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Desai shook my confidence

Hanif Mohammed, Pakistan's peerless opening batsman, was born in Junagadh in undivided India and toured India twice in 1952-53 and 1960-61 writes Hanif Mohammed.

india Updated: Mar 14, 2004 00:41 IST

1960-61 series

Hanif Mohammed, Pakistan's peerless opening batsman, was born in Junagadh in undivided India and toured India twice in 1952-53 and 1960-61. He was Pakistan's most successful batsman in the 1960-61 series with 410 runs from five Tests, inclusive of a hundred and three fifties. Here, he reminisces about the series, the last between the traditional rivals till 1978-79.

A trip to India has always been cause for great excitement. Being the country of my birth, there is a lot of nostalgia attached to anything associated with India. The tremendous hospitality one received there always made us feel at home and even after so many years, if one asks me my choice of a country to tour, I would without hesitation say India. However, going to play there as a representative of the country of my choice, Pakistan, meant that I was very conscious of my role in the team.

My recollections of the 1960-61 tour of India evoke memories filled with pain and pleasure. I had to endure physical discomfort due to an injury to my toe, which occurred when my foot slipped in my shoe during the first match in Pune in which I scored 222, and this resulted in the removal of my toe-nails and put me out of action for 24 days.

Another disconcerting memory of the tour was my encounters with Ramakant Desai, that diminutive fast bowler who scalped me so many times during the tour that he shook my confidence. Maybe it was because he was not in the mould of conventional fast bowlers who are usually tall and hurl the ball from a higher trajectory, so that even when they pitch short, one is able to see it well in time. Not so with Desai. His short-pitched deliveries were really short, slammed down almost a quarter of the pitch.

Having been out of action for so many days meant that despite being in the nets a day prior to the first Test, my footwork was not yet up to par. I never had the habit of ducking into a bouncer, having developed my own style of leaning away from it as I was able to spot it well in time from the bowler's action, to be able to take evasive measures. This didn't prove to be too successful against Desai because of his stature and his peculiar action, which seemed pretty suspect as it was. Be that as it may, the fact was that he dismissed me four times during the series and rattled my confidence.

However, this was not before I was able to etch out one cherishable memory. That of having played an innings that till date remains one of my favourites, despite the pain in my foot due to the nail extraction and the doctor's verdict that I was only 40% fit. When my captain called on me to play as the team needed me and enlisted the support of my mother who was visiting

Mumbai, I put on shoes borrowed from my big-footed teammate, the late Wallis Mathias, and went in to score 160, changing my blood-soaked socks every two hours. While the Test was drawn, for me the innings was a sweet success as I had been able to overcome inaction and pain and play a precious innings for my country. As it is, that Test is associated with some other pleasant memories, like a visit by the legendary Lata Mangeshkar to my room at the CCI where the team was staying, and the hospitality she extended to my mother and uncle. It will also remain a pleasant memory because I received the news of the birth of my son during this match.

So while the tour resulted in a cricketing stalemate with the eight side matches as well all five Tests remaining unfinished due to the overcautious approach of both teams who didn't want to lose to the arch-rival, I came away with some prized memories despite some painful experiences that prevented me from performing to my optimum.