No one who works in Marcellus was around to see India’s first ever triumph in the West Indies in 1971. India won the five test series 1-0 but in more ways than one this series was a landmark for Indian cricket. As Wikipedia explains, “The series can be deemed a landmark in Indian cricket in many ways. This was India’s first ever test victory and test series victory over the West Indies. It was also their first victory in West Indies.” This was also the series in which one Sunil Manohar Gavaskar made his test debut. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Salim Durrani, who passed away last week at the age of 88, was India’s star allrounder in that landmark series. Blessed with filmstar looks and an all-round game Durrani was a superstar before his time. As Rajdeep Sardesai, whose father Dilip was the other star batsman alongside Gavaskar in that epic 1971 series, says: “Durani was, much like Dev Anand’s classic role in Hum Dono, the handsome hero who lived in the moment. Then whether it was a magical spell like the one in Port of Spain in 1971 that claimed the prize wickets of Sobers and Lloyd and opened the door for a famous first Indian win over the West Indies, a ten-wicket haul in Chennai against England in 1961 (the year he became the first Arjuna awardee for cricket) or a brilliant hundred in 1962 against Hall and company at their fastest, or just effortlessly stroking a six at the Brabourne stadium against England in 1973, Durani never allowed the pressure of elite sport to imprison him.
He played cricket like an uncaged flamingo near the waters of his hometown of Jamnagar, always ready to soar but entirely on his terms. Did he really hit sixes on demand, as cricket folklore insists? “Ek do baar,” he smiled almost apologetically. Once or twice. And then reminded me that if he had used better bats like today’s cricketers, six hitting would have been even easier.”
As we live in an era in which Indian cricket dominates the world game financially, we celebrate Salim Durrani not just for the success he achieved on the cricket field but also for the fearlessness he brought to the game. Rajdeep’s article has a cracking story regarding Mr Durrani’s derring-do: “Of the many Durani stories, my favourite centres around the 1962 tour of West Indies. In a pre-helmet era, as the Indian batsmen were being tormented by a barrage of bouncers, Durani hooked his way to a century. But he went to bat with his abdomen guard left in the dressing room. When asked how he managed to score runs, he laughed, “Arre upar bhee kuch nahi, neeche bhee nahi, no wonder I was so relaxed!” (Hey, I have nothing up or nothing down. No wonder I was so relaxed.)”
RIP Salim Durrani.
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