became the 39th Test venue of the World.

In 1955, Dhaka, provincial capital of erstwhile East Pakistan, had a poplulation of approximately 2,00,000. The stadium then had not the present capacity. It could seat 20,000 people at its utmost. When the captains of both the teams, Abdul Hafeez Kardar and Vinoo Mankad, walked out to toss, S.K. Gurunathan, Sports Editor of The Hindu, was moved to observe- "A standing ovation accompanied both the skippers to the pitch and back during the toss. An appreciative and knowledgeable crowd of about fifteen thousand greeted them with spontaneous clapping that rang about for minutes".

We used to love our cricket then, even a simple toss had its momentous sense of occasion for us. I remember the handsome Waqar Hasan's half centuries in both innings. Half centuries were also scored by Imtiaz, Alimuddin, Manjrekar and Pankaj Roy.

If ever there was a more stylish and gifted Indian batsman than Manjrekar, then India must be very lucky. To me Vijay Manjrekar was the best Indian batsman. There were efficient bowling performances from Mahmud Hussain, Khan Mohammad, Ghulam Ahmed and Subhash Gupte. Though the match was drawn, I had watched greatness itself, the legendary Vinoo Mankad.

The next Test at Dhaka was 1955 against New Zealand. The first two days were washed out. The remaining three days ought not to have been of much interest but for the fact that New Zealand was bowled for 70 runs in their first innings. It was New Zealand's lowest total until being bowled out 26 at Auckland by England in 1955. Hanif achieved the distinction of scoring the first Test century (103) at Dhaka. We watched the legendary Bert Sutcliffe, one of the finest left-handed batsman, though he did not get many runs. Khan Mohammad achieved his best bowling analysis, 6 for 24. This was the 415th Test match.

The 470th Test cricket was played at Dhaka during the 1958-59 tour of the West Indies in Pakistan. We not only wondered at the ebony skin of the West Indians but also were awestruck at the marvelous skills these players could command. J. k. Holt, Gary Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Basil Butcher, Joe Solomon, Collie Smith all were there. The flashes of brilliance showed unmistakable talent, but puppets on a string controlled by Fazal Mahmood. The sight of these great players being totally dominated by the great Fazal was a joy to watch. Six wickets in both the innings by Fazal assured Pakistan of claiming their first Test Victory at Dhaka.

I specially remember Wes Hall with his long thundering run up, golden chain sparkling on that barrel chest. It was easy to imagine the fear that this superbly proportioned giant could instill in the heart of batsman. What a lovely action he had. When he bowled it seemed like the earth stopped with breath abated. From the beginning of his run up to his splendid follow through, he was a sight to behold.

The fourth Test in Dhaka was against Australia, under Richie Benaud. His bowling, batting and fielding were class but what impressed me most was his astute captaincy. His all round ability and captaincy turned the Test into an easy victory for Australia, the only test lost by Pakistan in Dhaka. A magnificent innings of 96 by Neil Harvey and 66 by Wally Grout laid the basis of victory for Australia. The Test was completed by the brilliant bowling of Benaud, Alan Davison and Ken 'Salsher' Mackay.

Harvey's innings, is the best I have ever seen. When he was at 96, Fazal took the new ball and displayed it to be the crowd in his raised right arm. As he started his run up, a low roar form the galleries began taking form. At the moment of his delivery broke Harvey's wicket, the roar became all pervading. A moment of pure inspiration. The 479th Test match had been held.

The next test to be held in Dhaka is a landmark in cricket itself. Hanif scored centuries in both innings (first by a Pakistan batsman) against England side led by Ted Dexter. His superb effort saved the match for Pakistan. Centuries by Javed Burki and Geoff Pullar, handsome contributions from Bob Barber, Ken Barrington, Saeed Ahmed and Alimuddin kept the cricket lovers happy with their bountiful strokeplay and watchful defence. Tony Lock was amongst wickets but it was his extraordinary brilliance in leg slip that had us marveling. The 518th Test match was drawn.

After the famous D'Oliveira incident cancelled the planned England tour to South Africa (this was the beginning of the eventual alienation of South Africa from most of the World), an England tour of the sub-continent brought about 648th Test match. It was a period of civil uprising, in Dhaka and elsewhere in Pakistan. But even then, in a situation crackling with political tension, the cricket loving people of Dhaka made sure that this was the most peaceful Test of the series. D'Oliveira played a remarkable match saving innings of 144. His ability to hit the ball hard from such a short backlift was unbelievable. The first ever representative of erstwhile East Pakistan, Neaz Ahmed, made his debut in this Test. He was subsequently chosen for the Pakistani squad that toured England. The failure of the famous names of English cricket-John Edrich, Tom Graveny, Keith Fletcher and Colin Cowdrey- had us sorely disappointed.

The last team to have played a Test match in Dhaka was New Zealand. This was the 664th Test Match of cricket. In drawing this Test, New Zealand had achieved their first series victory aboard in their 40 years of Test cricket. Defensive centuries from Glenn Turner and Mark Burguess ensured a draw but what delighted us was the scinitillating and dashing batsmanship of Asif Iqbal and Shafqat Rana.

Our subsequent bloody and tragic freedom struggle within two years of this Test match meant an end to Test matches in Dhaka. We miss the Test matches but await the day in eager anticipation when a Test match will again be played in Dhaka, between Bangladesh and ...

It is the dream of every cricket enthusiast in this country that one day we will witness the name of our country beside those of England. Australia, India, the West Indies, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, S. Africa and Zimbabwe.

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