DateLine: 20th March 2016
Obituary: Israr Ali
Late Israr Ali was an all-rounder of great merit. Born on May 1, 1927 at Jalandhar (India) left-arm medium fast bowler and left-handed batsman, Israr Ali was a member of the team which played Pakistan's inaugural Test match at Delhi in 1952. He was Pakistan’s oldest living Test Cricketer until he passed away at the age of 88 years and 276 days on 1 February 2016 at Okara.
Before partition, he had made his First-Class debut for Southern Punjab in the Ranji Trophy in 1946-47. Later, based on his performance in 1951 against ND Howard’s visiting MCC Team for Sindh-Bahawalpur XI at Bahawalpur, where he opened the innings with Hanif Mohammad and claimed 3 for 40 to dismiss the visitors for a paltry 123, Israr was selected for the Pakistan team’s tour of India in 1952. Immediately he made impression and scored 73 in the opening match against North Zone at Amritsar. He played in Delhi and Bombay Tests but without much luck and success. Yet he continued to remain the mainstay of Bahawalpur Cricket Association in Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and against visiting international teams. He took 3 for 43 and 5 for 21 to bring a 7 wickets victory to the Prime Ministers XI against visiting New Zealand in 1955 at Bahawalpur and further claimed 4 for 115 for combined NWFP-Bahawalpur Association XI against D. B. Carr’s touring MCC team at Sialkot in 1956.
His career’s best season was 1957-58 during which he achieved one of the most notable, yet less publicized, bowling feat in First-Class cricket by claiming 6 wickets for just one run in 11 overs, 10 out of which were maidens and dismissed Dacca University for 39 in the first innings in the Semi-Final of Quaid-e-Azam Trophy at Bahawalpur. According to Maurice Golesworthy's “Encyclopedia of Cricket” this (0.16) was the best bowling average for a single innings in a First Class match and earlier only S. Cosstick for Victoria v Tasmania at Melbourne in 1868-69 and V.I. Smith for South Africans v Derbyshire at Derby in 1947 had achieved the feat. Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack also included Israr’s performance in the list of most outstanding analyses in a First-Class innings.
Due to his outstanding performance (244 runs and 35 wickets at an Average of 12.45) in 6 matches, Bahawalpur won the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy for the first time in 1957-58.
Later, after a gap of seven long years, Israr was recalled and played two more Tests against visiting Richie Benaud’s visiting Australian team and claimed six wickets at an average of 25.66. Interestingly Australian right-handed batsman Les Favell was particularly vulnerable to Israr‘s bowling and was dismissed by the paceman in each innings of both Dacca and Lahore Tests.
Such was his calibre as a batsman that Andrew Watson wrote in Sportimes, Lahore (November 1960) that Israr Ali playing for Bacup in the Lancashire League did so well that he was snapped up by Ashton in Central Lancashire League in the 1960 season where he was in such batting form that he went early to the top of the batting averages and remained there almost till the season’s close. It will be worth mentioning that for Bacup, he had replaced Everton Weeks as the Club professional.
In a career which ended in 1960-61 Israr played in 40 First-Class matches, scored 1130 runs (Average 20.54), 79 was his highest score (v/s Dacca University in 1957-58 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy) and claimed 114 wickets (Average 22.63) and 9 for 58 was his best bowling performance in an innings (v/s Punjab ‘A’ in 1957-58 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy).
It was an irony of fate that services of such a talented cricketer remained un-utilized for a long time as he was kept sidelined from the national team. He had once said that one of the biggest regrets was a fall out with Pakistan Captain Abdul Hafeez Kardar, which he believed shortened his International Career.
Alas! Such a great cricketer has passed away.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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