KARACHI: Since Pakistan’s emergence on the world atlas as an independent nation on August 14th 1947, sports has, probably, been the only factor which has brought the nation together and always kept the green flag high in every corner of the world.
From Hashim Khan’s victory in British Open Squash in 1951 to Pakistan’s win in world team snooker championship and from Hockey team’s Gold medal at Rome Olympics to Sarfaraz-led team winning Cricket Champions Trophy at The Oval, beating India. Sportsmen have always been on the front-lines to keep Pakistan’s flag high.
There is a long list of athletes who have made the nation proud, an undisputed list of sportsmen on whom every Pakistan can feel pride.
As the country celebrates 70 years of independence, lets pay a little tribute to at least seven of those countless athletes who have brought laurels to the country with their unmatchable achievements.
Jahangir Khan (Squash)
Jahangir Khan is, without any doubt, the greatest ever athlete produced by Pakistan. His achievement remains unmatchable, what Jahangir has achieved as a Squash player is something yet to be achieved by any other athlete.
During his career as professional squash player Jahangir won the World Open six times and the British Open a record ten times.
In 1981, Jahangir – aged 17 – became the youngest winner of the World Open, beating Australia’s Geoff Hunt in final. That tournament also marked the start of an unbeaten run which lasted for five years and 555 matches which finally came to end in the final of the World Open in 1986 in France when he lost to Ross Norman.
Jahagir Khan, for me, is the greatest sportsman ever. If not, then one of them, for sure. His record of winning 555 matches consecutively, is something which is still unchallenged by any other athlete, and this was just one of his many extraordinary achievements.
Winning 555 games is not an easy task for any athlete, unless he is Jahangir Khan and to become Jahangir Khan, you need to be exceptionally super.
And, not only that, he’s an inspiration for all, for everyone, for every single athlete in the world.
In his book Winning Squash, Jahangir Khan mentions how his future was brushed aside in the beginning.
“I was told I would never become world champion. I was the youngest, smallest, feeblest and sickest of the family. Neither the doctor nor my father believed there was any chance for me to become a good squash player,” he writes in the book.
But, he went to achieve everything an athlete would dream of.
Abdul Khaliq (Athletics)
In country of Jahangir Khan, Wasim Akram, Samiulalh, an athlete like Abdul Khaliq remained as an unsung hero. He was twice declared “fastest man of Asia” by winning 100m race in Asian Games of 1954 and 1958. Dubbed as “flying bird of India” by former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Khaliq won 36 International Gold Medals, 15 International Silver Medals & 12 International Bronze Medals for Pakistan.
During 1954 Asian Games, Abdul Khaliq set a record of 10.6 seconds in a 100 meters race by beating the previous record of 10.8 seconds held by Lavy Pinto of India. Abdul Khaliq was dubbed as Fastest Man of Asia.
The then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who was the chief guest dubbed him as “The Flying Bird of Asia. Khaliq was only 21 at that time.
He was also the 1st man of Asian games who was dubbed with the title of “Fastest Man of Asia.” He was also one and only athlete of Pakistan who was dubbed as fastest man of Asia.
Imran Khan (Cricket)
Imran Khan, one of the best – if not the best – Cricketers ever produced.
Although, the country has produced several Cricketing stalwarts from Fazal Mehmood to Wasim Akram and from Hanif Mohammad to Javed Miandad and Inzamam ul Haq. But Imran stands on top of the list.
His charisma made many – not only in Pakistan but in other countries as well – to opt for bowling fast. And fearless batting set an example for others on how to lead from the front.
Imran gave subcontinent cricket a new trend with his extraordinary appealing appearance and played an iconic role in popularization and commercialization of Cricket in Pakistan.
As his profile on cricinfo says “Imran Khan is indisputably the greatest cricketer to emerge from Pakistan, and arguably the world’s second-best all-rounder after Garry Sobers. He took a mediocre side and transformed them into world-beaters, leading them to the World Cup title in 1992.
Imran made his debut in 1971. Three years later, he made ODI debut. In 1976 he secured a permanent place in Pakistan team.
His authorization as one of the finest fastest bowlers established when he finished third at 139.7 km/h in a fast bowling contest at Perth after Jeff Thomson and Michael Holding but ahead of Lillee, Le Roux & Andy Roberts.
In 1982, Imran Khan, in 9 Tests got 62 wickets at 13.29 each, the lowest of any bowler in history of Test Cricket taking minimum 50 wickets in a calendar year.
He completed his all-rounder’s triple (3000 runs & 300 wickets) in 75 Tests, the 2nd fastest after Ian Botham who reached this figure in 72 Tests.
Hamid Hameedi (Hockey)
To pick just one player from Pakistan Hockey to compile the list of selected athletes from span of 70 years is most difficult task. The country has produced countless Hockey stars Naseer Bunda to Islahuddin and from Samiullah to Shahbaz Ahmed. They all have several achievements to their credit.
But, of all, the most remarkable achievement of Pakistan Hockey was silver medal in 1956 Melbourne Olympics and Gold medal in 1960’s Rome Olympics. Both came under skillful leadership of Hamid Hameedi, who led team from the front and played an important role to win the medals for Pakistan.
These two medals changed fortune of Hockey in Pakistan and made a lot of people opt for Hockey in following years.
Hameedi was also conferred with Pride of Performance award by the President of Pakistan in 1960.
Aisam ul Haq (Tennis)
Aisam ul Haq is unarguably Pakistan’s most celebrated Tennis player. In a country obsessed with Cricket, Aisam remained the only Pakistani in last one decade in professional Tennis circuit, and he wasn’t there merely for being there. He kept on bringing laurels to country by raising Pakistan’s flag everywhere.
Aisam – currently aged 37 – is still active in ATP circuit and has 15 double titles to his credit. In 2010, Aisam reached height of his career when he played the final of US Open Tennis to become only Pakistani till date to play the final of a Tennis Grand slam.
He is also recipient of several local and international awards including President’s Award for Performance by the Government of Pakistan in 2004, the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Of The Year Award for 2002 and 2010, Triple gold medalist at first Islamic Solidarity Games, Salam Pakistan Youth Award by President of Pakistan in 2007 and runner-up for the 2003 Anne Frank Award For Moral Courage by the Anne Frank Trust, UK.
Hussain Shah (Boxing)
One of the finest boxers produced by Pakistan. Hussain Shah won one of only two individual Olympic medals – to date – for Pakistan by winning the Bronze medal in 1988 Olympics in Korea.
Hailing from Karachi’s locality Liyari Hussain Shah also has five gold in the South Asian Games history to his credit. He remained one of the best boxers of Asia between 1980 and 1988, which is the best prominence achieved by any Pakistani boxer.
In 1989 Hussain Shah received Sitara-i-Imtiaz medal from Government of Pakistan.
Muhammad Yousuf (Snooker)
If any sport has won most number of World and Asian titles for Pakistan, it is the game of colorful balls and cue-stick, Snooker.
The country has so far won six world titles in Snooker, which is two more than national sport Hockey. Only sport to win more title than Snooker is Squash which with 28 official world titles.
Mohammad Yousuf deserve the credit to give Snooker a life in Pakistan by winning the IBSF world snooker championship, beating Iceland’s Johannes R. Johannesson in the final in 1994. Four years later he went to win Asian Snooker Championship. In 2006, Yousuf won world masters championship.
He is, in fact, one of the most celebrated cueist of Pakistan and many grabbed cue stick only after following Yousuf’s achievements in the game.