Hanif Mohammad, the legendary Pakistani cricketer turned 79 on Saturday. This year there were no birthday celebrations in Hanif’s Karachi home that is in mourning after the recent death of his grandson Ayyan. “I’m well, but I miss my grandson a lot… everyday,” he said when asked about how he is coping with liver cancer.
Ayyan, who succumbed to brain tumour at the age of 12 in October, provided Hanif the inspiration to endure painful treatment. “I am very satisfied because I feel good on the health front. I have just one session of chemotherapy left which will take place on Tuesday. Physically, I am okay.
The doctors in England cleared me, but they recommended I undergo chemotherapy to be on the safe side. I had two sessions in England and three-and-a-half here in Karachi. I feel much better,” he told SUNDAY MiD DAY on Saturday.
Hanif is part of a unique family in cricket. His brothers Mushtaq, Sadiq and Wazir played Test cricket for Pakistan while Raees was once 12th man for his country. Hanif’s son Shoaib (the father of late Ayyan) played 45 Tests for Pakistan and scored a double century against India at Lahore in 1989.
The cancer treatment has caused Hanif hair loss, but he takes it in his stride. “It’s okay…in any case, at this age, nobody expects to have a lot of hair.” Indeed, he has not lost his sense of humour. He played several great knocks for Pakistan including the 337 against West Indies in Bridgetown, Barbados in 1957-58 when he occupied the crease for 970 minutes.
But he is very proud of his latest innings — the fight against cancer. “I am proud of myself, but I am very thankful to God who helped me along the way. I’ve played a lot of fast bowlers, but this innings was special too,” he said.
He doesn’t like to miss the cricket action on television and is pleased that Indian cricket is doing well despite the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar. “I am not surprised to see the Indian team faring well in the ongoing Johannesburg Test against South Africa. I always felt India had a good team, an exciting batting unit, and they are now silencing their critics,” he said.
Of all the countries he has toured as a Pakistan cricketer and manager, he enjoyed India the most: “I believe India and Pakistan are one country. I was born in Junagadh (Gujarat). I enjoyed touring and coming across familiar people and food.”
Batting legends Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar have been called Little Master but Hanif was the first to be called that. He has no issue with the title being shared. “People say that I am the original Little Master, but I don’t want to be No 1 anyway. Sachin has done so much for cricket and Sunil was my favourite too. “It is good that they are called that and it’s up to people to judge who was the best — we have all retired,” he remarked.