Abdul Hai takes a trip down memory lane

A. Joseph Antony
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Mohammed Abdul Hai became the country’s first century-maker in the earliest avatar of abridged cricket, introduced through the Deodhar Trophy in 1973-74.

“The first doctor to play for India was my dream, but that was not to be,” the general physician settled in Michigan sighed wistfully, when reminiscing with The Hindu .

“There was a fairly large turnout at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium for the 1974-75 quarterfinal in Chennai,” continued Hai. For taking on North Zone was a star-studded South, led by S. Venkatraghavan.

Legends lined up were M.A.K. Pataudi, G.R. Viswanath, Abid Ali, Jayantilal Kenia and E.A.S. Prasanna, all of them Test players, three of whom were Hai’s Hyderabad Ranji teammates.

A consistent scorer in the event’s opening edition a year before and having played for Brondesbury CC alongside Mike Gatting in the Middlesex league, Hai felt equipped for the 60-overs-a-side challenge. With one opener gone for no score, the stylish southpaw walked in and began scoring at a brisk pace.

“Raj Singh Dungarpur’s eyes widened with amazement at what was then an astonishing rate — four runs an over — as also on South ‘amassing’ 248 for nine,” Hai recalled, his endeavour ending at 101, castled by Madan Lal.

Hai also played in Prof. D.B. Deodhar’s benefit match in Pune, the patriarch’s hometown.

He was offered an opportunity to play in/for Pakistan by Asif Iqbal, a senior at Hyderabad’s Nizam College.

The college’s alumni includes two India captains — Ghulam Ahmed and Mohd. Azharuddin — Test players M.L. Jaisimha, Abbas Ali Baig and Jayantilal Kenia besides Habeeb Ahmed, who led the Indian Starlets to the aforementioned nation.

“A decade after the Deodhar Trophy began, India clinched the Prudential World Cup in 1983, thus making the nation a cricket super power,” noted Prof. A. Prasanna Kumar, a Fulbright Fellow, sports columnist and author.

“If the sport’s reign was divided into eras, the 1970s belonged to Sunil Gavaskar, the ’80s to Kapil Dev, the ’90s to Sachin Tendulkar and thereon to M.S. Dhoni. Much credit is due to the limited-over version named after the Grand Old Man,” added Prasanna Kumar, who was a commentator during Visakhapatnam’s first One-Day International between New Zealand and India in 1988.

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