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Tiger-in-chief: Imran Khan bowling against India in 1978 (Patrick Edgar/Patrick Edgar Collection via Getty Images)

"As far back as I can trace my consciousness, the original found itself and came to maturity within a system that was the result of centuries of development in another land, was transplanted as a hot-house flower, is transported and bore some strange fruit," wrote C.L.R. James, a Trinidadian Marxist, in Beyond a Boundary, arguably the finest book ever written about cricket.

James's strange fruit was West Indian cricket yet his words are just as apt a description of the sport's incarnation in Pakistan. In Wounded Tiger Peter Oborne recounts the game's progress in that country from colonisers' pastime to national obsession with the meticulousness and dedication such a rich and unlikely story deserves. Like any good cricket writer, he keeps in mind James's best-known line, "What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?" As with Oborne's excellent biography of Basil D'Oliveira — ;the South African all-rounder who played for England after the apartheid regime banned him from first-class cricket — Wounded Tiger puts the sport in its proper social and historical context. 

Immediately after the partition of India, Pakistan's cricketing infrastructure was as flimsy as its national identity but over the years cricket and nationhood would grow symbiotically. The country had very few domestic teams and the sport wasn't particularly popular beyond the middle-class neighbourhoods of Lahore and Karachi. When the fledgling Test team played at Amritsar, just 35 miles from Lahore, during Pakistan's first tour of India in 1952, the players found themselves under police guard in a city where four of them had grown up. There were no longer any Muslims in the city and the stadium they had known as Alexandra Park was now the Gandhi Grounds. 

It wasn't long before the Pakistanis established themseves on the international scene, quickly notching up wins against England and India. One thing these early successes had in common with later triumphs was that they were achieved in spite of chaos behind the scenes.

Oborne credits Abdul Hafeez Kardar and Imran Khan — two autocratic, Stakhanovite, Oxford-educated and Savile-Row-suited captains-with overcoming this administrative incompetence. Indeed, he divides Pakistani cricket until 1992 into two eras, the "Age of Kardar", 1947-75, and the "Age of Khan", 1976-1992.

The national team reached its zenith with World Cup triumph in 1992 when Imran Khan led them to victory against England in the final. In his telling of the team's journey from inception to this triumph Oborne is perhaps a little too assiduous, providing detailed reports of matches of little consequence. It is when he puts down his Wisden and picks up his reporter's notebook that he is at his best. He has interviewed almost every significant living figure in Pakistani cricket and it is their stories that grip the reader. 

After 1992 the historian of Pakistani cricket, Oborne says, begins to feel like Edward Gibbon. Depressingly, establishing 1992 as the high point is far easier than identifying the exact moment things hit rock bottom. Was it when Pakistan were thrashed by Australia in the 1999 World Cup final at Lord's and their fans, with tears in their eyes, accused their heroes of fixing the match? Was it when, in the aftermath of 9/11, the team first experienced the shame of not being able to play home matches in their own country? Was it in 2009, when terrorist gunmen ambushed the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore, murdering eight Pakistanis? Was it 2010, when Mohammad Amir, a brilliant but naive 18-year-old, bowled a no-ball so flagrant that it soon led to his exposure and imprisonment for match-fixing? 

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