Despite the limited recreational facilities for the majority of its people, Pakistan is a sportsman’s paradise, offering everything from the excitement of such popular sports as soccer, cricket, boxing, hockey, tennis, squash, and horse riding, to the thrills of polo, trekking, big game fishing, fly fishing, scuba diving and mountain climbing.
For many sports-lovers Pakistan is synonymous with cricket, hockey and squash. Introduced to Pakistan by the British, Pakistan sportsmen have not only excelled at these sports but given them a dimension of their own; a combination of Pakistan’s ancient fighting spirit and the sublime artistry of master craftsmen.
Visitors will find both domestic and international games being played in stadiums in major towns across the country according to the season.
Yet few are aware of the many traditional sports played in Pakistan. Wrestling, horse racing, polo, tent-pegging, Chatti, and Kabaddi have all been played for hundreds of years as important features of the many large and colourful festivals that occur throughout the countryside.
Throughout Pakistan cricket is played wherever there’s room enough to play and enough people to make up a team, from the back streets of Karachi to the picturesque playing fields of lslamia College, Peshawar.
Just three years after being admitted to the International Cricket Conference, Pakistan came from behind to beat the formidable English XI and level the series in their England tour of 1954. Since then Pakistan has enjoyed victories against all major cricket-playing countries, both at home and abroad.
Hanif Muhammad, with a world-record top score of 499, is one of the most prolific run getters in the history of the game. The 1989 captain Imran Khan is one of the most successful all-rounders of all time while moulding his side into one of the most formidable of the decade.
If Javed Miandad continues to score at his present rate, he will rewrite the record books as a batsman. Abdul Qadir, the master spin-bowler, has not simply struck terror into the hearts of the world’s top batsmen; he is one of the few players who, on more than one occasion, have against all the odds defeated the opposition on his own.
Shahid Khan Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Muhammad Hafiz, Saeed Ajmal and Nasir Jamshed are few famous players of Pakistan cricket team in current times.
In the last few years Pakistan dominance in hockey has waned as Australia and the European nations improved their skills and international standings.
The grace, brilliance and speed that used to thrill spectators all over the world, nevertheless, has given Pakistan a formidable international track-record in the forty-two years since Independence, Olympic gold-medallists in Rome (1960) and Mexico (1968), silver-medallists in Melbourne (1956) and Montreal (1976), bronze-medallists in Munich (1972). In addition they have won the World Cup (1971) and the Asian title (1970).
At Independence there were only ten squash courts in Pakistan and some 200 players of the game. Yet from this meagre base, one of the most phenomenal success stories in international sport has developed. Even more remarkable is the fact that this success has been monopolised by one family, the Khans. At thirty-five years of age Hashim Khan began his remarkable record of victories which includes eight Scottish Opens and seven British Opens.
His nephew Jehangir “Conqueror of the World” continued the winning tradition by Claiming the British Open a record nine times, the World Championship six times, and virtually every other tournament he has competed in. He played more than three years without losing a single gamer Sharing the same name, but not related, is Jansheer Khan. Already having tasted success as a teenager, Jansheer is expected, by many, to be even more successful than his illustrious namesakes.