Mohammad Nissar: India's fastest pre-partition bowler
“Nissar was a magnificent bowler and a great sportsman, who was an asset to any team of his time. A great slip fielder who could bring off surprising catches in spite of his weight. I have not seen a faster bowler than him in this sub-continent.”
These were the words used by Indian all-rounder Jahangir Khan (father of Majid Khan and uncle of Imran Khan), who played India’s first 4 Tests, to describe his teammate Mohammad Nissar.
Mohammad Nissar was India’s first pace bowler, and possibly still the fastest ever to play for the country. He played in India’s maiden Test against England at Lord’s in 1932, and has the distinction of bowling the first delivery, and also taking the first wicket by an Indian bowler. In the first innings, he destroyed the English batting with a spell of 5 for 93. He knocked over the stumps of Percy Holmes and Herbert Sutcliffe, who had added 555 for the first wicket for Yorkshire only ten days earlier.
Born on 1st August, 1910 at Hoshiarpur, Punjab (India), Mohammad Nissar played his early cricket in Prince of Wales College, Jammu and Islamia and Government Colleges, Lahore. But essentially, he was a product of Minto Park, Lahore’s famous nursery of cricketers. It was at the nets of Minto Park that Nissar practised to build up his legendary stamina and speed.
Interestingly, Nissar began his cricket career as a batsman, that too an opening batsman. However, later, as his bowling proved more effective, he moved down to the tail-end of the batting order.
In the trials held to select the Indian team for touring England, Nissar took six wickets for 68 runs. Nissar was selected in the team for his bowling, but in a tour game, showed his batting prowess too. In the match against Lancashire at Liverpool, with the team reeling at 399 for 9, Nissar added an invaluable 94 runs for the last wicket with Amar Singh.
He went on to forge a legendary bowling partnership with Amar Singh, which was very successful, though cut short by Amar’s very early demise from a bout of severe pneumonia.
CK Nayudu, India’s first Test captain, believed that Nissar was quicker than England’s legendary bowler Harold Larwood, who was widely considered to be the fastest bowler in the game’s history. Having faced both bowlers in his career, Nayudu was in no doubt on who was faster.
“Early in his spells, Nissar was quicker than even Larwood.” Nayudu made this statement after the India’s inaugural Test in which both fast bowlers played for their respective countries.
India’s first Test centurion, Lala Amarnath, owes a lot to Nissar for his career. He has gone on record to state that he could never forget Nissar’s help in 1933-34.
A young Amarnath had come to Bombay for the all-India trials and had miserably failed in the first trial, when he was sent to open the innings. Nissar realized that Amarnath had not been given a fair trial because his usual position was number three, and took it on himself to approach the selectors on his behalf.
On Nissar’s recommendation, Amarnath was given another chance, and he scored 49 and 79 not out to be selected eventually. “Had he not helped me that day, perhaps I would not have played for India at all.”