Pakistan’s Oldest Cricket Ground: Lahore GymKhana Cricket Ground

Pakistan's Oldest Cricket Ground Lahore Gym Khana Cricket Ground

Cricket, often described as a ‘Passion’ in Pakistan, has a rich history that dates back to the late 19th century. Lahore Gym Khana Cricket Ground, located in the heart of Lahore, stands as a living testament to this history, serving as the oldest cricket ground in Pakistan and the second oldest in the Indian sub continent. In this blog post, we will delve into the intriguing history, important matches played on this hallowed turf, and the historical significance that Lahore Gym Khana Cricket Ground holds for cricket enthusiasts in Pakistan.

The Birth of Lahore GymKhana Cricket Ground

A Legacy of the Colonial Era

Lahore GymKhana Cricket Ground, situated in Bagh-e-Jinnah, was established during the colonial rule of British India in 1880.

Lahore Gymkhana Cricket Club
Lahore Gymkhana Cricket Club (Photo Credits: Agha Khan)

It owes its inception to the Lahore Gymkhana, a prestigious club founded in 1878, which sought to provide recreational activities for the British elite and local elites. The architecture of its Pavilion was built from imported Oak wood as a master piece by Sir G-Stone and Bhai Ram Singh.  The first match between British Army and World XI was played on this very ground in 1911. The first international match between MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) and the British Army was also played here in 1926.

Iconic Location

The strategic choice of Bagh-e-Jinnah, formerly known as Lawrence Gardens, is worth noting. This lush, green space, with its stunning botanical gardens, is not only historically significant but also adds to the overall charm of the cricket ground.

Gym Khana Cricket Ground Lahore
Gymkhana Cricket Ground Lahore (Photo Credit: Agha Khan)

Historical Significance

Birthplace of Pakistan Cricket

Lahore Gym Khana Cricket Ground holds a unique distinction in the history of Pakistani cricket. The ground became the first headquarters of the Cricket Control Board of Pakistan in 1948 (which later shifted to Gaddafi Stadium). It was here that the Pakistan cricket team played their first-ever Test match as an independent nation in 1955, against India. The ground’s historical significance is imprinted in the collective memory of the nation as it marked the beginning of Pakistan’s cricketing journey.

A Cricket Matach at Lahore Gymkhana Cricket Ground
A Cricket Matach at Lahore Gymkhana Cricket Ground  (Phote Credit: Agha Khan)

Witness to Cricketing Legends

Over the years, Lahore Gym Khana has witnessed some of the greatest cricketers in the world gracing its pitch. Legends like Hanif Mohammad, Fazal Mahmood, and Imran Khan have left an indelible mark here, making the ground a sacred space for cricket enthusiasts.

Iconic Matches Played

1. Pakistan’s First Test Match

The inaugural Test match played at Lahore Gym Khana Cricket Ground on October 16, 1955, was nothing short of historic. The home team, led by Abdul Kardar, faced a formidable Indian side. Fazal Mahmood’s heroics with the ball helped Pakistan secure their first Test victory, marking a memorable chapter in the nation’s cricketing history.

Bagh-i-Jinnah India vs-Pakistan 1955
Bagh-i-Jinnah India vs-Pakistan 1955 (Photo credit: Lahore Gym Khana Cricket Club Museum)

2. Hanif Mohammad’s Marathon Innings

Lahore Gym Khana Ground is synonymous with Hanif Mohammad’s legendary Test innings in 1958. Hanif’s marathon 337 runs against the West Indies still stands as one of the greatest individual innings in Test cricket history. This innings solidified his reputation as the ‘Little Master’ and etched his name in the annals of cricketing lore.

3. Imran Khan’s Debut

Another moment of historical significance at this ground was Imran Khan’s Test debut for Pakistan. The charismatic all-rounder made his mark as a bowler in the match against England in 1971, laying the foundation for his illustrious cricketing career.

Architectural Charm

Pavilion and Grandstand

The Lahore Gym Khana Cricket Ground’s pavilion and grandstand are architectural gems that blend colonial aesthetics with the charm of South Asian architecture. The architecture of its Pavilion was built from imported Oak wood as a master piece by Sir G-Stone and Bhai Ram Singh. These structures stand as a testament to the historical and cultural heritage of Lahore.

A Natural Amphitheater

The ground’s natural amphitheater design provides an intimate and thrilling experience for spectators. With the old trees, lush grass, and the iconic Pavilion as a backdrop, the Lahore Gym Khana Ground offers a unique blend of history and cricketing action.

Preservation and Modernization

Challenges and Opportunities

Preserving historical cricket grounds like Lahore Gym Khana is a challenge due to the need for modernization. Balancing the demands of modern cricket with preserving the heritage and charm of this venue is crucial.

Community Involvement

Efforts are being made to involve the local community in the preservation of this iconic ground. Local schools and club members use the facilities to foster the love for cricket among the youth, thereby ensuring that the legacy continues.

The Bottom Line:

The Lahore Gym Khana Cricket Ground, nestled within the serene Bagh-e-Jinnah, is not just a cricket ground but a living heritage. It has seen the rise of Pakistan as a cricketing powerhouse and witnessed some of the most iconic moments in the sport’s history. It stands as a testament to the enduring passion and love for cricket in Pakistan.

As cricket enthusiasts, let us cherish this historic venue and its glorious past while looking forward to more memorable matches and moments that will add to its storied legacy. Lahore Gym Khana Cricket Ground is not just a place; it’s a treasure trove of cricketing memories that will continue to inspire generations of cricketers and fans.

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