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Pakistan’s oldest surviving Test cricketer Israr Ali dies

Pakistan’s oldest surviving Test cricketer Israr Ali dies

KARACHI: Israr Ali, one of four surviving members from the team which played in Pakistan’s inaugural Test match against India in October 1952, died in Okara on Monday afternoon after a massive cardiac arrest.

Okara-based Israr, who was 88 years and 276 days old at the time of his death, leaves behind Imtiaz Ahmed (88 years 28 days), Waqar Hasan (83 years, 143 days) and Hanif Mohammad (81 years, 43 days) as the only survivors of the playing XI which took the field at Feroz Shah Kotla Ground in Delhi.

According to Najam Latif, the curator of Bagh-i-Jinnah Ground in Lahore, Israr had been unwell for the last couple of months.

“His condition was already frail since he developed a heart problem a few months ago. Most of this period, he stayed in his hometown,” Najam told Dawn on Tuesday.

“He was a very kind person who cared for others in need. Generally, he was modest and humble. It’s a very sad day for Pakistan cricket.”

Primarily a left-arm pace bowler, Israr was also a left-handed batsman who batted at No.3 in both innings of the Delhi Test. He was bowled by Vinoo Mankad for one run in the first innings. Mankad also dismissed him in the second innings, trapping him LBW for nine as Pakistan lost the Test by an innings and 70 runs.

Respected cricket journalist and analyst Qamar Ahmed remembers Israr as one of the good-looking cricketers in the early days of Pakistan history.

“He was a broad-shouldered pace bowler. Well-built and strong looking, he could generate brisk pace on helping wickets. He was one of the good looking cricketers of his time,” the widely-travelled Qamar observed.

“If I were to compare him to anyone as far as his bowling action goes, Israr was pretty close to Rahat Ali [the current Pakistan left-armer]. Both had similar stride to the crease.”

Israr, who was born in Jullundur (now known as Jalandhar) in Indian Punjab on May 1, 1927, figured in just four Tests in seven years. In eight innings, he scored just 33 runs with a highest of 10 against India at Mumbai’s Brabourne Stadium and took six wickets with a best of 2-29 versus Australia at Lahore in 1959.

It was in the Lahore Test when Israr famously broke the stump of Australian batsman Les Favell, who was bowled in all four innings by the left-armer.

“A few years later, Israr donated that broken wicket to the Lahore Museum,” Najam recalled. “But sadly that precious item was stolen from the premises. Obviously, a piece of cricketing history was lost the day it disappeared from the museum.”

Israr played 40 first-class matches from 1946-47 until 1960-61, while scoring 1130 runs with 79 being his best score and claimed 114 wickets with 9-58 as his best figures in an innings.

Israr left behind three sons and two daughters while his wife died some 20 years ago.

After his playing career, Israr, a farmer by profession, stayed involved in cricket administration and was president of the Multan region from 1981 to 1982, and member of the national selection committee in 1983 and 1984, before he decided to move away from the game to reunite with his farm in Okara.

The ‘Qul’ of the late cricketer was held on Tuesday in his hometown.

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2016

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