Non-Muslims to play international cricket for Pakistan

September 20, 2020

This eight-man list represents the diversity and plurality of our national culture

Mohammad Yousuf

In its short history of under seventy years as a Test-playing nation Pakistan has been represented in international matches by seven non-Muslim cricketers; five Christians and two Hindus. Six of them played Test matches for Pakistan while one represented the country in ODI’s alone. In addition to these seven, there was one non-Muslim cricketer who was selected for the national team on an official Test tour but did not make the actual playing eleven for a Test.

Five Christians

Wallis Mathias

Wallis was the first non-Muslim to play a Test for Pakistan. Coming from Goan ancestry his father was an employee at the Karachi Gymkhana. Wallis was first selected to play for the national team against the touring New Zealand side in November 1955 at the age of twenty.

A stylish middle-order batsman, his score of 41 not out in his only innings in the match was second only to 103 from Hanif. Wallis was also a superb slip fielder, in fact the first specialist fielder of the Pakistan team. Wallis played for Pakistan till 1962, his Test career being brought to an early end by a finger fracture sustained in the nets that left the injured finger permanently deformed. He continued to perform prolifically in domestic cricket captaining the National Bank team and playing for them till 1976-77.

Wallis played 21 Test matches scoring 783 runs, including three fifties, at an average of 23.72. His highest score was 77 and he also took 22 catches. His figures in first-class cricket were7520 runs at an average of 44.49 with 16 centuries and a top score of 278 not out. He took 130 first-class catches.

Wallis died in 1994 of a brain hemorrhage at the age of just 59.

Antao D’Souza

Another cricketer of Goan descent, Antao D’Souza was a medium fast bowler. He made his test debut against the West Indies in February 1959 and went on to play a total of six test matches for Pakistan, with his final test appearance being on the ill fated tour of England in 1962.

Antao D’Souza’s best performance was against the visiting England side in 1962, when took 9 wickets in the series for 206 runs.

D’Souza played 6 Tests in which he took 17 wickets at an average of 43.82 runs per wicket. His best performance in an innings was 5 wickets for 112 runs versus England at Karachi in February 1962. His first-class figures were 190 wickets at an average of 26.03 and a best haul of 7 for 33.

D’Souza migrated to Canada in 1999 along with his wife and four children.

Duncan Sharpe

Duncan Sharpe was a wicketkeeper-batsman, whose ancestors had migrated from England to India in the mid-nineteenth century, and were related to the great English novelist William Thackeray. Duncan Sharpe was born in Rawalpindi but settled in Lahore with his mother, a nursing sister, after his parents divorced.

While playing club cricket in Lahore he was noticed by both Kardar and Fazal. Subsequent good performances in the 1958-59 domestic season led to his inclusion as the 12th man for the Test series against the West Indies.

A successful trip to England with the Pakistan Eaglets in 1959, followed by a swashbuckling century as an opener in a Test trial match on his return, resulted in his selection for Pakistan for the first Test against Australia at Dhaka in November 1959. He made a fifty on Test debut, being run out for 56 by a direct hit from Australia’s best fielder Norman O’Neil. He played in all three Test matches against the visiting Australians, but was not picked for the following tour of India. Deeply disappointed Duncan Sharpe migrated to Australia. He was helped by the Australian wicketkeeper Barry Jarman, and settled in South Australia where he had a brief second career in first-class cricket.

A strikingly handsome man who was once genuinely mistaken for the actor Cary Grant, Sharpe also wrote articles for the Lahore Civil and Military Gazette (Kipling’s newspaper).

Duncan Sharpe played 3 Tests scoring 134 runs at an average of 22.34 with one fifty. His highest score was 56 and he took 2 catches as a fielder. In first-class cricket he made 1531 runs averaging 27.33. This included two centuries and a highest score of 118. He made 54 dismissals as a wicketkeeper/ fielder.

Mohammad Yousuf

(formerly Yousuf Youhanna)

Yousuf comes from a humble Lahore background. His father was a Hindu Dalit who had converted to Christianity. Yousuf had abandoned his early interest in cricket for a steady job, and was all geared up to work as a tailoring shop assistant in 1994, when he was picked to play for a local club. He never looked back. His performance at the club led to a season in the Bradford League and by 1996 he was playing first-class cricket. His Test debut soon followed in 1998 and the runs began to flow.

His hunger for runs made with a languid, soothingly hypnotic style, found its peak in 2006 when he scored 1788 runs with nine centuries at an average of 99.33, beating Viv Richards thirty year old record of 1710 for most runs in a calendar year. His nine centuries in a calendar year are also a record and he also equaled Don Bradman’s feat of scoring six centuries in successive Tests, though it took him only four matches compared to Bradman’s six.

Yousuf played 90 Tests for Pakistan making 7520 runs at an average of 52.29. His tally included 24 century and a highest score of 223. In first-class cricket he scored 19,152 runs averaging 49.28, with 29 centuries and a top score of 223.

Before announcing his conversion to Islam in September 2005, Yousuf had become the only non-Muslim to captain Pakistan, doing so on the tour of Australia in 2004-5.

Sohail Fazal

The fifth Christian to play international cricket for Pakistan, Sohail represented the national side in two ODI’s only and did not play any tests. Both his appearances came during the Champions Trophy in 1989 at Sharjah, when he scored 24 and 32 in the two matches. He had a brief first-class career scoring 742 runs with an average of 20.61 and a top score of 87 not out.

Two Hindus

Anil Dalpat

The first Hindu to play for Pakistan, Anil Dalpat was selected for the national side after Wasim Bari retired. Anil played 9 Tests for Pakistan, all within the space of one year, from March 1984 to February 1985. In the Pakistan domestic season of 1983-84, Dalpat had 69 dismissals behind the wicket which is a record for a Pakistani season.

After retiring from cricket Dalpat coached for a while in Canada before settling into a business career.

Anil’s statistics are 167 runs and 25 wicketkeeping dismissals in Test cricket and 2556 runs with 430 wicketkeeping dismissals in first-class cricket.

Danish Kaneria

Danish Kaneria

Kaneria is Dalpat’s first cousin and the second Hindu to play international cricket for Pakistan. A versatile right arm leg spinner renowned for his well disguised googly, he represented Pakistan in 61 tests between 2000 and 2010.

Kaneria is the fourth highest wicket taker in Tests for Pakistan with 261 scalps. Additionally he is one of only six Pakistani bowlers to have taken more than 1000 wickets in first class cricket.

Danish also played county cricket for Essex in England. In 2010 he was investigated and cleared in an inquiry over ‘match irregularities’. In 2012 he was named in court in a spot fixing case and was banned for life from playing in England and Wales. This decision was also endorsed by the PCB. After many years of denial Kaneria admitted his role in this scandal in an interview for an Al Jazeera television documentary in 2018.

Kaneria’s 261 Test wickets came at an average of 34.79 and his 1024 first-class wickets at an average of 26.16. His best test performance in an innings was 7 for 78, while his best test match haul was 12 wickets for 94 runs.

The Solitary Parsi

Rusi Dinshaw

Rusi Dinshaw was a left-handed batsman who was selected for Pakistan’s inaugural Test tour of India in 1951-52. He played in two first-class matches on the tour without gaining Test selection.

His first class tally is 171 runs for an average of 14.25 and a highest score of 35. Suffering from long-standing schizophrenia, Rusi died in 2014.

These eight non-Muslims of Pakistan cricket represent the diversity and plurality of our national culture.

Dr Salman Faridi is a senior surgeon, poet, sports aficionado and an avid reader with a private collection of over 7000 books.

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Non-Muslims to play international cricket for Pakistan