Being essentially a loner Wasim was not always in the good books of the authorities.

KHALID BUTT, Bureau Chief, Lahore
Sep 04 - Sep 10, 2006

One has known Wasim Raja ever since he was a tiny toddler. He came from a thoroughbred cricketing family as both his late father and grandfather were first class cricketers. The family came from Gujranwala although it originally belonged to a town called Ghakkar few miles away from the GT Road.

Having known the family and the role played by Capt. Manzur Hussain in founding the rich traditions of the game in Gujranwala in the early 20th country and later by Raja Saleem Akhtar, both as a player and organiser, it was not surprising that two of the third generation Rajas - Wasim and Ramiz - outshone in international cricket. Wasim, who like every other member of the family took to the game showing early promise, through his days at Aitcheson College, Govt College and various clubs like Lahore Gymkhana, for whom he regularly turned up. His international debut began in 1973.

But his purple patch came much later during his tours of West Indies (1977) and New Zealand/Australia (1979). What was more ironical that on both these tours his selection came only after some hectic effort made by late Omar Kureishi as selectors in their wisdom had left him out for some odd reasons.

Being essentially a loner Wasim was not always in the good books of the authorities. On some occasions, especially during the tour of New Zealand/Australia, I had to quietly play a significant role in saving Wasim from the wrath of the strong lobby in the team determined to pack him back on some pretext or other. Wasim was himself least concerned about their absurd machinations and looking back, I can recall with utter disgust those happenings. What is more being the only journalist covering the lengthy tour I never made public these activities and kept a lid over this sordid chapter.

Wasim was a rare breed who showed his talent on so many occasions especially during the 1977 West Indies tour to amass 517 runs. A stylish and aggressive left-handed batsman, he was right-arm leg-break and googley bowler and a brilliant fielder. Altogether he played 57 Tests, and 54 ODI's and figured in the first three World Cups in 1975, 1979 & 1983. But I have often pondered like so many others that his full potential was somehow not utilized during his enigmatic career.

In the later years, he served cricket as a national coach and later as a Match Referee. For many years he was living in England and last time I met him was on the funeral of his father Raja Saleem Akhtar in Lahore.

Quite fittingly he died on a cricket field while playing in a 50-over match for Surrey. There has been a spontaneous sense of grief on the passing away of this dignified, unassuming gentle cricketer among all of his former colleagues, cricket-related personalities and a whole legion of his fans.

God bless you my dear departed friend, as you brought so much joy to countless fans through your exploits on the cricket field which will remain enshrined in their memory.


Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali has taken over as the new President of Pakistan Hockey Federation. Chairman PIA Tariq Kirmani, the outgoing PHF chief had tendered his resignation to the Prime Minister, who is the patron of PHF, owing to his preoccupation with his PIA assignment.

This was accepted and the Prime Minister named Mr. Zafarullah Jamali as the new PHF supremo. Jamali, who as the former Prime Minister has been the patron of PHF, was an outstanding hockey player in his younger age. He regularly played for Aitcheson College, Govt College Lahore, Punjab University and even the provincial side. He had been a contemporary of some of the renowned former Olympians and Pakistan stalwarts like Khalid Mahmood, Jahangir Butt and late Sami Khan, whose keen interest and personal involvement with the game is a plus point in his new role.

He had also been Chairman of Selection Committee and always evinced keen interest in the promotion of hockey. The arrival of Jamali at this most crucial time in Pakistan hockey augurs well for its future. He is a balanced personality and apparently with his keenness, influence and above all involvement can help lift the game back to its past glory. Having personally known Jamali for many years, I have always felt he had long aspired to become PHF chief. Finally he has made it and one extends him a hearty welcome and wishes him good luck in his new role.