Cricket mania has once again gripped the nation, as the ICC World Cup rolls on towards its climax. I am no less affected by the passion and my family gives me looks when I froth and fume every time Mr Butter Fingers drops a couple behind the stumps or the Rawalpindi Express bowls an unending series of 'wides and 'full tosses that are smashed to the boundary for fours and sixes. It is then that cricket nostalgia sweeps over me and I am transported to a time when gentlemen played this game, not for money, but for country and honour. One had not even heard of the one-day cricket then and the ultimate game was the five-day test match played in grounds without electronic gates and sinister looking steel barriers. Lahores cricketing venue, built in 1885 for officers of the British Raj, lay in the middle of Lawrence Gardens and continued to host post-independence test matches from 1955 to 1959, when cricket was moved to the newly constructed Lahore Stadium, later renamed as Gaddafi Stadium. The almost perfectly circular ground was lush green and surrounded by a luxuriant growth of tall leafy trees. A small pavilion representing the classic and traditional 'cricket architecture adorned one side of the boundary, completing the picture post card setting. There were no permanent stands for the public and temporary tiered structures were set up for every match, using steel frames and thick beam like wooden planks. The entire circumference of the ground was screened off with kanaats, leaving a few gaps that served as entry and exit gates. The venue was decorated with an abundance of banners and buntings, and all roads appeared to lead to Lawrence Gardens for the duration of the match. Stalls selling eatables were set up outside the ground and some entrepreneurs even brought portable rides for children, giving the whole event a festive look. It was, however, amazing that despite the rush of spectators and vehicles, there were no traffic jams and tempers were never lost. Some Western style restaurants provided lunch boxes to the public and spectators in the stands next to the pavilion, but the majority of fans brought their own cooked food. It was a normal sight to see brimming 'cooking pots and naans being carried into the seating area and the atmosphere of good natured camaraderie was such that this food was shared with complete strangers, sitting nearby. Those were the days when the world of cricket boasted Pakistani legends such as Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Fazal Mahmood, Mahmood Hussain, Hanif Muhammad, Imtiaz Ahmed and Shujauddin. These were educated men with careers other than cricket, who understood the sport and the chivalry that went with it. The handsome and debonair Fazal with his devastating leg cutters was a police officer, Hussain was an executive with a multi-national with an office near Charing Cross on the Mall, and Shuja was an officer in the Pakistan Army. The need for neutral umpires and referrals to the third umpire was a thing of the future. One of the most well known pair of the 1950s was that of Idrees Baig and Daud Khan. I do not remember whether it was them, but a pair of the Pakistani umpires appeared like the proverbial 'odd couple - one being short and portly, while the other was tall and lean. I remember watching, what was perhaps the third test match during the West Indian tour of Pakistan in 1959, where Wesley Hall, the West Indies fast bowler, struck Ijaz Butt, the Pakistani opener on the nose. Ijaz retired hurt with a broken proboscis, but came back to bat in the tail. Playing with a vengeance, he repeatedly smashed the bowler, who had done him injury, to the boundary and scored an unbeaten 47. I can also never forget the 'behind the stumps performance of Imtiaz Ahmed and the picture perfect beauty of his classic sweep shot with one knee on the ground, or the tenacity and technique of the 'Little Master Hanif Muhammad, as he stood at the crease defying all attempts to take the long walk back to the pavilion. A popular feature of these matches was the English running commentary that was relayed on the only electronic media platform of the time - radio. The inimitable duo of Umar Qureshi and Jamshed Marker, virtually brought the match into homes, in a manner that endeared them to millions. Their ball to ball account of the action on the pitch was a masterpiece that has remained unchallenged to this day. The writer is a freelance columnist.