Mother’s Day: Moms who sacrificed lives for their children to become sports champions

There is a popular saying that behind every successful man is a woman. In the world of sports that woman has often been the sportsperson’s mother. On the occasion of Mother’s Day it would be fitting to pay a tribute to all the hard working mothers whose sacrifice and determination helped their children to reach the topmost rungs of international sport. Examples of such mothers can be found in the USA, Europe and Asia.

One such person was Ameer Bee, mother of the Pakistani Test cricketers Wazir Mohammad, Hanif Mohammad, Mushtaq Mohammad and Sadiq Mohammad. Another of her sons namely Raees Mohammad almost played Test cricket too but at the last moment was assigned the spot of 12th man. Hanif’s son Shoaib Mohammad (grandson of Ameer Bee) also played Tests and his son (Hanif’s grandson and Ameer Bee’s great grandson) played first class cricket.

Hanif Mohammad was the most famous of the brothers. Trained by Abdul Aziz Durrani (father of India’s Salim Durrani), Hanif scored Pakistan’s first triple century (337) against West Indies in a Test match. He also held the first class world record of 499 runs in an innings till it was broken by Brian Lara. At least two of the Mohammad brothers played together in a Test on 64 occasions. In the first 89 Tests that Pakistan played, there was always a member of the Mohammad family in the team. This spanned a period of more than 25 years.

What an amazing family! Much of the credit for the stupendous achievements of this family have to go to Ameer Bee who was herself a champion badminton player in pre independence India. When she found that her children were gifted at cricket she encouraged them in every way. She scolded them when they missed practice, she kept records of their scores and whenever they performed well she bought them special gifts.

Ameer Bee can be ranked as the senior matriarch of international cricket. Perhaps she is even a notch higher in status than Martha Grace, mother of W.G. Grace who was known as the Grand Old Man of cricket. Martha Grace had two other sons namely Fred Grace and Edward Mills Grace who also played Test cricket.

Like Ameer Bee, Martha too fashioned the cricket careers of her sons. While three of them were selected to play Test matches for England, two more played first class cricket. Martha has been described as a tall and commanding woman who is said to have extensive knowledge about the finer points of cricket. She hailed from a family of cricketers. Her brother Alfred was a keen cricketer and coached his nephews. Martha organised cricket matches every other day in which all her nine children took part.

Moving away from cricket to tennis, there was Margaret (Maggie) Amritraj, mother of tennis champs Vijay, Anand and Ashok Amritraj. Maggie was a tennis player herself and was instrumental in her sons’ success.  All three brothers have a huge amount of respect for their mother.

The eldest brother Anand once said that his mother was the biggest influence in his life. Despite suffering burns in an accident in 1964 and a severe injury to her right hand, Maggie played a key role in guiding the sports careers of her three sons. Vijay Amritraj who had once defeated the legendary Bjron Borg, wrote about his mother: “I find it quite extraordinary that one mother out of all the millions of mothers in India, should have this driving obsessive determination to turn all three of her sons into tennis champions.

Then who can forget the contribution of Oracene Price, mother of the Williams sisters Venus and Serena. While their father Richard was busy coaching and guiding the elder sister Venus, Oracene focussed on Serena and fashioned her game. Serena is now recognised as one of the most successful women tennis players in the history of tennis. Oracene is credited with keeping her daughters disciplined and for helping them to build a foundation of self-esteem despite facing racial pressures.

There are other mothers who have made big sacrifices. For example, India’s international hockey player Nisha Warsi hails from a family which is financially weak. Her father is a tailor. It was Nisha’s mother Mehroon who took up a job as a factory labourer so that her daughter could pursue her passion. Her efforts paid off and Nisha is now an international level hockey player. Same is the case with another hockey star Mumtaz Khan. Her mother Qaisar proudly says that Mumtaz is equal to 100 sons.

Recently we have read about Poornima Mondal who switched multiple jobs and worked two shifts to fulfill the dreams of her children. As a result, three of her children were able to represent Assam in three different sports in the All India level Khelo India sports tournaments.

Her children many have achieved the worldwide fame but considering the situation, these less known mothers like Poornima Mondal and Mehroon have also made prodigious sacrifices so that their children can shine. India needs more mothers like them.

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