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Original Issue


In Pakistan a President learns about cricket and tent pegs

A young U.S. army lieutenant and his Commander in Chief, both oldtime West Point footballers, learned a thing or two about foreign sports at the same time. While Pete Dawkins was playing Rugby for Oxford, a former halfback named Eisenhower was learning the fine points of cricket and tent pegging as played in Pakistan.

Tent pegging, a favorite sport of the Pakistani cavalry, is a sort of amalgam of polo and pool played with a razor-sharp cue. As the participating horsemen, clad in traditional billowing pants and blouses, raced past the marquee in which he sat with Pakistan's President Ayub Khan and drove their poised lances at pegs only 1½ inches wide (score: 1 point for every peg hit, 2 points for every one knocked out of the ground, 4 points for every one impaled), Ike applauded as happily as a Senator fan with Harmon Killebrew at bat. He didn't even seem to mind that a team of four noncoms beat their officer opponents handily.

A few hours later, Ike was ushered over to Karachi's National Stadium and helped out of his warm business jacket and into a comfortable green blazer marked "Pakistan Cricket Control Board" to watch a test match. "Good heavens," gasped a White House newsman, "he's wearing his Augusta golf club coat," but the captain of the visiting Australian team made no such mistake. "I see you've joined the opposition," he told the President. To make it definite that he was playing no favorites, Ike shook hands with all the players on both teams, then settled back in his seat to bombard his Pakistani counterpart with what President Ayub Khan later described as "the most inquisitive questions."

During the war, Ike explained at one point, British generals were always telling him they stood on pretty weak wickets. "What's a weak wicket?" he wanted to know. Ayub patiently explained that relative conditions such as softness of the ground sometimes favored either batsman or bowler whereupon the other might complain of "being on a weak wicket." For a moment the questioner seemed satisfied.

By the end of half an hour of fairly dull play and fairly brisk questioning it seemed likely that Ike knew at least as much about cricket as his hosts did about baseball. Introduced to one Pakistani bowler who was described as an excellent batsman as well, the U.S. President grinned knowingly and remarked: "Pitchers aren't supposed to be good hitters."

The Pakistani cricketer bowed and grinned in polite but mystified acknowledgment.