Two innings by a young batsman stand out in memory whenever I think of Hyderabad cricket. The first was a fearless century against a West Indies pace attack consisting of Malcolm Marshall and Vanburn Holder. The second one was another hundred, this time against Tamil Nadu on a square turner at Chepauk a couple of years later. The batsman was Saad bin Jung, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi’s nephew, barely 16 when he took on the might of the pace bowlers from the Caribbean at Lal Bahadur Stadium, opening the South Zone innings, no matter that Marshall was a raw colt and the other bowlers were not exerting themselves unduly in a tour match.I had been silently critical of his inclusion in the zone team, following a fifty against the tourists playing for the Indian Under-19 or Schoolboys XI. He was an unknown quantity at the first class level, not having made his Ranji Trophy debut yet. The only glimpses we had had of his batting had been at the local league level, where he represented Hyderabad Public School. There were whispers that he was in the team because of his pedigree and proximity to the chairman of the selection committee, M L Jaisimha.
We, the critics, were proved wrong and Jaisimha was proved right by what happened when South Zone won the toss and batted first. The young Hyderabad batsman played the fast bowlers as though he had played them all his life. He had this uncanny ability of seeing the ball early and playing it late. Pace and bounce did not trouble him, nor movement in the air or off it. He played a calm, collected innings worthy of his seniors in the side like G R Viswanath.Secure in defence, he was unequivocal when it came to playing attacking shots. He cut, drove and pulled with insouciance, and when he came back to the pavilion with a century under his belt, chubby cheeks and all, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
If after this display against genuine pace, we entertained any doubts about Saad’s ability against quality spin, these were dispelled a couple of years later, when he made 113 and 37 not out against Tamil Nadu in conditions inimical to batting. The wicket was a minefield with the ball rearing and turning viciously. Venkataraghavan, Vasudevan and Santosh Kumar were the spinners in operation, and no batsman was secure, especially in the second innings.
The exception was Saad bin Jung, who used his feet in a masterly fashion to the spinners, dancing down the wicket and smothering the spin with his body. The second innings cameo was really worth its weight in gold, as it saved the match for Hyderabad. At the end of the match, Venkataraghavan paid Saad a generous compliment when he appreciated his batting as some of the best he had seen against spin on a turning wicket.
Saad faded away soon after that magnificent performance. Part of the blame must lie with him, because he perhaps got carried away by all his early success and began to focus less on cricket than the trappings going with it. The administration too was perhaps unhelpful; and uncaring, and instead of nurturing an unusual talent, came down heavily on him when he did not toe the line. An extremely promising career got cut even before establishing itself.