India news November 29, 2012

Syed Shahid Akbar dies at 54

Syed Shahid Akbar, a Hyderabad prodigy in the '70s, has died of a multiple organ failure at the age of 54. Akbar's is one of the more poignant stories of what could have been. His contemporaries all expected him to play for India, but Akbar couldn't quite make it. He ended with just 31 first-class matches, and a highest score of 97.

He was a dashing left-hand opening batsman, and an electric fielder in the days before Mohammad Azharuddin had arrived, "the best in Hyderabad in those days". Harsha Bhogle, who played Universities cricket with Akbar, says observers in Hyderabad cricket circles used to imagine him opening with Sunil Gavaskar even before he had made his Ranji debut, at the age of 18, in 1976.

Arshad Ayub, former India offspinner, was a dear friend and colleague. He played with Akbar in school, in university, and for Hyderabad. He regrets they didn't do it together for India. He remembers Akbar as a nice person, whom he never saw "even raise his voice to anybody". Ayub says, "He was probably the best talent around during the time. Unfortunate that he didn't make the grade."

Akbar played his last first-class game in 1984, and faded away. He kept working at State Bank of India before taking voluntary retirement. Ayub says he wasn't very social after his cricketing days, but didn't look back with regret. He kept watching a lot of cricket, both on TV and in Hyderabad, and would discuss a lot with Ayub. He remained a voracious reader, and would share the books with Ayub after finishing. Ayub is left with a valuable gift: all the books Akbar shared with him.

Akbar is survived by his wife, and a daughter who lives in Australia.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo