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Former Railways spinner Syed Hyder Ali dies at 79

He played 113 first-class matches during the course of a 25-year first-class career, taking 366 wickets

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Syed Hyder Ali, the former Railways left-arm spinner, has died after battling a prolonged illness. He was 79.
"He was suffering from chest congestion for some time now. After a routine check-up with his doctor, we were returning home when he suddenly collapsed. He passed away around 1.30 pm on Saturday," his son Raza Ali, also a former first-class cricketer, told PTI.
Having begun his career as a tearaway left-arm quick, Hyder turned to left-arm spin on the insistence of former Railways captain William Ghosh. He would hone his skills on docile tracks around India in the 1960s and 1970s.
Hyder played 113 first-class matches during the course of a 25-year first-class career. These brought him 366 wickets at an impressive average of 19.71. He was also a valuable lower order batter, who made 3125 first-class runs, including three centuries and 10 half-centuries.
After retirement in 1987, Hyder continued to play a key role at Railways, overlooking the cricket structure. He also served as selector when Railways won the Ranji Trophy in 2001-02 and 2004-05.
Sanjay Bangar, the former India and Railways allrounder, remembered Hyder as a "stalwart" and a "well-respected" individual.
"Very unfortunate to hear the tragic news," he said. "I never got a chance to play alongside him, but I played when he was the chief selector of the Railways team. He was a stalwart. A soft-spoken and a well-respected individual."
Vinod Sharma, also a former Railways player and coach, termed Hyder's passing as a "huge loss" while terming him the "godfather" of Railways cricket.
Hyder's best years came at a time when India's spin stocks were at an all-time high. That it coincided with the likes of Bishen Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, Shrinivas Venkataraghavan and BS Chandrashekar in their pomp meant a national call-up remained elusive.
Members of the Railways team, who were playing a warm-up fixture against Jammu & Kashmir at the Karnail Singh Stadium in New Delhi observed a two-minute silence before the game on Sunday, in Haider's honour.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo