Lion-hearted all-rounder Syed Abid Ali turns 80

Abhijit Sen Gupta
Abhijit Sen Gupta

If any cricketer fully deserves to be called lion-hearted it is Syed Abid Ali, the all-rounder from Hyderabad who played an important role in Indian cricket in the 1960s and 70s.

Sitting in the U.S. he is celebrating his 80th birthday

To get some memories of his playing days, spoke to two people who had played alongside and against him. One is Hyderabad’s most successful captain in domestic cricket M.V. Narasimha Rao who was a junior player when Abid Ali was captain of Hyderabad for a brief period. The other is P.R. Man Singh the former Secretary of the Hyderabad Cricket association who was the manager of India’s victorious team which won the Prudential World Cup in 1983. Both of them wished Abid Ali a very happy birthday and many happy returns of the day.

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Said Narasimha Rao: “Abid bhai was a workhorse and always led by example. Being an extremely disciplined man, he never missed a single session of practice and was never late for any net session. He inspired all of us junior players to do the same. Besides, we can never forget his excellence in close catching positions. He had reflexes like lightning and could bring off really marvelous catches.”

“He taught us the importance of being fit and committed to our game. He set a benchmark for fielding. Moreover, when I went to the UK to play, he was already playing there and he gave me invaluable advice about how to cope with the conditions and play well in a different land with a different climate,” added the Hyderabad skipper.

P.R. Man Singh, who was the manager of the Indian team in two World Cups, namely 1983 and 1987, recalls that he had played against Abid Ali many times when he was a young man.

“I have faced his bowling on many occasions. He was an extremely accurate bowler who was very difficult to score against. I used to play for the Deccan Blues club and Abid represented the State Bank of Hyderabad. We played against each other in the league as well as knock out tournaments,” said Man Singh.

“He was a very determined batsman and an aggressive bowler. Hard work and dedication were his hallmarks. I would not call him a very talented player, but he made up for it with his fighting spirit in everything that he did. Whether it was bowling, batting or fielding, he gave his hundred percent effort. Later he became an outstanding coach and guided Andhra Pradesh state team in the Ranji trophy championships,” said Man Singh.

“He was also a fitness freak. After a hard practice session he still had enough energy to do some exercises and run several laps of the ground. Few players had the kind of drive and motivation that he had. Particularly back in those days when cricket was not such a hectic game as it is now. I can recall more stories about interacting with him but those are not for public,” said Man Singh with a laugh.

Describing Abid Ali, a Cricinfo article states: “Abid Ali had the feet of a sprinter, the energy of a marathon runner and the will power of a decathlete. But his misfortune was that he was born 20 years too early. His game was made to order for one-day cricket: he bowled brisk medium-pace, fielded outstandingly, and was a busy lower-order batsman who ran between the wickets as if on invisible skates.”

Abid Ali studied in St. George’s Grammar School and All Saints High School. In 1956 he was selected to represent the Hyderabad schools team. Later he got a job in the State Bank of Hyderabad. He began playing in the Ranji Trophy in 1960 and was selected to play for India in 1967.

On his Test debut against Australia at Brisbane, he snapped up six wickets for only 55 runs. The wickets he took were those of top order batsmen. In the second innings he took one more wicket to finish the match with seven for 116. It was a remarkable debut performance.

Abid coached the junior team of Hyderabad and the Andhra Ranji squad, before moving to California in 1980. He also coached in UAE between 2002 and 2005. He currently resides in California and still keeps himself mentally and physically fit. May God grant him many more years of happy and healthy life.

Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.

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