[The writer, Aleem Faizee, receiving his winning trophy from Salim Durani at Jaffar Suleman Hostel Annual Gathering in 1986. (File photo)]
Malegaon: Salim Durani is no more. Darling of masses, debonair and an exemplary human being who charmed millions by his cricketing skills breathed his last aged 88 at his house in Jamnagar Gujarat Sunday April 2, 2023.
Kabul born Durani, who was the only Afghanistan-born cricketer to represent India, played 29 tests between 1960 and 1972 and scored 1,202 runs at an average of 25.04, hitting 01 century and 07 half-centuries.
In his 50 innings, Durani scalped 74 victims at an average of 35.42, claiming 05 wickets in an innings on 05 occasions and 10 wickets in a match once. His best wicket haul in an innings was 6/73.
Durani also played a key role in India's maiden Test win against West Indies in 1972, taking the wicket of legendary batter Gary Sobers and of Clive Llyod.
Durani was also instrumental in helping India win the 1961-62 series against England, claiming 08 and 10 wickets in their wins at Kolkata and Chennai.
Above all, Durani, who was the first cricketer to receive the Arjuna Award, was gifted with a movie star looks and a puckish sense of humour, was famous for his penchant for hitting monstrous sixes as he could despatch the ball over the boundary to that part of the stadium from which fans would make a demand for maximum runs.
An exemplary human being, Salim Durani always made himself available for the budding cricketers. Onlookers, including yours truly, spotted him coaching youngsters practicing at Mumbai Cricket Club Ground, Azad Maidan near Churchgate in Mumbai.
Besides, he also used to attend as guest educational, cultural, social and sports events organised by educational institutes and charities to inspire students and youngsters. It was in one such event he had travelled from Mumbai to Malegaon on the invitation of City College. A sea of humanity had gathered at Marathi School Ground adjacent to ATT High School and Junior College to get the glimpse of the legendary cricketer.
Salim Durani was studying at Anjuman e Islam, CST, Mumbai at the same time when Omar Ansari (currently living in New York, USA) and Ilyas Ansari, younger brothers of Dr Mahmood Ansari, and Dr Mukhatrul Hasan, son of Dr Mahmood – all hailing from Malegaon, too were the students of the same institute.
During his day-long stay in Malegaon, Salim Durani himself expressed his desire to meet his school time friends. A huge crowd followed him, and the roads adjoining Hakim Ajmal Khan was filled with the local residents when Durani arrived at Dr Mehmood’s dispensary in Fort area of the city. Durani had lunch at Ilyas Ansari’s dilapidated house and spent more than an hour with his school-days friends. It was at this time, I had the chance to meet Salim Durani for the second time.
My first meeting with this great cricketer was in 1986 at Jaffar Suleman Hostel in Wadi Bandar area of Mumbai. The hostel was used to organise various cultural and sports competitions every year for the students. Durani was invited by the hostel management as Chief Guest of the Prize Distribution Ceremony of that year’s cultural and sports event. I was among the luckiest who had won the prize, and hence was honoured to receive the winning trophy from Salim Durani.
I had with me the photographs of those glorious moments and I shared them with Durani during my meeting with him at Dr Mehmood’s dispensary in Malegaon. Durani immediately recalled those memorable moments, once again extended his best wishes, and humbly put his signature and autograph on the photographs, making them more memorable. Not me alone, everyone present there were bowled over by the legendary cricketer’s gesture.
[The writer, Aleem Faizee, is Founder Editor of ummid.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to read Urdu version of this article.]
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