Hyderabad: As the IPL-13 is in progress, one Hyderabad cricketer who would come into anyone’s mind would be the former swashbuckling opener Abdul Azeem. He batted in T20 mode in Ranji Trophy. He was one of the devastating batsmen of the 80s and 90s.
Apart from his sound technique, he had a lovely eye-and-hand coordination which enabled him to play on any surface. He could pick the ball early and he would often slam the first ball for a six or four. He had the power and grace while executing his strokes.
Hailing from a family of cricketers, Azeem and Abdul Jabbar were two of the seven brothers who had a highly successful first class careers. As Gundappa Viswanath mentioned in the souvenir, Azeem was a natural talent capable of executing almost all the strokes without any inhibition. “He was an aggressive batsman with near perfect technique. He was real entertainer who enjoyed the game,’’ Viswanath said.
Learning cricket from the narrow lanes of Saidabad, Azeem got attracted to the game because of his brothers. “I was a `gully’ cricketer. It was big festival like atmosphere in our street whenever there was a holiday. I was the kit man for my brothers but gradually got into the game. I once went to late Bhupathy sir at Fateh Maidan and said I wanted to play cricket after my late brother Wahed refused to take me. I was a leg spinner but changed to pace bowling and later on as an opening batsman when I joined All Saints,’’ said the 60-year-old.
Azeem said the ball was meant to be hit.
“It came naturally to me. I always liked to bat aggressively even when many would often caution me on my attacking style of batting. I always loved playing against fast bowlers, even on green wickets. I dominated the spinners with lofted shots,’’ said Azeem, who once hit 300 against Andhra Bank on a single day while playing for State Bank of India in the local league match.
Of course the pull shot was his favourite shot.
“I used to love short pitched deliveries as I could play the pull shots. There was no concept of helmet those days. Once while batting in the nets late Mushtaq Ali saw my batting in a summer camp in Hyderabad. He summoned me after my batting, I was scared but instead he put the arm around me and said play your natural game.’’
Unfortunate not to play for the country, he said he was never an ambitious player but was shocked after he was not selected for South Zone in 1987 despite a triple century and a century in the Ranji final in Delhi that season. “The century in the final was on a green top wicket. I was the top scorer in India and still could not get a place in the South Zone. That was a big shocker for me,’’ he said.
A brilliant attacking fielder, Azeem, who played in 73 first class matches and hit 18 centuries, said he fancied his chances for the 1987 one-day World Cup in India. “It suited my game. Many were shocked when my name was not there in the team. It was one of the biggest regrets.’’
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