Ger Siggins (CricketEurope)
Paul Stirling this weekend becomes the first Irish cricketer to play an elite-level game in Pakistan for almost 100 years.
He will turn out for Islamabad United in the PSL and Irish fans can look forward to watching him on Sky TV.
But, as they say, he’s not the first -- at least three Irishmen played first-class cricket in what is now Pakistan. They were three of many thousands of Irish soldiers who served the Raj.
England’s empire in India was dissolved in 1947 and led to the foundation of the independent states of India, Ceylon now Sri Lanka, Burma and Pakistan, which included territory which later became Bangladesh.
Richard Blakeney was born in Dalkey, Co Dublin, in 1897, and educated in England. He joined the army and was trained at Quetta Cadet College, in Balochistan. He fought in the First World War with the 76th Punjabi Regiment and reached the rank of Lieutenant, and stayed in the army after the armistice.
He played two first-class games – one for the Europeans against the touring MCC side in Karachi in 1926, in which he was bowled by test star Maurice Tate for 16. Eight years later he made 1 and 5 for Sindh against Northern India at the Karachi Gymkhana Ground.
He played several other important games in Lahore and Karachi, scoring 94 for Europeans against Quetta. Blakeney was later promoted to captain and fought in the Second World War, retiring soon after to Australia where he died in 1974.
William Cullen, too, was a military man, although there are conflicting records of his place of birth as Dublin, or India in 1894. He was better known as a rugby player with Monkstown, winning one cap as centre against England in 1920.
His captain that day was the Ireland and Lancashire batsman Dickie Lloyd, but with 11 Irish debutants England were too strong and won 14-8.
Cullen fought in the First World War on the Western Front with the Leinster regiment and was wounded at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
Promoted to captain, he continued in the army through the 1920s in Karachi and Bombay, where he was a leading figure in expat cricket, and played eight first-class matches for Bombay and various ‘European’ sides who played in annual tournaments against side representing Hindus, Muslims, Parsees and ‘The Rest’.
Mahatma Gandhi objected to these competitions as he said they encouraged sectarian tension among followers.
Cullen’s finest hour came in the final of the Bombay Quadrangular in 1927-8 when he scored 79 and 120 in the Europeans’ victory over the Muslims, adding 80 in the second winnings with Jack Meyer of Somerset.
The third Irishman to shine on Pakistani soil was the only one to play cricket for Ireland and was a cousin of the playwright George Bernard Shaw.
Freddie Shaw, born in Terenure in 1892, where his family owned Bushy Park, was actually better known in Ireland as an athlete, winning the national championships at 100 and 220 yards.
As a student in Trinity he also earned his place as an all-rounder on the Irish cricket XI, but as there was only one fixture each year in 1913 and 1914, they were fated to be his only caps.
He finished his studies in 1915 and signed up with the Royal Army Medical Corps, and won promotion to major and a Military Cross.
After the war he was posted to Lahore, where his cricket skills came to the fore and he was picked for the Europeans for the Quadrangular at future Test ground Lawrence Gardens – now Bagh-e-Jinnah—in 1922.
The Gardens were named after an Irish former viceroy, John Lawrence, whose statue, which once stood in the gardens, now stands at Foyle and Londonderry College.
The Europeans XI was stuffed with county players, and included test stars Wilfred Rhodes and Roy Kilner. They easily beat the Hindus, with Shaw taking 2-10, and faced the Muslims in the final.
For Freddie it was to be one of those amazing games when everything clicked. He came in at 105-5 and, as The Cricketer described, “although generally a free run-getter, showed capital restraint in taking 2˝-hours to make his most valuable 26…. on a perfect wicket his bowling was exceptionally good” and took 7-30 as the opposition slumped to 80 all out.
In the second innings he top-scored with 30 out of 112, leaving Muslims 260 to win. But Shaw was playing the game of his life and bowled through to record 23-5-53-7 leaving Rhodes 2-36 in the shade.
After “doing sterling work in a cholera epidemic in Waziristan”, Shaw returned to England and played some first-class games for the Army, but in 1929 joined the Iraqi Petroleum Company. It was there he died of tonsilitis in 1935.