- Dar es Salaam
- Dar es Salaam
Born in Dar es Salaam
Contributed by Raza Kara
Right from Fazal Sumar (Kifaru) to Shiraz Sumar, Aga Khan Sports Club, with their entertaining cricket, have proved to be the biggest crowd puller on the local cricket scene. With the cricket season about to begin it is appropriate to recount the glorious past of their club.
The history of the club dates back to nineteen twenties. It then used to be ‘Brotherhood Sports Club’, which was later changed to ‘Panjebhai Club’. Among the pioneers were stalwarts such as HJ Pirani, Ibrahim Dharsee(Bai) and MK Damji.
The thirties saw the emergence of Fazal Sumar, better known as ‘Kifaru’. He was a deadly spinner and took wickets left, right and center. Then came the great Mamda Kassam whose electrifying bowling had batsmen trembling. It is said that his sharp perception would not let any batsman settle.
Panjebhai or Agakhan Sports Club as it came to be known in 1939 became a force to be reckoned with. It monopolized the forties through the second world war put a couple of years’ halt to the local cricket. Cricket resumed after the war and Agakhan Club continued their dominance winning the league consecutively from 1946 to 1952.
In the year 1946 on the occasion of Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Agakhan, AG Abdulhusain donated a floating trophy ‘Agakhan Cup’ for the annual Ismaili versus Non Ismaili tournament. On that particular instance in August 1946 reputed cricketers from Kenya and Zanzibar came to participate in the tournament and His Highness Sultan Mohamed Shah himself was present at the Daressalaam Gymkhana ground sitting in the pavilion. It was a great occasion witnessed by hundreds of spectators who had come from all over East Africa. The Non Ismailis won on that occasion and His Highness presented the trophy to the Non Ismaili skipper.
By fifties the formidable Kalyan brothers, Gullu, Shera and Hashnu had landed in Daressalaam from Zanzibar and Agakhan Club gained momentum. Today the sight of aged and ailing Gullu White as he was known, is cricket nostalgia.
There were other players too like AI Ebrahim, BH Sachu, A Murji, PV Rajan, BG Moosa and HK Hirji. PV Rajan’s sixes still get talked about. The fascinating opening pair of HK Hirji and Badru Mussa always laid solid foundations. Badru Mussa used to be severe on the leg,piling up Agakhan’s score to the delight of their supporters.
Hindu Sports Club and Bohora Gymkhana formed Agakhan Club’s toughest competitors in 1950s and 1960s. The fierce rivalry between Hindus and Ismailis attracted huge crowds. Hindu Club had stalwarts like Premji Vaghela and Lavingia. Bohoras with Abdulkadar Makra, KT Karim, Sulemanji brothers and FHR was no less a daunting side.
Agakhan Club had a large number of supporters and they thronged the ground in hundreds. Drum beats and trumpet blaring provided festive environment at the ground. Boundaries, sixes and fall of wickets were met with deafening cheers. At times tempers flared among spectators and even fist-fights broke out which momentarily tensed the situation but then livened up the proceedings. After the victory supporters took out procession through the streets of Daressalaam. Indeed those were the good old days.
The Bhamji brothers, Badru and Feroz, played vital role for the club in the later phase. Badru’s century against the Indian team consisting of their test bowler Ramakant Desai became the talk of the town. Shamshu Alidina, Allu Visram and the illustrious Shiraz Sumar followed but by the early seventies, the exodus of the larger section of the community to Canada had its effect on Agakhan Club’s cricket dominance.
Shiraz Sumar got selected to participate for East Africa in the 1975 World Cup and he temporarily quit the Daressalaam cricket scene. By then, Union Sports Club had emerged a dominant force. On Sumar’s return, he took over the cricket scene by storm and spectator interest revived tremendously. The arch rivalry between Union and Agakhan Club produced thrilling encounters.
There were other stars too like Alnoor Fazal, Parvez Vira, Bashir Ramzan, Alnasir Hasham and of course the good old Mithoo Thawer whose tremendous services to the club right from 1950s through Zanzibar up to 1990s deserve special mention.
After Sumar’s exit, Agakhan Club became a depleted side. The sight of their scanty supporters sitting in one corner of the ground watching their mediocre team was saddening. The grim reality of the time obscuring their glittering past must have been painful to them.
Now the boys from Karachi have stepped in and the Club seems going through a revival phase. In Karim Sabzali and Anver Merchant, they have fine all-rounders. The youthful Ayzaz Jessani and Inayat Premji are promising. Under the able leadership of Karim Jamal, Agakhan Club has been winning the Saturday Championship for the past two years and ought to pose a threat to other competitors this season.