Sport

Noted badminton coach, a cricketer to the core

S.M. Arif.  

S.M. Arif, the distinguished badminton coach, who produced many a national champion in different age groups over the years, was the cynosure of the few who had gathered at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium when he came to watch his nephew and left-arm spinner Mehdi Hasan making his Ranji debut.

Not many could be aware that the ‘Dronacharya' was an accomplished cricket player till the college-level.

“I scored a century for my school team and even led Anwar-ul-Uloom College for four years. I also played for Deccan Blues in the HCA league,” he says, with a big smile. “Those were the days when we I used to play a lot of cricket, especially at the open ground of Lal Bahadur Stadium with only the pavilion block in early 60s,” Arif recalls going down memory lane.

An interesting revelation is that even a player like Kenny Jayanthilal, who later played for India, was made to sit out from the Deccan Blues outfit. “I was surprised later not because Kenny was picked for Indian team but for the manner in which such a player could not be accommodated in our team,” he laughs uproariously.

Avid fan

“I used to watch a lot of cricket. I am a big fan of Sachin Tendulkar for the big heart he shows in taking on anyone in any situation even after 20 years of international cricket. I love the Aussie speedster Brett Lee for the flowing action and his great spirit ,” says the coach whose trainees include Pullela Gopi Chand and Saina Nehwal.

So, why did Arif stop playing cricket? “I do not want to name the coach even now. But, I felt dejected when he once called me for a camp and did not even give me a chance to bat,” he sighs with a shrug. “Then, I told myself that I would better play an individual sport like badminton and prove my mettle rather than struggle to get a place in a team sport like cricket,” he added.

Of course, the legendary coach was greeted effusively by sportspersons former India football captain Victor Amalraj, Noel David and HCA joint-secretary Seshadri Venkateshwaran at the venue.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 9:07:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/noted-badminton-coach-a-cricketer-to-the-core/article2600460.ece

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