Abdul Hafeez Kardar was a brave, determined and resolute cricketer and administrator who’ll be remembered as the father figure of Pakistan cricket. He is one of the only three players to have played Test cricket for both India and Pakistan, the other two being Amir Elahi and Gul Mohammad.
Born in Lahore in a cricketing family, Kardar first toured England in 1946 with the Indian national team. He was an attacking left-handed batsman and bowled his slow left-arm spin or slow medium accurately.
He played three Tests for India on that tour, stayed in England, went up to Oxford to pursue his education further and ended up playing for Oxford’s cricket team too. His impressive playing style earned him a contract at Warwickshire, whom he represented for 2 years.
After coming back to Pakistan, he was appointed to lead Pakistan who would play their first official Test series touring India in 1952–53. Kardar fielded his men against Lala Amarnath’s Indian team. Although India won the series, Kardar’s Pakistan achieved their first Test victory in only their second Test in Lucknow.
Kardar also has the distinction of leading Pakistan against all the test-playing nations. Even better is the fact that Pakistan won at least 1 match against all of them, a remarkable achievement for a nascent cricketing nation. The most famous victory of his tenure undoubtedly came at Old Trafford where Pakistan, inspired by Fazal Mahmood’s 12 wickets beat England and drew the series.
Kardar was known to have a dictatorial mindset. But he was also a visionary and was an advocate of neutral umpires, a stance later taken up by Imran Khan too. He went into cricket management after retirement and was actively involved in the PCB till 1977 when he was forced to resign after a pay dispute with the players.
He died in 1996, aged 71. He is today credited with popularising the game with common Pakistani people and youth, for his grooming of some of Pakistan’s greatest cricketers, young talent and prodigies, and his administration of the Pakistan team and the board in its early years, developing a culture of pride and professionalism.
No matter how many Imran Khans and Misbahs come, the original title of Kaptaan will always be Kardar’s. Farewell, Kaptaan.