Pakistan cricket team legend Hanif Mohammad, who was born on December 21 in 1934, is regarded as one of the best batsmen of his time. Yesterday was his 86th birth anniversary.
He was the original Little Master and a national hero who turned cricket in Pakistan from the preserve of the educated elite into the mass sport. His title Little Master title later was assumed by Vishwanath, Sunny Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar.
In his starting days in Mumbai, often a thak sound was heard in Bradbourne Stadium and this was heard from nearby areas also. Naturally Mumbai was a less populated and much open then. It was the sound of the forward defence which Hanif used to play while practising at the Brabourne ground. Needless to mention this sweet sound can only be created if the ball hits the middle of the bat. That used to be the case, at least eye witness in those days said the same. Hanif was an epitome of concentration, traditional technique and determination. He was a master of keeping the ball in the ground and hardly played in the air before he settles down in the wicket. Peter O Bourne in his famous book ” A history of Pakistan Cricket” explained why Hanif was so good to keep the ball down to the ground. Hanif was born in Junagadh, in India. Hanif said that all the free times after education were reserved for cricket. They used to play ” test matches” on the terrace of their house perfectly located on the busy station in the bustling main street of Junagadh on Sundays. The rules were interesting.
If a player hit the ball in the air and got caught after the ball rebounded from the trees he was out. To avoid the risk of ball going out of the roof he tried to keep the ball down, it is difficult to keep a bouncy tennis ball down in the ground but Hanif practised hard and thus from very beginning he learnt the defensive shots and this art of keeping the ball down in the ground and later he sharpened his trick and became one of the finest defensive bats during 50’s and 60’s. Also his stamina and concentration were legendary. He displayed the same in West indies. In 1958, Bridgetown, Barbados Pakistan captain Abdul Hafeez Kardar lost the toss. West indies put up a big total. Hunte and Weeks both butchered the bowling and did century. Collie Smith and Sobers scored runs. In response Pakistan bundled out in just 106 and trailing by 473 runs. It was impossible to save the match for Pakistan. Gilchrist was a fearsome fast bowler, and West indies had the likes of Alf Valentine who could bamboozled any line up on a track which would break up as the play progress. But Hanif did something which was simply extraordinary. On the close of day five Pakistan were 525/3 and Hanif 270 not out. He was not only exhausted but badly bruised as Gilchrist thunderbolts often hit his unprotected upper thigh. No thigh pads in those days. His cheek bones in the upper portion were bruised with blood soaked. Hanif did not stop though, in the next day he went on to show his stamina and ultimately got out by Atkinson when he was on 337. His innings lasted for 16hr and 39 minutes. An unforgettable knock and Pakistan saved the game. What about his 499 in the first class game? He batted 635 minutes and if I am not wrong hit 64 boundaries and then run out fr taking 500th run. Can you imagine someone was getting run out after scoring 499 runs. But Hanif was not only defensive, he could play beautiful strokes too. In Nottingham 1954 Hanif made a eye catching 51 in the second innings against a England attack comprising Bedser, Statham, Wardle and appleyard. He hit 10 boundaries in his knock.
Hanif had a beautiful patient 187 at Lords also in 67 series. Well I can give numerous examples of his batting but I must stop. Hanif Mohammad is one of the greatest batsmen, sub continent has ever seen and in my dream all time Pakistan eleven he will take guard and face the new ball along with Saeed Anwar. Hanif played 55 matches, scored 3915 runs at an average of 43.98 with 12 hundreds. This is good number considering the conditions of wicket which was not so well maintained compared to modern times.
He died on 11 August 2016 at age 81 in Karachi after suffering multiple breathing and liver problems, having undergone an operation for liver cancer.
By Paramdeep Rathee