Nizam College had a brilliant name in sports at all India level; will it rise again?

Hyderabad: Students of Nizam College have achieved name and fame in many different fields. The hallowed portals of the institution have inspired and encouraged the budding careers of some of the best known sons and daughters of Hyderabad. Some of their achievements made them famous not only in Hyderabad and in India but also in lands far away. 

In sports several of the Nizamians became known throughout the world. Be it cricket, football, badminton or tennis, they made a name for themselves and their country. The college had the right ambience for the students to pursue academics as well as extracurricular activities including sports. 

Over the years, Nizam College has produced two captains of the Indian cricket team namely Ghulam Ahmed and Mohammad Azharuddin. Captains of the Hyderabad team like M.L. Jaisimha and Kawaljit Singh along with numerous other national and state players have left an indelible mark in national and international cricket. 

MS Education Academy
Ghulam Ahmed
Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin arriving for a batting practice in Dhaka Stadium 13 January 1998 ahead of first India-Pakistan encounter of the tri-nation Silver Jubilee Independence Cup Cricket. Azhar will equal the world record of 273 one-day international appearances of Australian Allan Border when he plays Sunday’s decisive last game of the three-match final against Pakistan. AFP PHOTO (Photo by Mufti MUNIR / AFP)

Nizam College alumni also include sports stars such as national table tennis champion Mir Kasim Ali who in his heydays was considered unbeatable, Davis Cup tennis player and later coach S.P. Misra, badminton international Manoj Kumar and football player, FIFA referee and coach S.S. Hakeem and Syed Mohammed Hadi who was a multi talented sportsperson and administrator.  

former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Kiran Kumar Reddy

In fact the former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Kiran Kumar Reddy, was also a very good cricketer. He also made his presence felt in the sports field while studying at Nizam College. As a wicketkeeper-batsman, Kiran Kumar Reddy was captain of the Hyderabad Under-22 cricket team and Osmania University team as well. He studied at Nizam College at the same time as Mohammad Azharuddin. 

Another politician who was a good cricketer while studying at Nizam was Asaduddin Owaisi. 

M.L. Jaisimha

M.L. Jaisimha was the most colourful of the players who emerged from Nizam College. He led Hyderabad with distinction in the domestic competitions for 16 seasons. Such was his reputation and caliber that India captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi had no hesitation to play under the captaincy of Jaisimha in the Ranji trophy tournament for several seasons. Jai as he was popularly known also played for India in 39 Tests.

Badminton coach Syed Mohammed Arif

Badminton coach Syed Mohammed Arif who started the badminton revolution in India and developed world ranked players such as P. Gopichand, Saina Nehwal, Jwala Gutta and others was a student of Nizam College too. Arif was the Chief national coach of the Indian badminton team for several years and was later honoured with the prestigious Dronacharya award by the Government of India. 

But perhaps a less well known fact is that Nizam college provided a major boost to the growth of football in Hyderabad and helped the region to become the nursery of Indian football after independence. Although it must be mentioned here that football was popular in Hyderabad even before India became independent.

The well known football expert, Delhi based professor Novy Kapadia, has written very extensively about the growth of football in Hyderabad. The sport was introduced first in the Secunderabad cantonment area by the British army contingents which were stationed there. At first the local population was content to just watch the army men playing the game. But soon they took to playing the game themselves in open spaces around the twin cities.

But the growing popularity of the game was sought to be curbed by a group of influential people who felt that the game would occupy the minds and energy of the people. The energy should be reserved for religious activities and patriotic pursuits they felt.

Due to this, football activities and tournaments became stagnant and the game was on verge of dying out in Hyderabad. It was now up to the educational institutions to take a lead and again Nizam College should play a leading role. Kenneth Burnett who was then the Principal of Nizam College decided to prove that the theory against football was unfounded and groundless. He selected the region’s first non-army and non-white football team from among the students of Nizam College.

Similar teams of boys were formed at All Saints High School, St. George’s Grammar School, Asafia High School and Dar Ul Uloom High School and tournaments were organized among the students. Gradually football activity once again came alive and the popularity of the game grew by leaps and bounds.

A gentleman named Vilayat Hussain who was then the Director of Posts in the Nizam’s government formed the first ever private football club. Here too the team members were mostly Nizam College graduates. Two tournaments were organised. One between educational institutions and another open to British army teams. A player by the name of Chirag Ali became recognised as the best player in the region. His skills were admired by the Britishers too.

Despite ups and downs and political upheavals, football continued to grow and Nizam College continued to produce excellent players and organisers who helped sport to take shape in Hyderabad. Eventually, in the 1950s, Hyderabad came to be recognised as the land of talent in Indian football. 

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

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