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Tendulkar is the best ever: Hanif Mohammad

March 14, 2004 20:14 IST

How does one feel after scoring 499 runs in a single innings?

"Tired," says Hanif Mohammad.

The 69-year-old former opener, who ranks amongst one of the greatest batsmen in Pakistan and world cricket, kept wickets and bowled with both arms in Test cricket and once held the record for the highest first class individual score of 499.

Hanif told rediff.com that the 499 he scored on January 11, 1959 was something he had never even dreamt of.

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"I had scored 230 the previous year in the Quaid-E-Azam Trophy. So the next year when I got a hundred I decided to break my own record by scoring a 300. Wasim Mohammad was my elder brother and also the captain of the team. He knew all the cricket records by heart and we used to call him Wisden.

"At the end of the day, when I got 300, my brother asked me to go for the world record held by Don Bradman, who had made 452. I told him that I had only scored 300 and was another 150 runs away from the record. I told him it would be too much.

"As elder brother and captain of my team he asked me to continue batting the next day and I had to. Back at home he massaged my hands and encouraged me for the big knock the next day."

The little master overhauled the Don's score but failed to cross the 500 mark in a single innings.

"When I was dismissed for 499 I didn't know I had missed scoring 500. Later on when I was told about it I felt I could have got it," he says.

"When I went to Australia in 1965, Bradman came to see me and was surprised to see my size. He thought he would see a six feet six inch man who would have broken the record."

But he reckons that there were no hard feelings when Brian Lara broke his record, scoring 501, because records are meant to be broken.

"But it's a pity that for 35 years people forgot my record, but remembered me when Brian Lara broke it. I got calls from England for three hours when Lara was approaching my score."

Hanif Mohammad was the human form of technical correctness. Never one to play aerial shots; Hanif wore the bowlers down before moving in for the kill.

"Not much has changed since I quit playing," he says.

"There is more protection for the batsmen and the wickets are covered. The technique still remains the same."

But one-day cricket is making batsmen play more strokes, he believes.

"It is forcing batsmen to hit the ball, whether it is there to be hit or not. This is where batting has changed and spoilt the techniques of some batsmen. For one-day matches the approach is all right, but when you are playing Test cricket don't play one-day strokes. Play the waiting game; wait for the loose balls," he advises.

"Take Virender Sehwag for example. His technique is completely unsuited for Test cricket, yet he survives.

"Now take Rahul Dravid, he takes time to settle, whether he is playing Test or one-day cricket. Once he's settled he knows he has all the strokes to get the runs. This is the way batsmen should prepare themselves."

But, he says, in the end you cannot compare players with different techniques because both types of batsmen score runs.

"I am not upset about the way batsmen play one-day cricket. There was no one-day cricket during my time. If there were one-dayers during that time then probably I would also have played like these guys do. The essence of one-day cricket is that you need runs to win the game the same day. So you have to score at least at a strike rate of 60-70 runs per hundred balls."

But he believes the art of batting long hours is probably lost due to the one-day onslaught.

"Batsmen have become habitual to playing one-day cricket and want to score of every ball. It will be very difficult to change technique and play like that anymore for most batsmen."

Born in Junagadh, Hanif Mohammad is a great fan of Sunil Gavaskar.

"To my mind Sunil was the most complete opener. Technically, he was more sound than me. His records show how great a batsman he was. He was the most perfect opening batsman ever. You cannot expect more from any opener.

"But Sachin Tendulkar is the best ever. No one can come near him. No one can touch him as a batsman. He is number one. Brian Lara and Inzamam-ul Haq are world class, but Tendulkar is unmatched. His technique, judgement, his confidence and range of strokes are simply amazing.

"He had more strokes than Sunil Gavaskar and in that respect was better than him."

In comparison, he feels sad that Pakistan is not producing great batsmen any more.

"There is no one at the moment in Pakistan. They only have two good batsmen in Yousuf Youhana and Inzamam-ul Haq. This country has given batsmen like Javed Miandad, Zaheer Abbas, Sadiq Mohammad and Mushtaq Mohammad but now we are struggling.

"Pakistan cricket is in the rebuilding stage and it takes time. In two years Pakistan will re establish itself," he feels.

Having represented Pakistan in the first Test series against India in 1952-53, the little master is glad to see India-Pakistan play cricket again.

"I still can't believe that India is playing Pakistan in Karachi. So I decided to come and to the stadium and see it for myself. People are happy to come near each other again and that is the best thing for the sport."

Faisal Shariff in Karachi