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Sachin is world's best batsman, says Hanif Mohammad

Former Pakistan captain and batting sensation Hanif Mohammad says Indian maestro is undoubtedly the best batsman in the world.

india Updated: Mar 14, 2004 16:15 IST

Former Pakistan captain and batting sensation Hanif Mohammad says Indian maestro Sachin Tendulkar is undoubtedly the best batsman in the world, ahead of Brian Lara and Inzamam-ul-Haq.

"Sachin is the number one batsman in the world," Hanif, the original "little master" of the Indian subcontinent, told IANS in an exclusive interview at the National Stadium.

"There are many good batsmen today like Inzamam-ul-Haq, Yousuf Youhana (of Pakistan), Brian Lara (of West Indies), and there are a few more in other countries," said Hanif, the first Asian to hit a triple Test century.

"But Sachin, according to me, is the best batsman. If I were to pick one batsman in the world, it would be Sachin."

Then he chipped in with: "All good batsmen in the game have been of short height."

Like Tendulkar, Hanif is a little over five feet and appears even shorter as he now has a slight stoop.

Hanif, who invented the reverse sweep that has now become a normal one-day shot, walks and speaks slowly and wears a permanent smile that exposes his red lips, confirming his fondness for beetle leaves.

Hanif, who came to the National Stadium here along with his wife Saturday to watch the first one-day international between India and Pakistan, is amiable and seems to have a sharp memory.

He clearly remembers his 337-run epic against the West Indies that lasted 999 minutes at Bridgetown, Guyana in 1957-58.

According to some writers, Hanif, just 18 then, concentrated so hard that he lost his eyelashes under a scorching sun.

Hanif put the record straight. "No, they would have fallen only if I had got artificial ones," he said with a smile.

"The fact was that it was very hot, and I did not wear a cap while batting," he recalled about the innings that helped Pakistan draw the match. "Because of the heat the area just below my eyes got blackened and later it bled."

Hanif, who was born in Junagadh district of Gujarat, said that sun cream was not available at the time. "In those days the cream that players use now was not available, nor did we know about it, otherwise I would have used it," he said.

"The doctor treated it and applied ointment and whatever he told me to do about my eyes I did. After a few days it became okay," he added.

Hanif also scored a world-record 499 for Karachi against Bahawalpur in a Qaid-e-Azam Trophy national championship match here in 1958-59. Lara later broke the record, scoring 501 in an English county championships game.

About the modern day game, Hanif said that the advent of the World Cup in 1975 changed the game for the better.

"Since the start of the World Cup the game has improved a lot. New stadiums have come up, player equipment and kits have improved, money has increased, hotel accommodation has got better and so has travelling," he said.

Hanif is all for better pay packets for players and says commercialisation of the game has not taken the charm out of it.

"It's a good thing. Earlier, there was less money, less facilities, but now they are much improved," he opined. "I think the charm of cricket has only increased with more money coming into the game, and people are enjoying it."

Hanif, whose brothers Mushtaq, Sadiq and Wazir also played Test cricket, says he never indulged in sledging.

"No, we never used to indulge in sledging. We played for our country - that was our only aim," he said.

"We used to get Rs.15 when we (Pakistan) started playing Test cricket in 1952-53. But money was not a consideration; to play for out nation used to be our prime objective."

Hanif made his debut at 17 against India on Pakistan's first ever Test tour in 1952-53 and returned there again for the 1960-61 series.

He fondly remembers the Lucknow Test of 1952 when the game was played on a jute matting wicket at Gomti Ground, now in disuse.

"Pace bowler Fazal Mahmood took 12 wickets to bowl Pakistan to a win. He was a great bowler," he said.

Hanif is happy that the India-Pakistan Test series has resumed.

"Am praying that India and Pakistan continue to play like this. Even the governments are coming closer to each other and intend to be friendly," he said.

"If the bilateral series go on, the two boards and governments would benefit from the game." India's first full-fledged tour of Pakistan began March 10. Saturday India won the first of the five one-dayers it will play along with three Test matches.

These days, Hanif follows the game on television and through papers. He is also a member on the advisory committee of the Pakistan Cricket Board.

"Even after a cricketer retires, he does not leave the game," he said with a friendly smile.

First Published: Mar 14, 2004 15:22 IST