The maverick cricketer goes down memory lane during his visit to Hyderabad

One of the most prolific wicket keepers/batsmen of our country, Syed Kirmani is a sporting legend and one of India’s original cricketing mavericks. While his exploits on the cricketing field are well documented, what is relatively unknown is that he excelled at almost every sport he played during his school years – running, hockey, football and of course, cricket.

He recalls those days with a smile and adds, “There was no one to guide us those days so we ended up finding it the hard way. I was always a good athlete. No one told me that I was outstanding but I was clearly excelling at sport and that’s how I came into the limelight. I went from school to state selection, then came Ranji and finally the national team. That was my trajectory, slow and steady, without any short-cuts.”

The pinnacle of the 69-year-old’s career was the 1983 World cup victory which was one of India’s earliest international sporting triumphs and made demi-gods of the playing eleven. The Padma Shri awardee says that he never imagined that they would reach the knockout stages as there were stronger and experienced teams playing. “As luck would have it, there were a lot of steps to our success, we simply went on believing in our capabilities. The very first match we played was against the reigning world champions, West Indies and we defeated them. We played to our strength and went on putting our best foot forward. We had nothing to lose, so we took each game at a time,” he reminiscences.

Kirmani says that he looks back at his playing days with a lot of fondness. “I do get nostalgic at times,” he smiles and adds, “Today there are many formats, but during my day, Test cricket was the most important format. One-day matches were added only in 1975, and they were played for 60 overs. It was a very happy time for me and I think of my playing days without any regret.”

As the gentleman’s game went through many changes, the cricket of today is very fast paced and energetic. Remarking that life gets exciting only when there are changes, the cricketing legend says, “Cricket is very fast paced today, much like life. It’s nice to have changes and watch new formats, strokes, strategies and improvements to the game. I find it very enjoyable.” Asked to choose his favourite format amongst Tests, T-20s and One Day matches, he politely refuses saying that a cricketer can’t pick and choose.

The new age Indian players are physically and mentally agile and are taking on the best in the world, so whom does the former wicket keeper like the best? “There is no question of liking one person the most. Your attention goes to the person who is performing the best and that would be Virat Kohli currently as he is in the process of becoming the best in the world.”

Aside from his exploits on the field, few know that Kirmani played a role in a movie Kabhi ajnabi the in 1985 alongside cricketing compatriot Sandeep Patil. He chuckles as he reminisces about his big screen outing and answers, “I just wanted to see how I will look on the cinema screen! Jokes apart, I’m always up for anything new and challenging, so when this came my way I took it up and enjoyed my stint.”

Being back in Hyderabad is a kind of homecoming for this alumnus of All Saints School. Calling himself a Hyderabadi at heart, Kirmani signs off saying, “It’s always wonderful to be back in the city. My entire family is here and it’s great to come back to the many memories of the place.”

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