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Rediff.com  » Sports » 'Shoaib deserves better treatment'

'Shoaib deserves better treatment'

By Deepti Patwardhan in Bangalore
Last updated on: March 25, 2005 21:55 IST
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Hanif Mohammed, the Pakistani child prodigy of the 1950s, is back in India, an ambassador of his country. The 'little master' was immaculately dressed in a checkered suit and dark glasses that hid the keen eyes.

Cricket, as always, had drawn him again to the country of his birth.

"I have never thought India any different from Pakistan. Whenever I have to leave this country I feel I am leaving home," said Mohammed in Bangalore.

The 70-year-old has come to witness the third Test between India and Pakistan at the M. Chinnaswamy stadium.

The former batsman, who was called on as a batting consultant for the Pakistan national team two years ago, recalled his debut in Delhi in 1952.

"The Indian team had very experienced players like Vinoo Mankad, Vijay Hazare, Ghulam Ahmed and Gul Mohammed. We were a very young team. And it was a very difficult for me, as a 16-year-old, to straight away face them," he said.

Mohammed, in his first innings in the international game, scored a valiant 51. He was the highest scorer for Pakistan, who crumbled for 150.

But the world was still to realize his genius.

An epic innings of 337 against the West Indies in Barbados in 1957 was in the waiting.

"Yes, many people regard it as one of the best innings," he said. "That's because of the circumstances we were in and also because it was an away innings. Also because it saved the game."

Mohammed's 337 is the only triple hundred in a Test second innings. It lasted 970 minutes, the longest innings in Test history. A year on, he hit the highest first-class score till that time, 499 run out.

Talking about India-Pakistan exchanges, he said the atmosphere has really developed in the last couple of years, which is good for both the teams and fans, since they produce such high-quality cricket.

The former opener was sympathetic to Shahid Afridi, saying the player is so talented with bat and ball that he deserves a place in Pakistan's Test and One-Day International teams.

"He should play. I don't care about the batting position."

Mohammed also was sympathetic towards 'Rawalpindi Express' Shoaib Akhtar, saying he is the best bowler in the Pakistan side and deserves better treatment.

"He is our match-winner with the ball. And I think there is too much pressure on him right now."

Talking of fast bowlers, Mohammed was of the opinion that Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were the most lethal pair Pakistan ever produced. He said even though Pakistan had a very formidable bowling history, from Fazal Mahmood to Imran Khan, Wasim and Waqar made the best pair and could rattle any batsman.

And it came as no surprise when the veteran Pakistani chose Sachin Tendulkar as the best of them. He also added the names of Tendulkar's contemporaries -- Inzamam-ul Haq, Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting -- in the list.

Despite living in an age where Test cricket was the only flavour, Mohammed insisted that it is one-day cricket that keeps the longer version going.

"The interest has been generated by one-dayers. They are running the show at the moment."

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Deepti Patwardhan in Bangalore

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