First and last US President watches cricket match, 1959

First and last US President watches cricket match, 1959
On December 8, 1959, Dwight Eisenhower became the first American President to watch Test cricket. According to cricket historian Arunabha Sengupta writing for in 2012, Eisenhower, who was an avid golfer and fishing enthusiast, was seated in the VIP stands at the Karachi National Stadium for the fourth day’s play between Australia and Pakistan.

“Unfortunately, the cricket on offer that day was anything but watchable,” writes Sengupta. “Coming back after the rest day, Pakistan painstakingly crawled through three sessions, scoring 104 measly runs for the loss of five wickets. It was sheer torture to watch, with Hanif Mohammad batting most of the day to remain unbeaten on 40. The next day, the colossal yawn of a match petered out to a draw, Hanif getting to an unbeaten 101 in six hours.”
He wagered that the American president knew too little about the game. “On the excruciatingly slow fourth day, he was seen cheering the rare attacking strokes and clapping loudly for every decent effort in the field,” Sengupta notes.

Meeting the Australian team

Meeting the Pakistan team

In his book, Outside Edge: An Eclectic Collection of Cricketing Facts, Feats and Figures (2013), Mark Dawson writes that the president signed a cricket bat and was presented a Pakistan blazer. When Australian cricket team captain Richie Benaud saw him wearing the blazer he light-heartedly commented: “Mr President… you have joined the other camp.”

Eisenhower was using cricket as a way to build diplomatic ties. The previous year, the Pakistan team had stopped in the US on their way to the West Indies, supported by the his people-to-people programme. The first captain for the team, AH Kardar, had applied to the programme for funding so the team could visit. They played four exhibition matches. Three of the players on that team were in the match that President Eisenhower then saw in Pakistan a year later, according to Tim Rives, the Acting Director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, while talking to the BBC in an audio piece published 2016.