Hanumant Singh, I will always remember you

Aged five, I listened, absolutely and totally absorbed, as Hanumant eventually reached his century.

Sarfaraz Rehman August 30, 2012
I remember Hanumant Singh.

Now, how many in Pakistan would say that? For that matter, how many in India can say that today? But it is true! I remember him well and owe him a debt which can never be repaid.

One hears you asking, why would an individual living in Karachi, have anything to do with an Indian prince?

I speak from faded memory, because to go into historical statistics is to lose the charm and mystery of what is just so natural.

Sometime in February 1964, aged five, I saw two of my uncles huddled together listening to a Grundig radio. Coming out of that radio was a harsh voice; I now know this voice to be of Maharaj Kumar of Vizianagram, cricket commentator and former captain of India. As if attracted by a magnet, I sat down to listen.

It seemed like an event of earth-shaking proportion was on the cards. India versus England at Firoz Shah Kotla Ground, Delhi. One Hanumant Singh was approaching his century and that, too, on his Test debut. I listened, absolutely and totally absorbed, as Hanumant eventually did reach his century. Subsequent events are a bit vague. All five Test matches were drawn during that tour of 1964. In this particular one, I think England, despite Singh's efforts, managed a big lead. Then the late Nawab of Pataudi, making a big double century in the second innings, batted India to safety.

Of Hanumant Singh, history can tell you that he fell into the curse of all Indian century makers on Test debut, pre-Gundappa Vishwanath─I think there were seven in a 37-year period, 1932 to 1969. No one ever made a Test century again and all were condemned to mediocrity; Abbas Ali Baig being the most famous of those.

Hanumant had a great pedigree; the English greats Ranjitsinhji and Duleepsinhji were his uncles, Indrajitsinhji his cousin, and if you look at some old photographs, he will be seen using the same trademark leg-glide which made Ranji great and famous.

Unfortunately, Singh's career was short; 14 tests and 600+ runs. In the late 60s he was finally discarded and departed this world in 2006, leaving a very small cricketing legacy.

It is this legacy which concerns me personally. Little did I know what it meant to me that afternoon’s events, some 48 summers ago! The fascination I felt while sitting there, waiting for events to unfold (and in the subsequent days, as I heard the desperate struggle at the Kotla) became part of my life ever after, to this day. There was born an innate love for something I shall carry to my grave. Cricket became a part of my life and I lived and breathed cricket. So much so, that as I look back and do a time sheet of my activities, it comes out as work, sleep, giving time to loved ones, and then evidently cricket. Now the first three are essentials of life, but cricket is the first love and continues to be an entwined part of my existence.

Out of that fascination and love came an understanding for the game. Hours were spent stuck to a radio listening to Test matches all over the world, and then the hero worship which I developed for some great sportsmen, specifically Pakistanis. It is a montage of memories; Zaheer, as he flicked the ball past mid-wicket dozens of times on the way to his 274 in 1971; Hanif waving his bat a last time in Karachi in 1969; Raja striding out at Lords to battle the rainy conditions in 1974.

Images were engraved in my mind; Mohsin, sleeve buttoned down, waiting for rain to stop, stuck at 199 at Lords in 1982; Asif Iqbal doing his valley of death routine in 1976 versus Lillee, on pitches that were so green that you could not tell them apart from the square. And naturally, of course, I remember that last ball heave for victory by Miandad at Sharjah in 1986, which brought Pakistan domination for a decade. Above all, one man raising a Waterford Crystal trophy aloft and claiming the world for us, if only for just one moment, on that fateful day in March 1992, when Pakistan won the World Cup.

Yes, I owe Hanumant Singh a legacy and one day I would hope to tell the world about the trip which I have been on, during these 48 years, through Lords, Oval, National Stadium, Sharjah and many more, and those eons spent in front of the television or stuck to the radio, for the growing and intense love for one sport; cricket.

Read more by Sarfaraz here or follow him on Twitter @sarehman
Sarfaraz Rehman The author has worked with large scale organizations like Unilever, Pepsi and Engro Foods in his 28 year career. He has now started an education initiative and writes on various subjects. He tweets as @sarehman
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Omair Nagi | 11 years ago | Reply Dear Sarfaraz, Finally you wrote something about our common passion i.e. cricket, although you did write a blog about majid khan but that was in another context. My earliest memory of watching live cricket takes me to the day and night matches in Australia during the perth challenge in 1986. Pakistan winning against west indies defending a partly score of 180 runs with muddassir taking 3 wickets including the price scalp of Vivian Richards, and than asif Mujtaba playing a blinder against Australia to win the match for Pakistan by 1 wicket still brings back fond memories. Listening to radio for live commentary of Pakistan/Westindies series in 1988 and than waking up early to listen to Pakistan/Australia series in 1989 was an amazing experience. My father is very fond of the game and I would like to share one such experience during that test series of 1989 with Australia. In the 2nd test at Adelaide Wasim akram made a match saving century and took 10 odd wickets . In the same match dean jones scored a magnificent century in the last innings to save the match for australia but could not win the man of the match as Wasim had performed better. On the last day of the test match I had a debate competition in my school and could not win a prize , on my way back home looking at my dejected face my dad consoled me by giving the example of dean jones that although he scored a century since Wasim had done better than him , he did not win the man of the match but was able to save the day for his team. This for me is the true essence of the game of cricket and may be of one’s life, its not necessary to win the man of the match but to eventually give your best and let Allah decide what is the right course for you. I always wanted to wear the green Pakistani cap and if given another chance in life would definitely try to do a few things differently to live that dream. Still want to be a commentator on the game but I guess that too is also a dream which will not come true in this day and age. Any how I still look for opportunities to comment on the game, players etc etc and probably the same would go on for the rest of my life. My generation has grown up idealizing Imran khan, Javed Miandad and Wasim/Waqar. Shane warne and his aussie colleagues have always been the enemies to have screwed Pakistan with so many test series white washes that its hard to remember and keep track of the same. Like all pakistani’s winning the world cup on that golden evening of 25th March in 1992 before iftari will always be the highlight of my cricketing memories and to have lost the Sydney test match (famous for Kamran akmal) in 2009/2010 is the most depressing moment for me till todat (we watched the last few Pakistani wickets to fall together).
Sarfaraz | 11 years ago | Reply @AD: An assessment made by some previous test players...approx a 15 run difference in batting averages if you take helmets and covered pitches and other changes into regard. Nothing scientific about it. Just an assessment. Todays batsmen do show technical weaknesses which i can remember batsmen of a previous era had less of.
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