The Pakistani cricket team has arrived in India after seven years to take part in the upcoming 50-over World Cup. It reminded us of the first ever tour of India by the Pakistani team that turned into an emotional journey for many of the tourists. A thread.

Five years after the Partition of the sub-continent, the Pakistani cricket team arrived in India to play their first ever test series.For the Pakistanis, it meant a two-hour bus journey from Lahore to Amritsar.

The political scenario was tense over the Kashmir imbroglio. However, the Pakistani team was warmly received at the Wagah border by Indian representatives. Their first match was in Amritsar.

For four members of the touring party, it was a familiar environment. Maqsood Ahmed, Waqar Hasan, Khurshid Ahmed and Mahmood Hussain were all brought up in Amritsar pre-Partition.

However, tight security arrangements meant they could not roam about the lanes and by-lanes as they’d once done.

At the end of the match, a Sikh man approached the Pakistani captain A.H. Kardar, and handed over to him a copy of the Holy Quran – left behind by his Muslim neighbour more than five years ago.

For one of the Amritsari boys in the Pakistani team, it was a difficult journey to undertake. During the dark days leading up to the partition, Waqar Hasan’s family home had been burnt down by an irate mob.

Worse, his grandparents had been unable to escape and were burnt to death. The 20-year old was certainly very apprehensive when crossing the border. But in his own words, the rousing reception at every venue laid apprehensions to rest.

The feeling of mutual bonhomie probably played a big part in Waqar Hasan putting up a stellar performance – finishing as the top scorer in the 5-test series from either side. His best came in the third test at Bombay with fighting half centuries in both innings.

But in the second innings, Waqar was upstaged by a younger team-mate. Like Waqar, this teenager also had an “Indian” connection. His family had left the princely state of Junagadh for Karachi at the dead of the night in 1947.

In Pakistan’s second essay, 17-year old Hanif Mohammad stood tall amidst ruins, impressing all with his composure and determination. Such was the effect of Hanif’s batting that it swayed the crowd’s feelings.

As he inched his way towards a maiden hundred, many in the Bombay crowd, especially those with roots in Hanif’s native Kathiawar region were actively cheering him on. Hanif fell agonisingly short by four runs.

Although Pakistan could not avoid defeat, Hanif’s spirited fight left Indian fans much impressed. It was the first display of greatness from a man who would go on to become Pakistan’s first great batsman.

During the 4th test at Madras, AH Kardar, on behalf of Pakistani team, presented India’s star allrounder Vinoo Mankad with a silver plaque for becoming the fastest to the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets. It was a perfect demonstration of the fine spirits that prevailed.

The series ended in a 2-1 win for India. But in their maiden series, Pakistan had impressed everyone with their cricketing skills. More importantly, the trip resulted in tremendous goodwill in both countries.

The first cricketing engagement of 1952 gave birth to one of cricket’s most enduring, entertaining and passionate rivalries that has continued despite political tensions between the neighbours.

In little over 10 days, the two sides will lock horns in Ahmedabad for a World Cup 2023 contest. May cricket and its lovers win that day.


Wounded Tiger: The History of Cricket in Pakistan – Peter Oborne (Simon & Schuster)