Hyderabad: March 26th is a red letter day in the history of Hyderabad cricket. For it was on this day in 1987 that Hyderabad had won the prestigious Ranji trophy championship. It was Hyderabad’s second triumph in the Ranji championship. Nowadays it may be difficult to imagine with the standard of Hyderabad cricket being so abysmal, but back then the team was a force to reckon with.
There were several extremely talented players in the lineup. M.V. Narasimha (Bobby) Rao, Shivlal Yadav and Arshad Ayub were Test cricketers. Arshad played Tests after this Ranji victory. Others like Vijay Mohan Raj, Khalid Abdul Qaiyum and Vivek Jaisimha were a formidable force in the batting line up.
The tall and athletic Bobby Rao who was leading Hyderabad, was an all rounder who was capable of winning matches even when the rest were collapsing. And he was in great form with the ball and bat throughout this season. In the league phase he took ten wickets against Kerala and nine wickets against Goa. His century against Gujarat and 74 against Bihar were outstanding knocks.
Among the batsmen who performed well were Vijay Mohan Raj whose characteristic determination fetched him a century against Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the league phase. Khalid Abdul Qaiyum was another batsman whose tons helped Hyderabad’s cause.
Against Tamil Nadu, Abdul Azeem was in great form. His sparkling 303 not out tore the rival attack to shreds. As everyone knew, when the dashing Azeem was on song, the bowlers just had to sit back and hope that he would make a mistake. That day Azeem didn’t make any mistakes. It was one of the memorable knocks seen by a home team batsman in Hyderabad.
In Arshad Ayub, Hyderabad had another all rounder with awesome talent. Although he was known primarily as an off spinner in international cricket, in First-Class cricket he could also wield the willow with telling effect. He had two hundreds in domestic cricket and one of them was a double hundred.
It was against Bihar in Ranji Trophy semi-final. Ayub batting at No. 8, scored an unbeaten 206 to help Hyderabad take the first innings lead. Then in the final that came next, Ayub went in at 110 for five and struck 174 to help Hyderabad clinch the Ranji Trophy.
In the South Zone league phase, Hyderabad began with a spate of drawn matches. But with each league match being of only three days duration, this was to be expected. However Hyderabad qualified for the knockout stage after a victory against Goa.
In the quarter final, Hyderabad clashed with Gujarat. Hyderabad took the first innings lead thanks to Qaiyum (203) and Narasimha Rao (114) and Vivek Jaisimha (141). They guided Hyderabad to a mammoth 605 for seven declared. In the second innings V. Manohar (101) helped Hyderabad to set a victory target of 516 which was practically out of reach for Gujarat.
In the semi final, Hyderabad was up against Bihar on its home turf at the Gymkhana ground. Bihar did put up a good fight and scored 468 but Hyderabad replied even more strongly. Arshad Ayub’s double century and centuries by Vivek Jaisimha and Ramanamurthy and a gutsy 93 by Vijay Mohan Raj saw Hyderabad reach 783 for eight declared.
Then came the grand final against Delhi in Delhi. Batting first Hyderabad scored 457. Centuries were hit by Abdul Azeem and Arshad Ayub. Delhi failed to take the first innings lead and were all out for 433. Rajesh Yadav’s haul of five wickets and Shivlal’s three wickets helped to contain the Delhi batting line up.
When Hyderabad batted again, Vijay Mohan Raj came up with an unbeaten double century to rub salt into the host’s wounds.
The scenes of jubilation that followed when the team returned to Hyderabad had to be seen to be believed. Cricket fans, officials and players seemed to go crazy with delight. Never before or since have Hyderabad cricketers been feted and paraded like the champions of 1987.
Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.