Hanif – the original Little Master

imageThe excitement was supreme….all of 6 years old, dressed in short pants and ready to go. It was my first trip to the National Stadium, to see Pakistan play Australia. This was October 1964, there was no TV in Karachi. So my only experience of watching cricket was to see my cousins play in club cricket. One of them, I am convinced, should have played first class at the least, but then studies got in the way.

From memory, I think this was the fourth day of the match. Pakistan had 6 debutants. The old team of the 50’s was destroyed in 1962 by England. It had been a thrashing, accentuated by the bad form of Hanif, the star batsman. Later on it came to light that he had battled through pain in the knee. Nevertheless, the doubts about Hanif remained on his return, after physical rehabilitation. Post the clean out, Hanif had returned, and being by far the most senior and a great student of the game, been made captain. This apparently did not go down well with various regional lobbies in the BCCP and a war ensued. The pressure on the captain was huge.

Of the six debutants, two were to disappear quickly, two after few years of mediocrity and two were to last a decade and half. This pair opened the bowling for Pakistan in 1964 and took few wickets. However, they were destined to become iconic Pakistani batsmen in the 70s. I speak of Majid Khan and Asif Iqbal, who batted I think, at number 9 and 10 in the batting order. The openers, both debutants, made a 249 runs stand. Billy Ibadullah scored a century and Abdul Kadir was run out for 95. By the time we reached National Stadium on the 4th day, Pakistan had to score runs to consolidate a small lead and ensure that the Australians were given a substantial target.

It was most exhilarating. Thousands jam packed together, like sardines, sitting on steps of concrete, with no shamianas. When a shot was hit, the crowd stood up and a small 6 year old was not destined to see much. The heat – remember October in Karachi – was terrible and my uncle was burnt black. No cold drinks available, toilets non-existent and your back side burnt to boot on the concrete steps. But I do not remember this day for those reasons at all.

My memory recalls the roar which went up, when Hanif the Little Master came to the crease. Oh, the excitement and love which was showered on the man. Pakistan had wound itself back into problems. Some 100 plus runs on the board; 4 wickets down; mid way through the 4th day. Burki on the other side and Hanif join’s him. The tension was palpable and the fear was that if Hanif fails, Pakistan will fold. In the first innings we had gone from the heights of 249 for 0 to 300 plus for 7, before Intikhab had saved the day with a quick fire 50. Hanif himself had scored a couple of runs and clearly he was now fighting for survival and captaincy. Not much changes over the decades! A near 100 run stand later, with Hanif standing firm under pressure the day was saved. I remember being totally enamored with this man and a belief was born about Pakistan cricket which has lasted a lifetime.

The next 6 months were most prolific for Hanif. A century in New Zealand, another double made in Pakistan and almost another record at Melbourne. Having scored a century in the first innings, under the watchful eye of Bradman, who expressed admiration, Hanif approached a second century in the match. However, at 93 Jarman made a routine habitual stumping appeal. Much to his horror he saw the finger go up. Jarman apologized, as did the umpire, because Hanif would have had that unique record – eventually Gavaskar did – a century in each innings, twice over.

There was just one more day left in this masters career and that came with his 187* at Lords in 1967. But that is another story to tell.

Today the original Little Master sits at the ripe old age of 78 in a wheel chair and generally not well, unheralded, an icon of a past age. I would ask you to remember a little man, who stood tall for a decade and a half for Pakistan cricket, when others older and taller used to fall like nine-pins. Had he played today his technique would have made him an icon of this age too.

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About sarfarazar
I have been lucky! A long career with large scale organisations and some acclaim. Also, took time off to write, mentor and do some education and social development projects. I continue to mentor and help younger people in life. Inshallah, hope to write on various subjects in my blog.

9 Responses to Hanif – the original Little Master

  1. Omer says:

    Fantastic article! sadly enough, the game had to pay a certain price for its show biz style popularity/innovation…and “Character of the game” was the first casualty. Players like Hanif Mohammad, Garry Sobers were legends, they inspired generations, personifying skill, mastery, grace and self-discipline, cricket was indeed a gentlemans game.

    • sarfarazar says:

      Very much so..in most cases people walked and so it was more gentlemanly. The developments have been two fold. If you look at the satellite view.

      The security, system and technology aspects rolled into one. The machine has grown vastly and the accuracy and efficiency have increased multiples. Better TV coverage, helmets, rain covers, higher results %, less wrong decision making by umpires.

      On the other hand, the heart has shrunk. Values main target. Less courage and patience, more greed, more deliberate targeted cheating, less skills batting…fast bowlers..

      those who saw a love affair are now served a large deep pan pizza ..eat all you want…from the sublime to the mundane! I have written about this aspect on Express Tribune last year. That blog about cricket memories is in the archives if you wish to trace.

  2. OMAIR NAGI says:

    no doubt, hanif muhammad was a master of his craft and one of his kind,
    Remember he also kept wickets in a few matches. if we can admire brian lara of the modern era for making 400 runs in a test innings and 500 runs in a first class innings , imagine hanif muhammad doing the same in a time when there were no helmets nor was the protective equipment up to the standard which they are today. A batsman in those days would think twice before playing a cross batted stroke unlike today where we see all sort of hooks and pulls plus not to forget the reverse sweeps and hits over the fine leg.
    Cricket was a different game back than but i agree with you that even today hanif would have been difficult to get out.
    I still feel very sad that we are deprived of watching international high class cricket in our grounds and i sincerely pray that one day i would take my kid to the National Stadium to watch a test match.

  3. Junaid Iqbal says:

    About sarfarazar
    I have been lucky! After having a wonderful career with large scale organizations, which culminated in acclaim, I had the chance to spend my time doing real things which matter. Worked on a couple of education initiatives where I was adding value and started this blog, to write on various subjects. But as Vito Corlione said “Just when I thought I was out…they pulled me back in.” 🙂

    • sarfarazar says:

      That is a way to tell the story :).. But then there are others ….first let me sort this out and then I shall come and have a proper life and vision conversation with you..

  4. Syed Mustafa says:

    I haven’t been fortunate enough to see any of Hanif’s tapes but am well aware of his monumental feats thanks to my father who has always rated him above Miandad. I’ll forward this piece to him as well.

  5. Noman Baqai says:

    Nice article Sarfaraz. Please pray for our legend Hanif as he is now suffering from cancer and is probably still in England for treatment. He surely is one of the handful of greatest batsmen ever produced by Pakistan. While the bowling has always been our stronghold, there are very few real world class test batsmen that have originated from Pak. Beside Hanif, the others who come to the mind are Javed Miandad, Inzimam, Mohammed Youssef and Younis Khan and that’s just it. Still feel Mohammed Youssef should have continued and find it extremely hard to understand the logic of finding the reasons to deprive the cricket world of such a class batsman. Noman Baqai

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