Monday, May 20, 2013

Excerpts from Indra Vikram Singh's book 'Don's Century' ..... 18 - Chapter 7 : PEERLESS RUNGETTER AND OTHER MASTERS OF THE WILLOW (22. Hanif Mohammad)

From another corner of the earth came Hanif Mohammad. Renowned for occupying the crease for long periods, he surpassed Bradman’s record first-class score of 452 not out, piling up 499 runs for Karachi versus Bahawalpur in 1958-59 on home ground before running himself out in his quest to reach a milestone that only Brian Lara did 35 years later. Hanif was a prodigy and by far the best Pakistan batsman of his time. Hailing from a family of five cricketing brothers, four of whom played for Pakistan - Hanif’s son Shoaib too played Test cricket - Hanif’s name was synonymous with Pakistani batting until the likes of Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas and Javed Miandad began performing their sterling deeds on the international stage.

If Sachin Tendulkar toured Pakistan in 1989 at the tender age of sixteen, Hanif had came to India as a regular opener with his country’s first Test team in 1952-53 when he was just seventeen. In the inaugural first-class match against North Zone, Hanif scored 121 and 109 not out. Later he made a superb unbeaten 203 versus Bombay. He showed immense promise in the five Tests, scoring 51 on debut at the Ferozshah Kotla. He was unlucky to miss his maiden Test hundred by just four runs in the third Test at the Brabourne Stadium, and carved out another half-century in the final Test at the Eden Gardens.                             

The epitome of sound technique and intense concentration, he left such a profound impression on Indian minds that, it is said, the distinguished Bombay coach Vasu Paranjpe used him as a model when he was mentoring Sunil Gavaskar in the 1960s. It is a fascinating tale of the two little masters of the sub-continent, and Hanif went on to establish several records for his country. He played what is still the longest innings in Test cricket, against the West Indies at Bridgetown in 1957-58, progressing to 337 in what is officially accepted as 16 hours and 10 minutes, but what was earlier believed - and still maintained by Hanif - to be 16 hours and 39 minutes. In first-class cricket, Himachal Pradesh captain Rajiv Nayyar played a longer innings against Jammu and Kashmir at Chamba only in 1999-2000, occupying the crease for just five minutes under 17 hours in his leisurely 271.

Hanif notched up centuries in each innings - 111 and 104 - of the Dacca (now Dhaka) Test of 1961-62 against England. His 12 Test hundreds were a record for his country at the time, as was his aggregate of 3915 runs at an average of 43.98 in his 55 Tests, 11 as captain. In first-class matches Hanif logged up the most runs in a Pakistan season, 1250 at an average of 59.52 in 1961-62. Hanif was indeed the pioneer among classy Pakistani batsmen and in terms of technical proficiency the forbear to Mohammad Yousuf.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email

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