It was his readiness to respond to the crowd’s demand for a “Sixer”, making it seem as if he could loft the ball out of the ground at will
He was the prince charming of a different era in cricket, but the swashbuckling Salim Aziz Durrani would have fitted like a silk glove to the modern game of T-20 cricket that comes liberally splashed with glitz, glamour, and entertainment. Endowed with cinematic good looks, the allrounder with dual skills would have ruled the roost in the modern game with its instant appeal and its result-orientation.
So talented was he at the game that Durrani allowed his life also to take an easy-going course. Coached by one of the most diligent professionals of the time in Vinoo Mankad, the Karachi-born Pathan from beyond the Khyber Pass played for patrons of the game in Jamnagar and Rajasthan and even had a brief stint in Chennai as a professional in the league long before the era of professionals caught up with the game.
Sadly, Durrani was not the wisest of savers and investors, but took life’s vicissitudes in his stride and lived with a sunny disposition right through to the ripe age of 88 till the time came on to move to Elysian Fields. Selection foibles were to deny him four seasons in the 1960s before he returned to bowl the most famous over in the Caribbean in which he got Clive Lloyd and Garry Sobers to make India’s first ever Test victory over the West Indies possible in 1971.
His matinee star good looks fetched him a movie role too, coincidentally with a heroine who too saw life and career’s ups and downs as if on a long rollercoaster ride, but he couldn’t quite make it in the celluloid world. His statistics may not bear out his greatness as an impact player who rated his batting skills higher than his orthodox left arm spin with a quicker ‘un in an arm ball that was thought to be quicker than the Indian quick bowlers of the time.
It was his readiness to respond to the crowd’s demand for a “Sixer”, making it seem as if he could loft the ball out of the ground at will, that made him one of the most popular cricketers of his time. He will always be remembered not for monumental deeds on the field but the spirit in which he played the game while making its complexities seem all too simple.