Cricket has a long history. According to the ICC website, the first we hear of it is in 1611 and it was then described as “Boys Sport”. The game caught the fancy of those who came across it and it spread quickly. By the middle of the 17th century county teams had appeared on the scene and the first time county teams participated under the names of their counties was in 1709.
In the early days the cricket bat was more like a hockey stick and for good reason. The bowlers did not throw the ball at the batsmen as they do now but rolled it down the pitch. So who regulated the game? As per information available, first laws were made in 1744 and amended in 1774 when innovations such as lbw, a 3rd stump, and a maximum bat width were added to the rules.
The Hambledon Club in Hampshire was the focal point of the game for about thirty years until the formation of MCC and the opening of Lord’s Cricket Ground in 1787.
There are presently three formats of cricket played at the international level – Test matches, One-Day Internationals and Twenty20 Internationals. Locally in the USA and some other parts of the world a fourth format of ten overs is also vying for space and there have been some major tournaments under its banner.
Going through the history of the game you will realize how drastically cricket has changed over the years—both in terms of the various styles of playing as well as the coverage of the game itself. Here let us just talk about the coverage of the game for the ordinary cricket fan in the sixties when we did not have the privilege of watching cricket from the comfort of our home nor the added advantage of replays that ensure no moment of the match is missed.
Things were a lot different. At that time the main source to keep up with cricket was through radio commentary and there are many voices that stir the memory when one recalls those moments when the whole nation would be glued to the radio.
There was commentary in both English and Urdu and some commentators were global heroes as during each cricket match their description of the happenings on the playing field were listened to with rapt attention and baited breath. I do not remember all the names but some were legends that one cannot truly forget.
Top of the pile was the duo of Omar Kureishi and Jamsheed Marker. There were also Chishti Mujahid, Iftikhar Ahmad and others. There was also commentary in Urdu and there were such well-known Urdu commentators as Hameed Akhtar, Munir Hussain and others.
Many of those still around are now enjoying their career on the various TV channels that they joined and they are too many to be recognized here. One of the outstanding Urdu commentators of the past is Hameed Akhtar who now lives in Los Angeles and has turned his attention to tennis and is doing as well in that game as he was doing in the business of Urdu commentary. I called him and asked him to recount some interesting incident and if possible of his visit to India as that seems to be the hot topic in the country at the moment.
Hameed recalled his first commentary assignment was for India-Pakistan cricket series in India in 1987. That was the time when we were on the verge of a war but Gen Ziaul Haq used this series to ease tensions. The commentators’ team consisted of Hameed, Omar Kureishi, Hasan Jalil and Chishti Mujahid.
According to Hameed, normally commentators distribute overs like five overs per commentator. There were four commentators. Hameed, Hassan Jalil, Chishty Mujahid and Omar Kureishi.
Hassan Jalil started the commentary and after every 5 overs there was change of commentator. Hameed’s turn was after 15 overs. Pakistan was given a big target. After 40 overs it was obvious that India will easily win the match. In the meantime it was over number 40 and the turn of Hameed to start the commentary. Omar Kureishi, who was sitting next to him, had to take over at over number 45 till the end of the match.
At that time when there was no hope and match was almost in India’s favor, Salim Malik who was not supposed to come for batting as he had a finger fractured was sent in anyways. That was a turning point of that match. Malik bashed the Indian bowlers, including Kapil Dev.
That was over number 44 and after this over Omar Kureishi had to take over and conclude the match. During the 45th over Hameed looked at Omar Kureishi to indicate that after a couple of balls he has to take over.
He could not believe that Omar Kureishi put his hand on his shoulder and whispered carry on. It was the greatness of the man that he allowed Hameed to commentate the last five overs when millions of people across the border and all over the world were listening to every moment of this game.
After every ball he encouraged Hameed and kept saying ‘’very good carry on’’. Hameed concluded the historic victory for Pakistan and still remembers that great person. Truly a golden page in the annals of cricket commentary in Pakistan.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023