Sunday, October 26, 2008

Promise unfulfilled

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.

20 comments:

Uday said...

It is devastating when such potential is unrealised. I guess it goes to show that equanimity and having a level head is just as important to succeess as precocious talent.

vasisht said...

terrible..a definite loss to indian cricket or even world cricket .. such incredible talent and class by a boy in his teens is par excellence..a big shame that this potent world beater went diving into sheer oblivion...a sad end to stupendous exhibition of pure genius

Ramnarayan said...

Thanks Uday and Vasisht. I had the privilege and experienced despair of watching from close quarters.

jungle jung said...

How odd you lot are. . . . i wish someone would ask me why i chose to leave cricket? Did anyone ever come and meet me in hopspital when i was ill for two years between the ripe old age of 19 and 21? No. Just because Harsha Bhogle writes that i was busy running after girls and this was the reason for my not playing cricket doesnt make that the gospel truth. Or does it? Sure i had a girlfriend. Better than having a boy-friend or going to whores? Right or wrong? Wonder why Harsha chose not to write the truth about those that were practicing such enjoyable activities?

Ram old friend, whatever the truth of my retirement, i am so glad i had the opportunity to meet such people as you and your brother, T Srinivasan and Krishnamachary Srikanth to name a few. We enjoyed our cricket. Send me T's number please. After Sunil Gavaskar that was the cricketer i respected. Now that was talent put to waste by the politicians. Hear he is not well.

Ramnarayan said...

Saad,
Glad you responded. I believe you were a phenomenal talent, but we all have to own up responsibility. Both you and your brother Amer were exceptional batsmen, but you were at least partly responsible for not going on to play for India. So was the system.

I'll send you TE's number soon, watch this space. Yes, he's unwell but putting up a great fight, God bless him. His wife Mala's courage has been incredible.

Ramnarayan said...

By the way, I didn't know about your two years in hospital. Remember I left Hyderabad in 1981?

Prakash E said...

Hi Saad,
I too remember very fondly your knock against the West Indies. I also met you a couple of times in New Science College, Ameerpet (during 1980-82) and took your autograph.
What are you doing now? I see that you sometimes write for Deccan Chronicle.
Ramnarayan, it would be nice if you could write what some of the ex-hyd players are doing these days. Like an update on their welfare. People like Abdul Hai, Naushir Mehta, MV Narasimha Rao, Abdul Azeem, Arshad Ayub,etc.

Prakash

vasisht said...

saad sir and ram,
it absolutely surprises me tht mr harsha bhogle could have portrayed u as some lazy undetermined cricketer...it also bewilders me that ur uncle the great nawab didn't help u resurge as a more responsible cricketer who could take on the world!

Ramnarayan said...

Oops! I didn't intend to stir a hornet's nest. In cricket as in life, you sometimes come across extraordinary talent that does not blossom to attain its logical conclusion, thanks to extraneous factors or some failure on the part of the individual, or both. Anyone who watched Saad's two innings I have recounted will still swear he was watching a world class batsman in the making. Vasisht and Uday seem to have read too much between the lines, and come to the conclusion Saad led a reckless life. All I meant was that with greater focus he would have made it to the top. Having said that, everyone of ability doesn't always make it. You have to be at the right place at the right time.

harsha said...

hey saad, what's this about me writing about you chasing girls? can't remember to be honest because the only memories i have of you are extremely pleasant. we go too far back to worry about anything else. remember that beautiful white gray nicolls and your yellow geared bike on which you feverishly pedalled to reach our back field on time. and i was in awe of your batting; even wrote about it in one of the earliest pieces of mine published in the deccan chronicle. also remember you sledging us during a close inter-collegiate final when i was having a bit of a partnership with anantha vatsalya. we laughed about it afterwards.from the four years we played together i remember your laughter as much as your batting. and listen, when you were between 19 and 21, i was betweeen 20 and 22and in no position to influence opinion. hope you are having fun, that's what you were meant to do. cheers. harsha

Ramnarayan said...

Thanks, Harsha for enlivening the page with those memories of Hyderabad cricket. I wish I had met you then so that I could boast of it now, though I'm sure our paths must have crossed. Saad, TE is reasonably OK, seen at MCC in the evenings. I can send you his phone number if I could have your email id. Mine is vramnarayan@gmail.com

Makarand said...

I wish the author had checked with Saad the reason for him quitting the game at 21. Anyway Saad was a brilliant batsman. I remember reading about his brilliant 138 on a rank bad turner at Cheapuak in 1979 against Venkat.
Harsha Bhogle writing about you chasing girls, i really can't believe. Anyway Harsha is a big man. Even after 38 years in journalism, i have no guts to advise or criticise what others are writing but Harsha has. I admire him. So if he has written about you chasing girls, why do u take it to heart. U didn't chase balls out side the off stump, did u ? Saad, we exchange mails and i want you to excahnge notes on batting and not what Harsha wrote .

Ramnarayan said...

Makarand,
I hope you read this post before you wrote what you did. If I am "the author" you refer to, I said nothing about Saad quitting cricket and nothing about girls or anything outside of cricket. I happened to be one of his teammates when he played those two great knocks at Chepauk, even kept him company for over 40 minutes in the second innings, keeping Venkat at bay (not walking when my brother Sivaramakrishnan caught me off bat and pad at silly point), only to get out for zero off the first ball I faced from Vasudevan the left arm spinner! All I said was that Saad was potentially a Test batsman whose career was cut short as much by official apathy as by his own relative lack of focus after that promising start. For someone of his immense talent, his stats are not that impressive. I know nothing about why he quit cricket because I left Hyderabad in 1981, and writing on people's private lives is not my style at all. Saad will confirm that I was a caring senior during his playing days, and nothing has changed.

Ramnarayan said...

Makarand,
I hope you read this post before you wrote what you did. If I am "the author" you refer to, I said nothing about Saad quitting cricket and nothing about girls or anything outside of cricket. I happened to be one of his teammates when he played those two great knocks at Chepauk, even kept him company for over 40 minutes in the second innings, keeping Venkat at bay (not walking when my brother Sivaramakrishnan caught me off bat and pad at silly point), only to get out for zero off the first ball I faced from Vasudevan the left arm spinner! All I said was that Saad was potentially a Test batsman whose career was cut short as much by official apathy as by his own relative lack of focus after that promising start. For someone of his immense talent, his stats are not that impressive. I know nothing about why he quit cricket because I left Hyderabad in 1981, and writing on people's private lives is not my style at all. Saad will confirm that I was a caring senior during his playing days, and nothing has changed.

Ravi said...

Dear Ram,

It was very heartening for you to write about gems who couldn't shine at the highest level.

It was nice to see Saad and Harsha coming in with their comments.

In Harsha's comment he mentioned about Anantha Vatsalya, who was another great player who couldn't make it to the top. I wish you can write about him in coming days.

Thanks,
Ravi

Anonymous said...

I watched that game from the pavilion terrace - courtesy pass from Srikkanth.

What I remember most was that Saad kept using the pads to nullify the spin. I also remember that Roger Tolchard used the same technique against Prasanna and the rest at a test match in Madras - I have seen no one else using the feet to pad away spinners like that!

I also remember that for at least a couple of seasons, your brother and Srikkanth would give great starts against Hyderabad but then once they fell the rest of the TN lineup would collapse and cause heartbreak for us watching or listening to the AIR commentary.

Vidyuth Jaisimha said...

Wow--that was fun---Thanks for the non stop entertainment---Saad, Harsha, Uncle Ram--Too good I say !!!!!

Ahsan Khurshid said...

it was really sad the waysaad faded away.but there certain things happened which were not under his contro.the famous track suit incident of hca in which all the senior player like u v paul jyothiprasad were shown the door bcoz u people had become uncomfortable to the captain.U MUST TALK ABT THIS RAM BCOZ THIS IS THE STARTING POINT OF HYD CRK WHERE PLAYERS GOT INVOLVED IN ADM.

Khadeer said...

Ram I found this site by chance. I followed cricket very closely during the 60's and 70's and Hyderabad cricket was my fascination. Your blog is just fantastic and it takes me back to those good olden days when we used to bunk school and go to the Fateh Maidan to watch Jaisimha, Pataudi bat. That was vintage cricket indeed uncomparable to todays. The batsmmen had a pair of pads, an inguinal gaurd and a pair of gloves for protection. The strokeplay of Jai and Pataudi still is fresh in memory. Hyderabad cricket never had it so good. I remember your off spin bowling and you were pretty good. Too bad you did not get the chance to play for India. Hyderabad had talent in abundance.. Waheed Yar Khan, Abdul Jabbar (who wisely moved to Madras) Sultan Saleem, Abdul Hai, Rashid Mirza, Shahid Akbar, Nagesh and many more. But sadly all faded away fast without real recognition. I wouldn't know where to get your book here in Australia but will try for it when I visit Hyderabad next. Looking forward to your blog.

mailaadi said...

By the way mr azeem & mr jabbar are my uncles