Searching for Hanif Mohammad’s house on a scorching day in June 2008 seemed to be a bad choice. But when fellow journalist Sunandan Lele and I managed to find the address in a modern locality of Karachi, it was one of the best decisions of my career.
Wearing a pink shirt and black trousers, Hanif sahab was waiting for us in his small lush-green garden.
“You are half-an-hour late, you should have been here by noon,” he said sternly. A smile played on the face though.
I was interested in finding out what he did to keep concentration and stamina during the 970-minute knock of 337 runs against the West Indies at Bridgetown in 1958.
Did he feel tired?
“I enjoyed the innings. We had a masseur travelling with us and whenever there was a break, he gave a massage. The boy had good hands. I don’t remember his name but I played that innings because of him, He worked religiously and never tired,” said Hanif with another smile.
How did the West Indies react to the innings?
“Their bowlers and fielders were annoyed, and I enjoyed their misery. A batsman who can stay longer at the wicket is a real Test player. That is why I always wanted to play long innings,” he explained.
The conversation shifted to players who could play longer innings and make runs against any opponent.
“Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar are such players. Batting longer against the best bowling attacks shows the character of a Test cricketer. Dravid and Sachin are the best against the best bowlers of the world,” Hanif said passionately.
Suddenly, he picked up an Indian-made SS bat from a corner of the drawing room and showed us how to play the forward defensive shot.
“Your bat should be here when the ball is coming at you straight.” Even at this age, he enjoyed shadow batting, and went on to play a few more dummy shots.
Hanif wanted to talk more about batting but his grandson called us for snacks. Over tea, he spoke of his house in Junagarh, Gujarat.
“India is my second home, and I have friends and a relative there. I will meet you if I come to Delhi sometime,” he said.