Exactly who is Saim Nadeem Siddiqui, the man arrested with Maninder Singh two days ago, allegedly with 100gm of charas on him, and charged with pedalling drugs?
HT tried to get to the bottom of the Siddiqui mystery, to find more about the man who is reported to have played club and league cricket in Delhi.
Not many in the sports media had heard Siddiqui’s name before — which is not a surprise, for former cricketers of the state are equally clueless. “We’ve no idea who this man is, I’ve only met him along with Mani,” was the most common reply by the former and current players.
This despite the fact that Siddiqui has been actively involved with the National Sports Club India (NSCI) cricket academy right from its inception two years back. But again, his coaching credentials do not arouse much admiration.
“He was probably there only because of his proximity to Maninder. I can bet he doesn’t possess any coaching degree,” said a former cricketer who has been actively involved with the game in the state for over two decades. “As far as I know, he has never played any competitive cricket in Delhi during the last 20 years.”
The club for which Maninder played and continues to be involved with, Delhi Blues, also has no relation with Siddiqui.
“We’ve never employed any person of this name,” said Sameer Bahadur, the Delhi Blues secretary, on Thursday. “We stand by Maninder at this hour of crisis but can’t comment on any other person.”
A few details have emerged, details that in no way strengthen Siddiqui’s credentials.
Sources familiar with the operation of the NSCI academy say that Siddiqui apparently came into Maninder’s life some seven years back. “He was from a modest background and won Maninder’s confidence by doing all kinds chores for him,” said a National Institute of Sports official. “Two years ago, when Maninder joined the NSCI academy, Siddiqui got a job as a coach, along with former Delhi batsman Hitesh Sharma.”
Hitesh left the academy after seven months and it was then that Siddiqui came into the limelight. “Saim is a hardworking man, a God-fearing man who offers namaaz prayers five times everyday,” said Gursharan Singh, a former India player and a close friend of Maninder’s. “I can’t believe he could be involved in any immoral activity.”
These words were echoed by several other people who came into contact with Siddiqui during his stint at the NSCI. But apart from Gursharan, no player or official was willing to come on record.
Siddiqui remains a mystery man, but one thing is for sure --- the speculation would continue, his antecedents would continue to be debated over the coming days.