In 1981-82, in my last year at school, I got selected to play for the formidable All Saints High School cricket team. It was a name to reckon in the Hyderabad cricketing circles having a rich cricketing heritage - one that produced Azharuddin, Venkatapathy Raju and Noel David besides a whole lot of first class cricketers. In fact, the reason I joined All Saints was the promise of cricket that it made with its little ground and half mat and young cricketers in whites. It took me three years to join the team.
Our captain was Ehtesham Ali Khan, handsome, tough, resolute and kind and compassionate. He was like a Hollywood hero, for his honest and straightforward approach. Ehu was a wonderful batsman and wicket keeper and a natural leader of men. He was serious about his cricket and had a learning mindset with a work ethic to match. He was supported by a host of state cricketers - D. Suresh, one of the most prolific and stylish batsmen we have seen and piler on of tons upon tons, Masood Ahmed, who was my captain in the Under 15s, and Srinivas Chakravarthy, mercurial off spinner and batsman.
Others in the team included Abdul Rub from my class, Subodh Bhatnagar, Joel Wilson, Iftekhar, Rahi Prakash, Michael, Rajesh Chetty, Farrukh Ali Khan, Noel David and one or two more. Of course your truly joined the team in the last year as a complete rookie. I shared the new ball with Michael and Rajesh on occasion.
We played Sunday league cricket. 15 games in all, a couple of tournaments and the Inter school tournaments. Every game that we won, we would get a treat worth Rs. 50 by our cricket brother K.M. Joseph. We'd buy ourselves doughnuts and a puff perhaps at the Johns bakery or a dosa treat at Taj Mahal. Lunch on Sundays was an interesting affair - Abdul Rub would lead us to Bombay bakery where we would eat the tandoor mutton, in a bowl. Super stuff.
D. Suresh must have got a few hundreds that season and so did Ehtu perhaps. I joined the ranks of the state and South Zone players from All Saints that year having played for Hyderabad Under 15 and South Zone Under 15. In later years came Vidyuth Jaisimha and Venkatapathy Raju who played for India with great distinction and played two World Cups as well. Young Noel David also went on to play for India. Ehtesham, Suresh, Chakravarthy and me played first class cricket for Hyderabad - Ehtu, Suresh, Venkatapathy and me featured in the year that Hyderabad won the Ranji Trophy in 1987 too! Not a bad achievement. Masood, Vidyuth and others played one notch below though fully deserving. Masood also played for Under 19 India. It had a rich cricketing history no doubt.
We played some memorable games that year. One game we can never forget is the game where we beat HPS Begumpet at their home ground. HPS was a formidable team with a first class cricketer leading it - Hari Prasad - and a host of state cricketers in Swaroop, Srinivas, Mohan Natraj, Rajeshwar to name a few. It was a low scoring game and we got bowled out for 107. They were 30 for no loss in three overs at lunch and were stunningly packed out for 70. I got five for 25 and Chakravarthy for 4 for 19. It was an unbelievable game because HPS was far superior to our team. Our rector gave us a treat - a movie 'Jaws' that we watched at Parameshwari and then dinner at Mohini with two rounds of ice cream.
I remember another close game that we won by 1 run. With 2 runs to win and the last wicket at the wicket, Ehtesham called me to bowl the dreaded last over. I did everything to escape his eye but he caught me out. While I was preparing nervously to bowl I heard Iftekhar shouting at me - 'Come on Hari, you can do it.get him out.' Those words gave me a lot of encouragement and I let go one delivery in the perfect place right on the stumps. The poor number XI batsman played on and we won by one run. Though just a school team, we gave every other team a run for their money - IDPL. Ameerpet, National, AB Colony, MPG were some of the games I remember.
Then we went our separate ways. Vidyuth, Vekatapathy, Chakravarthy and I teamed up and played for Marredpally Cricket Club and did well again. Some of us played first class cricket. Then we went into our careers and lives. Ehtu went to Dubai, Suresh became an IAS officer, Masood went to the US, Abdul Rub went to Saudi Arabia, I dabbled in stuff here and there and settled down to a writing career, Chakravarthy runs a bakery, Vidyuth has coached two national teams, Iftekhar joined a bank, Rajesh runs a paint company, Farrukh Ali Khan is a successful interior designer, Rahi Prakash works with Microsoft.
After almost 33 years, we met again at Suresh's house for a party. Almost seven of us from the original team were present with Vidyuth and Venkatapathy. Some others from school joined us including our Head Boy and chief organiser Joseph Fernandes. Swaroop joined us and several others. There was much catching up and retelling of old stories, drinking and singing till late in the night. I drove along with Rajesh and we had a great time chatting up after a long, long time.
I think of those days and remember some performances. Ehtu's classic pose as he threw the ball to me but mostly a huge 188 he got against us for Nizam College against Osmania in the Inter collegiate final. Masood for his quick fire starts and easy flicks over square leg. Suresh for his 97 against TNCA in Buchi Babu with a fractured nose. Venkatapathy for his 6 wicket haul which won us a tight game against Tamil Nadu in an Under 22 game. Vidyuth for his 100 against Andhra in an Under 15 game and a crazy 56 against Madras University against Robin Singh and the likes. Chakravarthy for his constant encouragement and for his 4-19 against HPS. Rajesh Chetty for his 5 for 12 against Little Flower in Nalgonda for the Montfort Tropy which we won. Subodh Bhatnagar and his two unbelievable catches at short midwicket to get rid of Hariprasad and Rajeshwar. Iftekhar for his constant support and unflagging optimism. Michael for his outswing bowling. Abdul Rub and his easy swing over fine leg. Oh, so many more memories that I will jostle up and add. Joel did not play much or rather did not bowl much because Chakravarthy and Subodh took up the off spinning slots.
It was a good bunch of cricketers it turned out to be. We ended up winning a lot of tournaments at all levels right up to the Ranji Trophy and it was a great thing to have five of us (Swaroop included) from the Ranji Trophy winning team of Hyderabad that evening - Ehtu, Suresh, Venkatapathy, Swaroop and me. If the HCA had persisted with us some more, we would have won a few more - we were like that. But it was a wonderful time and we all have Suresh, who still looks as youthful and as handsome as ever, to thank for for hosting the party. Missed Masood, Subodh, Noel, Abdul Rub, Farrukh, Michael for sure. Great fun fellows and hopefully we meet again soon.
|A group pic - Vidyuth, Abbas, Swaroop, Iftekhar, Ajmal, Rajesh (standing)|
Joseph, Ehtesham, Venkatapathy, me, Suresh, Balig, Narayana and Joel
|Vidyuth, me, Rajesh and Suresh|
|Joseph, Venkatapathy and Ehtesham|
|J, V and Suresh|
|Joseph, Venkatapathy and me|
|Rajesh having a go at the mike|
|Balig, Ifti and Lachi|
|Two great friends and competitors - Ehtesham and Suresh|
|Joseph, Venkatapathy and Vidyuth|
|A selfie by Rajesh - Ajmal, Ehtu, Suresh and Joseph|