Akberali Fazal Ismail
Born in 1918 Dar es Salaam
(An article from the 1983 Sunday News, published in Dar es Salaam)
As the crowd disperses after an exhausting day’s cricket, there drifts away into oblivion and seclusion, an aloof and forlorn figure of an elderly man by the name of Akberali Fazal Ismail alias “Chacha” or to be appropriate “Cricket Chacha” as pet named by cricket enthusiasts.
For a whole day, the crowd focuses its attention on the score board, which keeps moving with the rapidity of a computer as runs pile up whilst overs diminish and wickets keep on tumbling. The man behind the scene is "Chacha".
Born on 4th June, 1918 in Dar es Salaam, Chacha is a simple man by nature. His 65 years age makes him slightly stoop and limp. While taking care in a shop in the city keeps him occupied during weekdays, weekend finds him registered at the cricket ground.
Chacha’s way of life evokes sympathy. A section of the crowd derives cynical pleasure in ridiculing Chacha. How excruciating it must be for the old man to be put upon such a strenuous and that too an honorary work while his endeavor directed at satisfying the public, is reciprocated in the form.
It is saddening to see Chacha limping his way to Kinondoni Ground as motorists heading towards the same venue by pass him without even a courteous offer for a lift - a contrast of what this gentleman’s game teaches.
Chacha played cricket for Aga Khan School at the inter-school level between 1935 and 1942. However, his attachment to the score- board goes back to 1935 when he started keeping score in a match between Ithna-asheri Gymkhana and Karimjee Gymkhana. He derives immense pleasure from this irksome and unusual task.
Chacha prefers Kinondoni scoreboard to others as it does not require him to climb the chairs to place the numbers, unlike those at Coast or Gymkhana. The board at Kinondoni is also nearer to the scorers. Dar es Salaam Gymkhana, despite the unavailability of trees that provide shade against the scorching sun and its shabby pavilion, continues to be Chacha's favorite ground for it reminds him of the good old days.
Chacha’s contemporaries refer to him as "Bhalloo", that has nothing to do with his family name. Interestingly, he gained this nickname from his adoration for his childhood hero by the name of a fine batsman, Kermali Bhalloo, who used to be Zanzibar AK Club fast bowler and a fine batsman.
Chacha avidly recalls the 1931 incident in the Aga Khan Sports Club vs Hindu Sports Club match, where the supporters of the latter invaded the ground when one of their players was adjudged Lbw. He compares this match against Dar Cricketers crucial match against Union in recent time when the umpires got beaten by some of the spectators, who invaded the pitch on Shiraz Sumar’s run-out dismissal.
Chacha is a staunch supporter of Dar Cricketers and Shiraz Sumar his favorite cricketer. According to Chacha, the onlookers are captivated by Sumar’s majestic display of cricket and the confidence that he exudes. Chacha gets annoyed when Dar Cricketers do not play up to his expectations and specially when Sumar gives away his wicket cheaply. His facial expression undergoes a change and he becomes red with anger.
Chacha feels honored when he gets appreciated as occasionally feted by DCA in the form of remuneration or small material gift at the time of visits by overseas teams or East African teams during quadrangular tournaments. Chacha cherishes the shield presented to him by Malawi’s Mpingwe during its participation in the AG Tarmohamed Tournament played in Dar es Salaam last year. That was indeed a good gesture on the part of the visitors.
Chacha reveals his disappointment at the present status of our cricket, unlike the past when teams from abroad would visit us and our public had the opportunity to watch good cricket. He wishes that outside teams visit us regularly and the country’s standard of cricket is improved.
Chacha recommends a squad of the following from whom Tanzania XI may be picked:
Shiraz Sumar, Bashir Tejani, Mohamed Nathoo, Alnasir Hasham, Subhash Parmar, Gulamraza Sheriff, Munir Sheriff, Kutbuddin Dossaji, Hitesh Patadia, Bashir Ramzan, Alnoor Fazal, Shakir Sherally, Parvez Vira and Sajjad Lakha.
Certain youngsters and in particular children love Chacha whom they regard as grandfather of Tanzania cricket. A roar of laughter gets created as he yells, “Hit on, no time two overs to go"
As Tanzania’s leading cricketer, Shiraz Sumar, rightly puts it," We cricketers are grateful to Chacha and cricket in general owes a lot to this old man, whose indefatigable service, without any motivation, is a clear indication of his humanity. The mere presence of Chacha at the ground enlivens the atmosphere and the public just loves the character that he plays."
A note from the Sampully Family:
In addition to being a cricket fan, Akber Chacha was a very hardworking and dedicated soul. His untiring voluntary services in the Jamatkhanas in Morogoro and Dares salaam were exceptional.