Remembering the unique Imtiaz Ahmad

IT would be to my eternal regret that I was not able to meet Imtiaz Ahmad, for some time with whom I had long and personal relationship. My close friend Mujahid Syed, who follows cricket like religion had been asking me to invite Imtiaz for a get together with some other friends including scholarly Dr. Ishtiaq, who too like Mujahid wanted an exclusive session with the great cricketer who for many generations of young cricketers had remained a worthy Idol.
Then out of blue, I got a call from Imtiaz Ahmad, giving me his residential phone number as I had a number which had changed. I profusely thanked him and promised to contact him soon.
Alas, I could not contact him as he was admitted in a local hospital and shortly afterwards he passed away. This news came as a shock and as I had always found him in a stable condition during various meetings.
Coming back to Imtiaz, I recall him as someone who had become an early idol of young cricketers in the early days of Pakistan. He was like many others of Lahore a product of Islamia School, Bhatti Gate a list which included Hafeez Kardar, Nazar Mohammad, and many others of that era. Alas, the building and existence of that great institution is no more. It was demolished years ago, to accommodate the expansion plan of Data Darbar, which was located quite next to it.
Imtiaz, had shown his talent as a young cricketer to make his mark in Ranji Trophy, prior to independence, and established him even before Pakistan was given the official Test status. Imtiaz had shown his sparkle against some formidable teams like Australian Services team, West Indies,(led by John Goddard) Commonwealth XI, and Sri Lanka.(then called Ceylon led by Jay Wickreme).
When Imtiaz scored a knock of 300 runs playing for Prime Minister of India XI against a strong Commonwealth Team Bombay, he was patted by Premier Nehru and became an instant hero of all young cricketers in the sub-continent. I recall my first meeting with Imtiaz, way back in the early 1950’s when my uncle Ajmal Malik, his team mate in the Islamia College, Lahore, who took me to meet him, at his residence in Kapurthaka House.
Imtiaz Ahmad, along with Waqar Hasan, Ghazali, and others joined Pakistan Air Force, with Squadron Leader Hafeez Kardar, as their captain. Except for Gazali and Imtiaz all others including Kardar left PAF, and Imtiaz went on to become a Wing Commander, while Ghazali, after his short-lived cricket career was shifted to PIA.
It was during my long career both as a sports, journalist and then with PIA and my stints with Pakistan Cricket Board, I came to know Imtiaz much more intimately.
Imtiaz would always be remembered as a batsman who faced the greatest fast bowlers of his era with effortless ease and was a master hooker. He was also an impeccable wicket-keeper. Imtiaz Ahmad, throughout his career was a thorough gentleman, and remained an idol for the cricket lovers.
After his playing days and brief spell as the Pakistan Captain, he served long in many capacities like, Chief Selector, Manager of Pakistan Team, Head of Women Cricket and then also creating a Coaching Unit of his own, located at Model Town, Lahore.
One only wished that Cricket Board, should have shown a little more respect to Imtiaz for his great services, who was rather abruptly removed from Captaincy and was never given due share of recognition he so richly deserved.

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