It’s 9:30 on a Sunday morning in California and 70-year-old Syed Abid Ali, the former India all-rounder is all set to leave his home to umpire a club match in height of summer.
MiD DAY delivers the news of him being a beneficiary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s “one-time benefit payment” to retired cricketers.
Abid Ali falls in the 25 to 49 Tests bracket and is eligible for a reward of Rs 60 lakh. He cannot believe his ears. And his first utterance is of gratitude to the Board.
“The reason I am so grateful is because I really need the money. Somehow, God has sent it to the BCCI and the people there have been gracious enough to pass it on. At the moment, it feels as great as winning a match,” he said.
Abid Ali played 29 Tests for India from 1967 to 1974. He also figured in the inaugural World Cup in 1975. During his international career, he was part of three overseas Test series wins — New Zealand in 1968, West Indies and England in 1971.
At Port of Spain in 1971, he deliberately tapped a full toss from leg-break bowler Arthur Barrett to give debutant Sunil Gavaskar the honour of scoring the winning runs. His chance to hit the winning runs came five months later at the Oval in London when India beat England for the first time on foreign soil.
Abid Ali moved from Hyderabad to California in 1980, a move he said he regretted. “I shouldn’t have done it, but I did because I wanted my children to be educated,” he said on a visit to India in 1997.
An open-heart surgery in 1995 was a blow and Abid Ali turned to the country of his birth to provide him with some coaching opportunities. He managed to coach Andhra Pradesh, but after his second stint with them in 2008, tragedy struck.
His 33-year-old son Faqeer Ali, who had married Syed Kirmani’s daughter, collapsed to his death after completing a run for Tracy United Cricket Club in Fremont. “He suffered a massive heart attack. The help that I used to get from my son went away and I lost the house I was living in since I was unable to make the payments. After that, my daughter had some problems and she came to stay with me with her two kids. Such things happen; I am a fighter,” he remarked.
Financially, it has been a rough ride for Abid Ali despite getting Rs 15 lakh from a celebrity match played out between Mohammed Azharuddin XI and Arjuna Ranatunga XI in 1998.
He welcomes the help from BCCI, but the disappointment of not getting any coaching opportunities for the India and senior teams despite being a qualified coach rankles. “I want to do something for my country. No one gave me an extended opportunity… not even Andhra. I really want to do some coaching in India. Coming to America has taught me how one should be professional. I’d love to get involved with Indian cricket,” he said.
The Sunday game he umpired in the Northern California Cricket Association league fetched him 66 dollars, an amount he will value as much as the Rs 60 lakh reward.