Remembering Hanif Bhai with Prayers and Gratitude
By Rafique S.M. Ahmed
Los Angeles, CA
People like Hanif Mohammad are a rare species, born once in a blue moon. Pakistan was blessed to have him. He was truly a great human being, both on and off the field.
I will never forget the kind of support and guidance Hanif Bhai gave me when I was engaged in organizing and promoting cricket in my hometown, Karachi, at a young age prior to moving to the US in 1969. He was always kind, humble, supportive and provided me the guidance I needed. He used to treat me like his younger brother just like Mushtaq and Sadiq. Last night was very heavy for me. Hanif Bhai was in my thoughts and prayers almost the entire night. May Allah grant him the highest level in Jannat al-Firdaus and give his entire family SabrJameel to cope with this tremendous loss. Ameen.
The last time I met Hanif Bhai was in 1983 when I went to Karachi to spend a few days with my loving mom after performing Haj. I had prepared a pretty exhaustive list of my friends from the cricket fraternity to meet during my short stay. Hanif Bhai's name was on the top of the list. Luckily, I was able to meet most of my friends at Munir Hussain's new book launch at the Inter Continental Hotel. But, Hanif Bhai did not attend that function.
The next day, I went straight to his office. It was a nice surprise for Hanif Bhai. He was very happy. We spent some time together at his office talking about the good old days. Meeting him at his office brought some good memories back.
When Hanif Bhai was constructing his new house in New Memon Society at Hill Park, he used to come to my office whenever he needed cement. Besides being an Assistant Auditor, I was also the Sports Secretary of PIDC (Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation) and Zeal Pak Cement Factory was one of the 54 factories owned by the Corporation. By the time his order for cement was processed, I used to take Hanif Bhai to the cafeteria for refreshments. Word used to spread like fire that Pakistan captain, Hanif Mohammad, was having tea with Rafique in the cafeteria. A large number of co-workers including officers used to come to take Hanif Bhai's autographs. There were no cellphones with built-in cameras at that time, otherwise people would have taken pictures and selfies with Hanif Bhai.
My childhood friend, Aftab Ahmed, was Hanif Bhai's favorite cricketer among the youngsters. At that time, Karachi used to have only one team in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy with Hanif Bhai as the captain. He used to include Aftab in the team leaving out his own brother, Wazir Mohammad (a Test regular) as 12th man. When Aftab died of cancer at a very young age, I started a memorial cricket tournament in his name and also established a KCA-affiliated 'Aftab Memorial Cricket Club'. Over the years the Club has become a formidable cricket team in Karachi and produced outstanding cricketers like test fast bowler Mohammad Sami. It has kept Aftab's name alive for the last fifty years.
Hanif Bhai was extremely happy with me for keeping Aftab's name alive and just like Waheed Murad and Asif Iqbal, without being asked, Hanif Bhai used all his contacts and resources to help me tremendously in organizing a successful tournament honoring Aftab. Apart from outside contacts, he had immediately called our USC graduate and famous cricket commentator, Omar Khureshi, to give me a full page PIA ad ASAP.
Fifty years ago, PIA calendars were, and probably still are, considered to be of the highest quality, extremely beautiful and a collector's item, eagerly sought by all and sundry. Everyone wanted to have their hands on those beautiful calendars. Hanif Bhai used to give me not one but two of those beautiful calendars every year without fail. He always reminded me that my two calendars were in his car and I should pick them up before going home. Hanif Bhai's thoughtfulness used to baffle me and speaks volumes about his character, kindness and humility. No wonder that he was a successful, caring and sharing captain of the Pakistan cricket team.
The cricket magazines I used to publish in Karachi for my tournament and also for Karachi Cricket Association enjoyed great popularity. Test cricketer Maqsood Ahmed aka Merry Max was one of the pioneering cricketers like Hanif Bhai who belonged to the very first team that played under Kardar and in 1954 created history at the Oval. After retirement from Test cricket, Maqsood served as national coach of the Pakistan team. He used to like my magazines tremendously and tried his best to convince me to start publishing a monthly cricket magazine in English. He told me, "There was no cricket magazine published every month in Pakistan. There was a great need for it.” Getting a 'declaration' from the Govt. for a new magazine was extremely difficult, but he could get it easily through Fida Hasan, Chairman of Cricket Board and right hand of President Ayub Khan. He could even arrange for the financing. “You just need to make a commitment to publish a quality cricket magazine every month as usual." It was an attractive proposition. I would have welcomed it in a normal situation. But, my visa to go to America for my MBA had been approved. I was about to get married and one month after the wedding, I was scheduled to go to the US to pursue my goal of obtaining my MBA degree. I explained my predicament to Maqsood who was not very happy. I am glad I did not change my mind and got my MBA which changed my life for good here in the US. After retiring from Test cricket, Hanif Bhai became the first Pakistani to launch a cricket magazine in English called "Cricketer" and also served as its Editor-in-chief for several years. I used to read 'Cricketer' regularly and was extremely happy to see Hanif Bhai doing a great job as the Editor-in-chief of "Cricketer".
Hanif Bhai was a man of steel with incredible concentration and determination to perform all the time to help Pakistan win matches, if not, at least draw them with honor. If he scored an unbeaten fifty, he was bound to score a century with his impeccable sense of responsibility and stamina. His contribution to Pakistan cricket right from the first match of qualifying Pakistan to win Test status and throughout his sterling career creating astounding world records, is incomparable in Pakistan history. I feel so sad to realize that the Pakistan Govt. never recognized and conferred "Pride of Performance Medal" on him during his lifetime for creating world records bringing great honor to Pakistan internationally. Wish it was done while he was still alive.
Hanif Bhai, you have played a fantastic innings of 81. Very well played, Sir!
May Allah bless you and your family. (Ameen)