January 2005: Features - Gleanings

'Cricketers must entertain'

Mushtaq Ali reminisces, in an interview with Boria Majumdar

Mushtaq Ali: 'Modern-day players should remember that people have paid to come and see them play' © Wisden

I have no regrets. I have done the things I wanted to - play cricket and serve my country. Today I am 90 and well. God has been kind to me. Can't ask for more.

CK Nayudu was India's greatest cricketer. He has been my role model. Had he received the media attention that modern players get, he would have been no less an icon than Sachin Tendulkar.

I could also have played hockey. I was equally good at it.

Once, in 1930, I travelled with Colonel Nayudu in the first-class coach of a train to Hyderabad and was taken to the Maharaja of Dhanrajgir's palace in his Rolls Royce. That's when I understood what cricket meant for us Indians.

I never thought of going to Pakistan. Why would I leave my country, one which had given me everything I wanted?

I regret not travelling to Australia in 1947-48. I had been appointed vice-captain and was more than keen to travel, but my brother's untimely demise had left me shattered. Playing against Don Bradman's team would have been an experience.

My greatest moment is most certainly the hundred at Old Trafford in 1936. It was the first hundred by an Indian on English soil. Vijay Merchant scored a hundred the next day, and we saved the match.

I loved playing at Eden Gardens. Calcutta has always been kind to me.

I was dropped from the team in 1933-34 because of a misunderstanding with the board: my letter of acceptance hadn't reached them. The crowd even abused Duleepsinhji because I wasn't in the team. I had to pacify the fans, saying I would play.

Modern-day players should remember that people have paid to come and see them play. It is their duty to entertain the crowd.

I would have loved it had 1947 not happened and Sachin and Wasim Akram played for one team.

However much India win at cricket these days, nothing can replicate the sensation of beating England at Chepauk in 1952. It was special - our first Test match victory. I am proud to have been part of the team led by Vijay Hazare.

There was nothing communal about the Pentangular. It was the most popular cricket tournament in colonial India and thousands of people attended the matches year after year.

I always played my cricket seriously.

My favourite cricketers were CK Nayudu, Frank Worrell, Denis Compton, and Keith Miller.

Money is good for cricket. I want to thank the BCCI for introducing the pension scheme. The Rs 10,000 that we receive has given us, players of the past, a new lease of life.

Improvisation came naturally to me. Playing a ball pitched on the off stump to the on side was satisfying. This had the effect of puzzling the opposition.

I love watching Virender Sehwag play. His attacking style is a treat for the crowd.

Lord's has changed. When I last visited a couple of years ago, I could hardly identify it with what it was when we played more than 60 years ago.

I don't know whether I will live on to score a century.

We learnt to play fast bowling by practising on matting wickets. We did not have helmets, and footwork was the key.

I always tried to keep myself fit. Had I ignored my fitness, I could never have played international cricket for 20 years.

It's sad that people don't come to watch the Ranji Trophy these days. For me, playing for Holkar was no less an honour than playing for India.

I just want to say, long live India and long live Indian cricket.

Boria Majumdar is a cricket historian and author