Dr. Khadim Baloch, one of Pakistan cricket’s most passionate observer, author, correspondent and leading literature and memorabilia collector, passed away aged 80, on Monday morning at Colchester General Hospital, after a prolonged illness.
Having personally benefited a great deal from a working relation, dating back to 1995, Dr. Sahib’s passing away is bound to leave a huge void. Ever since the first meeting at Test all-rounder Col. Shuja-ud-din’s residence in Hounslow in West London, his guidance and unlimited patience has carried right through the 24-year journey. A journey that has sadly come to an end, providing an opportunity to look back at his eventful life, stretched over eight decades.
One of five siblings, Khadim Hussain Baloch, was born in Karachi, Sind, (British India), on 8th July, 1939, in his own words, ‘within a stone’s throw of the offices of ‘The Illustrated Cricket and Sporting News’, the first ever cricket periodical published in the sub-continent.’ His lineage could be traced to Kerman in Persia and to a notable Baloch family in Shikarpur (Sind).
A kind and thoughtful soul, Khadim devoted his life to the game he fell in love with, at the time the sub-continent was in turmoil and Karachi would soon be declared the capital of a new Muslim state named Pakistan. No wonder the national team’s initial international exchanges - West Indies 1948-49, Ceylon 1948-49 & 1949-50, Commonwealth 1949-50 and MCC 1951-52 - in the pre-Test status days, were of particular interest to him.
Khadim’s early education was at St. Patrick’s High School in Karachi before enrolling at Liaquat Medical College, Hyderabad, in 1957, and later graduating in 1963. In 1961-62, he captained his college cricket team to an unbeaten season in the Inter-collegiate tournaments. A keen sportsman he won a college blue in cricket and table tennis, in addition to representing the college in hockey, football and badminton.
He moved to the U.K. in 1965, initially to Lancashire and later settled in Essex, to pursue a career in medicine and complete his MRC GP, to go with his MBBS. Whilst studying, he would jump at any occasional opportunity to appear on a cricket field with his medium-pace outswing, both in Lancashire and with Mistley CC in Essex.
He wrote for Indus Times as early as 1959 whilst covering the Australian tour of Pakistan, as a medical student, confirming his precocious talent for writing, which he had first shown whilst at St. Patrick’s, during the 1944-1955 period by contributing in St. Pat’s Calling. The cricket coach, Sind’s Jacob Harris, the science teacher Mr. O.B. Nazareth and his parents - Ali Mohammed Baluch and Badri Jehan - were the strongest influences on Khadim’s mentoring.
In his school days, he witnessed the tense cricket rivalry between St. Patrick’s and Sind Madrassah, in the fiercely-contested Rubie Shield inter-school tournament, featuring, Hanif Mohammad, Ikram Elahi, Khalid Wazir, Wallis Mathias, Antao D’Souza, Mohammad Munaf, Intikhab Alam, Mushtaq Mohammad Mohammad Farooq, Rusi Dinshaw, Ahmed Mustafa, Ghaffar Ali Khan and Afaq Hussain, amongst others.
Between the period from ‘Imran’s Summer of Fulfilment’ - an account of Pakistan’s tour of England 1987 to K.H. Baloch’s Journey through The Bibliography of Pakistan Cricket in 2010, he produced some of the most unusual cricket literature on the sub-continent cricket, his forte. In 2014, Khadim was an ideal person to initiate the biography - A Straight Bat - of the noted Pakistan Test opener, for he had maintained a friendship with Alim-ud-din, which added to his vast knowledge of cricket in Karachi. He openly challenged anyone having more in-depth knowledge of the development stages of Hanif Mohammed and Javed Miandad, two of the city’s cricketing gems. Given better health, Khadim would have loved to have written more extensively on two of the finest batsmen produced by Pakistan.
With his deep interest and command on the historical origins and the subsequent growth of the game in the sub-continent, he has a unique standing amongst Pakistan cricket writers. In the two decades that he committed himself to writing till 2006, most of Khadim’s work stands up very well against the more established names, except perhaps Omar Kureishi, whom he always admired.
In the same period, as a qualified medical practitioner, Khadim was at hand to assist Pakistan players, both at home and on international tours. Pakistan cricket indeed was to benefit from his intellectual take, on both playing and management. The group of players and management of Pakistan teams, both senior and junior, that toured England in the period, 1987-2001, had the highest regard for the mild-mannered, soft-spoken, medical doctor who cared deeply for both cricket and the cricketers.
An early retirement as a GP on health grounds, gave Khadim more time to travel and he was determined to make the most of it. His helpful nature, won him many friends among players, administrators, coaches and media, whilst making his own way to follow Pakistan team to England 1987, England 1992, Australia 1995-96, England 1996. Sri Lanka 1996-97, South Africa & Zimbabwe 1997-98, ICC World Cup 1999, West Indies 1999-2000, New Zealand 2000-01, England 2001, England 2003 and finally India 2004-05, to submit his daily match reports, alongside working diligently on his voluminous K.H.Baloch’s Encyclopaedia of Pakistan Cricket - by far the finest profile-based book on Pakistan cricket - with the writer.
In his own words as a ‘freelance amateur writer’, he could be trusted to fight Pakistan’s corner in a number of cricket controversies that it found itself embroiled in, in the late 1980s onwards, including apartheid in South Africa, biased umpiring, doctored pitches, ball tampering and match-fixing. It needs to be recorded that during the 1996 libel case brought up by Ian Botham against Imran Khan, a batch of VHS tapes from Khadim’s collection were brought in to aid the Pakistan all-rounder, who eventually won the case.
Kicking off with the exciting 1986-87 Pakistan-West Indies Test series, Khadim contributed to a number of leading publications and newspapers from England, Australia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan including Dawn, The News, International, The Cricketer (International), The Cricketer (Pakistan), World of Cricket, Cricket Herald, ABC Book and Wisden Cricket Monthly. He dedicated, The Hunt for Peace - an account of 1996 Pakistan tour of England - to his father Ali Mohammed Baluch and his hero Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
On his visits to Karachi, it would pain him to see neglect in maintenance of cricket playing fields, be it Muslim Gymkhana, Karachi Parsee Institute, Hindu Gymkhana, Bohra Gymkhana, Karachi Goan Association, Polo Grounds, Patel Park or Jahangir Park. His book on A Century of Karachi Cricket, which he co-wrote with younger brother Mohammed H. Baluch, was further evidence of his command on the subject. Appropriately, in 2003 his efforts were officially recognized by Professor Sirajul Islam Bukhari, Honorary Secretary of Karachi City Cricket Association (KCCA).
The lesser known or somewhat forgotten cricketers of the sub-continent, namely, Abbas Khan Lodhi, Mohammed Shamsher (M.S) Balooch, Fazal G. Lakda, Khan Mohammed Cassumbhoy (K.C) Ibrahim, Jamshed Khudadad (J.K) Irani, also got his attention and he was always quick to highlight their cricket achievements and financial or medical issues faced by some of them.
It is also a well-known fact that Khadim developed a soft spot for cricketers, among the minorities of the Pakistan population, reflecting his fair mindedness. Parsee Cricketers in 1986 was first such effort, written to commemorate, hundred years of the first Parsee Indian touring team to visit England. Another article The Parsee and Goan Contribution to Pakistan Cricket as recent as 2017, was as good as an acknowledgment of the minorities’ contribution by anyone in Pakistan. A long list of individuals have been referenced, including C.W. Haskell, B.D.Shanker, C.B.Rubie, Jeomal Naoomal, Jacob Harris, Anthony de Mello, Jack Britto, George Mills, U.R.Chippa and P.P.Fernendez, among many.
A resident of Dedham, a picturesque village in northeast of Essex on the River Stour since 1971, Khadim invested both time and finances, in a wide-ranging collection of cricket memorabilia with representation of all the cricket nations. He often lent his collection of rare books on sub-continent cricket for a temporary exhibition by MCC at Lord’s. Fittingly, in 2001, he was appointed the first Honorary Advisor to the Pakistan Cricket Board Library, Museum and Archives.
After settling down in Essex, he acquainted himself with a number of county grounds, including a few in Colchester. The first being Garrison A Cricket Ground when he saw Essex beat the 1971 Indians. Ten years later in 1981, he was present to witness Miandad’s finest hour for Glamorgan when he hit an unbeaten 200, only to lose the game to Essex by 13 runs, at the Castle Park Cricket Ground.
In his two seasons with Essex in the 1990s, Saleem Malik often brought up the issues of insecurity and loss of form which convinced Khadim that Pakistan team should always travel with a psychologist, in order to help players cope better in adverse situations and eventually blossom to reach their potential.
Khadim, also referred as ‘Kim’ Baloch, took up membership of a number of cricket bodies in the UK, including Cricket Writers’ Club, Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians, The Cricket Society, Essex CCC, Middlesex CCC, Surrey CCC and Mistley CC. One of his key regrets in the game was that despite endless hours of dedicated research stretched over decades, he was not able to piece together enough scorecards of Sind Pentangular tournament, initially contested after the conclusion of World War I in 1919, to convince the relevant authorities in England, for it to be classified as first-class, just as Lahore Tournament.
Khadim was a member of General Medical Council, Royal College of General Practioners, Balint Society and Sind Doctors Association U.K. A man of varied taste and interests, Khadim besides cricket also enjoyed discussions on football, squash, music, history and politics of the sub-continent. Residing in a rural countryside worked well whilst he was working and was in good health but as the years passed by, it had a drawback on his social life.
Khadim is survived by sister, Mrs. Bilquis Kureshi, Principal Islamabad Grammar School, brother Dr. Mohammed H. Baluch, former Professor of Structural Engineering, niece Dr. Aliyah Baluch, nephews Abbas Qureshi, Hussain Qureshi, Abdullah Baluch and Reza Jivani.