Hanif Mohammad: "My success was simply because of my concentration" [Audio Interview]

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No discussion on the history of Pakistani cricket is ever complete without the name of the "Little Master" - the Giant among Pakistan's finest cricketers - Mr. Hanif Mohammad.

His career spanned 18 glorious years in which he served his country by playing 55 Test matches, averaging 43.98 and compiling twelve hundreds. One of these innings was the famous 337 made against West Indies in a six-day test at Bridgetown in 1957/58 in which he saved Pakistan from certain defeat against some of the biggest names in cricket - that innings remains a World Record in Test cricket to this day.

Hanif's exploits thus instilled the "never say die" attitude in Pakistani cricket - a trait that was to be emulated by the other greats like Imran Khan and Javed Miandad.

The Little Master honoured PakPassion with an exclusive interview for which we will be eternally grateful.

Please note that this interview was recorded before the Pakistan vs India WC Semi Final in Mohali.





PakPassion.Net: How do see the India-Pakistan semi-final panning out?

Hanif Mohammad: Pakistan has played in this World Cup with a lot of spirit. There's a very good combination, understanding and a fighting spirit in the team, and the credit for that goes to Afridi.

There are still few days to go, but the anticipation has gotten to everyone, the players must be having sleepless nights!

You have handled the pressure, the experience players can handle it, and that's why they are so successful.


PakPassion.Net: You've seen the combinations of both teams, who is the favourite for this match?

Hanif Mohammad: India is playing in their home ground, and has the crowd support. Pakistani team has arrived early in Mohali, so I am sure they will be acclimatised and used to the conditions by the time of the game.

I think it will be a very close match, and winning the toss will be important. Whoever bats first and puts 250 plus on the board, the pressure on the other team will be huge.

Both are capable of beating each other.


PakPassion.Net: Which team has impressed you the most in this WC?

Hanif Mohammad: Sri Lanka has been playing very well, their all-round combination - batting, bowling and fielding - is very good. Even the other day [vs England] they did not field that well but still won by ten wickets. India and Pakistan as well are very good. New Zealand have not impressed me that much, but they are there in the semis.

I predicted before the WC started that there will definitely be one Asian team in the final. The second finalist, I said there's a 50-50 chance that it could be an Asian, or non-Asian team.


PakPassion.Net: India-Pakistan is always a big game, so should Akhtar be in the starting XI?

Hanif Mohammad: I think that depends on the wicket. If it's a wicket that is conducive to spin, then I think they won't play him, and that fear factor will not be there.


PakPassion.Net: Tell us a bit about your career. Cricket was not played as regularly back then, how did it feel like to represent Pakistan?

Hanif Mohammad: Playing for Pakistan was the greatest honour. I was just a schoolboy when I was selected in 1952, before that we played the MCC in an unofficial Test played on a matting wicket in Karachi, and then we got Test affiliation. I was the highest scorer in that game.

It was a big honour to wear the green cap. We used to play for the country, we were paid 15 rupees as a daily wage. We had a great passion to play the game, especially in my family.

Nowadays the players are very well-paid - which is good - and even earn money from advertisements. But playing for your country, there is no bigger honour than that.


PakPassion.Net: You were an opening batsman of tremendous temperament and stamina, especially in that knock of 337 against West Indies, where you stood at the crease for 970 minutes. Please describe that innings in your own words.

Hanif Mohammad: Before I describe that knock, let me just say that I was never a great player. I was an average player, especially as an opening batsman. My technique was good, and my concentration especially was very good, that really helped my batting and the team. My success was simply because of my concentration.

When I played for Pakistan, I always thought that I had to be the one who had to do everything for the team. In those early days we used to be a team full of dashers and attacking players, there were very few players who could occupy the crease for long periods. So seeing that and as per the captain's orders, I had to stay there at one end at all times. The opposition began to realise that they had to get me out early otherwise it would become very hard to get me out.

That innings in Barbados, in those days we didn't have any protective gear. No helmet, chest guards or thigh pads. Gilchrist was their fast bowler, his bouncer would hit the pitch once and then go to the boundary - he was that quick.

All we had was the bat, we had to protect ourselves with that, and score runs with it as well.

Despite these things, my concentration allowed me to bat for three and a half days.


PakPassion.Net: How were you able to play with such concentration over long innings? Did you do any special drills to develop this skill?

Hanif Mohammad: My mother always prayed for me and that played a big role. Also, I used to say prayers while batting. That really helped me concentrate in the middle.


PakPassion.Net: Pakistan had immediate success after attaining Test status. Was that expected or did the early success come as a surprise?

Hanif Mohammad: I don't recall too much because I was a schoolboy at the time. There used to be club cricket at the time and then provincial cricket was introduced. I didn't think I would get to play for my province so I played for my school. I got a chance to play in a Punjab Relief Fund match alongside many Test cricketers. Although I usually played as an opener, I was sent in at number 7 in that match. I got out very early in my innings. In the second innings of the match I was sent in as an opener and scored 93 runs and remained not out. We went on to win that match. I also kept wickets in that match and had 12-13 dismissals in the match. That was also a record at the time. I've always loved cricket and started playing at a young age. We were never told by anyone as to how to play the game. It all came naturally to me and my brothers. No one ever told us to play cricket, but I guess you can say that cricket runs in our blood.


PakPassion.Net: What do you think were the key factors in Pakistan's early success at the Test level?

Hanif Mohammad: At that time I didn't know much about official and unofficial cricket. I had never thought about playing First Class cricket so I really didn't get into all that. After my success, I was called up to the Pakistan camp and that's when I found out what the difference between official and unofficial cricket was. After the start of Test cricket we had immediate success against India in Lucknow and went on to beat England in England, which was a first for any team touring England for the first time. I remember that game vividly as I ran out the last English batsmen as we won the test.


PakPassion.Net: If we take a look at the Pakistani team in the 70s we see a lot of world class batsmen in the top 6-7. But over the past 30 years or so we have only produced a handful of great batsmen. What do you think is the main reason for the lack of quality batsmen in Pakistan?


Hanif Mohammad: I think a lot of it has to do with the lack of facilities in Pakistan. We don't have sufficient grounds for cricket in Pakistan and kids resort to playing on the streets instead of proper wickets that challenge them. Cricketers that went on to play county cricket in England were able to further develop their skills and were able to perform well. Also, it comes down to the individual. You have to play countless matches and practice all the time to refine your game.

Nowadays the cricketers have the huge advantage of technology. There are videos available for every player and you can learn a lot by watching others play. In our time cricket was tough. We went up against bowlers whom we had never seen before and relied upon catching some practice in the nets to prepare for such bowlers. Now the players have a lot of protective equipment like helmets that makes things a bit easier. In our time we played a handful of Tests every few years. We didn't have the long series that allowed you to score a lot of runs. We made the most of our opportunities.

Pakistan cricket has progressed well from the 50s. There was early success and we've continued to improve. Winning Test series, the World Cup, and the T20 world Cup shows how far we have come. On the way we have produced great players like Zaheer Abbas, Miandad, and fast bowlers like Shoaib Akhtar. So Pakistan has continued to produce world class players.


PakPassion.Net: We have produced great players but in regards to the number of quality batsmen we have produced over the past few decades, you can count them on one hand as compared to the batsmen of the 70s. We have produced players like Miandad, Inzamam, Younis, Anwar, and Yousuf but that's only a handful when compared to the top batsmen in the world. Why don't we produce more world class batsmen?

Hanif Mohammad: This is common for all the teams in the world. Look at the West Indies. They had such great players but now they are struggling. The same can be said for England. They also struggled for some time. Good players come and go. It's a part of the game. Teams change over time because players retire and new players replace them. Take a look at Australia. They are not a very strong team now because they have lost great players. This goes on in the game. We can't use machines to create players like Inzamam or Miandad. We just have to move on.


PakPassion.Net: Let's talk a bit about Fazal Mahmood. He had a great record. What kind of bowler was he?

Hanif Mohammad: Fazal Mahmood was a great player for Pakistan. His contribution to Pakistan's early success was immense. I remember him getting 11-12 wickets in Lucknow against India. Opposing batsmen found it very difficult to play his leg-cutter and off-cutter on helpful wickets. He also started to swing the ball both ways later on in his career. He was a great bowler.


PakPassion.Net: How difficult was it to play a Test match after an entire year?

Hanif Mohammad: It was extremely difficult. We spent a month prior to a series preparing for the opposition. They would come and play only one Test match and leave after 8 days. We didn't get many opportunities in our time to showcase our talent. Nowadays there is cricket being played at all times and in all parts of the world. Whenever you turn on the television you can find an ongoing cricket match.


PakPassion.Net: Some people who have seen you play says that if Hanif Mohammad played in this era he would never get out. What do you have to say about that?

Hanif Mohammad: I don't think that's possible. Batsmen go in the middle and score runs but they eventually get out. It's very rare to remain not out. One thing I can say is that if I played in this era I would have had a great advantage because now the batsmen have a lot of protective gear to use. Also, the amount of cricket being played today is very helpful. It's a lot easier to score runs when you're playing more cricket. Good match practice is very important for the development of any cricketer.


PakPassion.Net: You've been involved in Pakistani cricket for a long time. A lot of former cricketers have problems with the PCB chairman. In your opinion, who should be the head of the PCB? A former cricketer like Ijaz Butt? A general like Tauqeer Zia? Or a bureaucrat like Shahryar Khan?

Hanif Mohammad: I don't like getting into the politics. The person in charge of cricket in Pakistan should be honest and hard working. I don't care who it is but the person must care about cricket and work to improve cricket in Pakistan. He must be knowledgeable about cricket and have a desire to promote the game. It's important to surround yourself with people that give you good advice.


PakPassion.Net: But do you think that the person in charge should be a former cricketer?

Hanif Mohammad: It can be anyone because that person will rely on former cricketers for help. He can have cricketers to support him and provide him with plans. The person that comes in as chairman of the PCB will definitely have some interest in cricket and will know how things work. I don't think it matters if the chairman is a former cricketer or not.


PakPassion.Net: Who was the best bowler you faced during your playing career?

Hanif Mohammad: There were many bowlers that were difficult to face. A lot of it had to do with the pitch that we were playing on. There were a lot of good slow and fast bowlers, but a lot depended on the pitch. A tough bowler became a lot easier to play on batting friendly pitches. Gilchrist was very dangerous. One other bowler was Desai from India. He was a very short man so adjusting to him was difficult. As I said before, batting was very difficult in those times. We didn't have any of the protective equipment that is now available to these players. I recall a time when I had a couple of toe-nails removed and still went on to play a match in Bombay. I had to change my socks after every few overs due to the bleeding. I was only about 40% fit at the time. Jahangir Khan who was manager of the time suggested I don't play, but Fazal Mahmood, who was the captain at the time said my name would be there in the XI. I did play and played the innings of my life. I went on to score about 160 runs in that match before being run out. So things were definitely difficult but I enjoyed cricket throughout my career. My brothers and my son, Shoaib, all enjoyed playing cricket.


PakPassion.Net: I remember seeing Shoaib play for Pakistan. He was an excellent batsman and a great fielder in the slips. Unfortunately, he didn't get to play for Pakistan as much as he should have.

Hanif Mohammad: Shoaib was an excellent fielder. He loved fielding and that's very important in order to become a good fielder. From the current team you can look at Umar Akmal as an example. You can tell that he enjoys fielding and that reflects in his fielding ability. He's a very good fielder. Shoaib enjoyed fielding and I also helped him practice his fielding from a very young age. We used to put mats on the floor so he could practice diving for the ball. It takes a lot of practice and time but it can be done.

Cricket has given me a lot of great things. It gave me a lot of respect and honour around the world. I'm proud that I along with my brothers help set a solid foundation for Pakistani cricket. We got a lot in return. Jobs and recognition were parts of the reward that we were given for helping Pakistan cricket in that time. I am proud of the contributions of the Mohammad family to Pakistani cricket.


PakPassion.Net: The Mohammad family has definitely done a lot for Pakistan cricket. How would you compare the bowlers of your era to the modern day bowlers?

Hanif Mohammad: In our era the bowlers would mostly have the advantage when it came to the pitch. It was difficult to play against many bowlers on such conditions. If you talk about Pakistan then we have always produced quality bowers. At that time there were many great bowlers across the world such as Trueman, Statham, Tyson. Australia had Lindwall, Miller, Davidson. Pakistan had Fazal and Mahmood Hussain. These bowlers come and go and the change is a part of the game. Even now we are missing Aamir and Asif but we still have good bowlers.


PakPassion.Net: You probably had the chance to see Donald Bradman play and now you have seen Sachin Tendulkar play. How would you compare them?

Hanif Mohammad: I didn't get a chance to see Bradman play because there wasn't much cricket at that time. I've only seen some recorded videos of his batting. Bradman's Test average of 99.9 speaks for itself. He's the best when it comes to batsmen. Sachin has scored more centuries than anyone and has set the record for all-time run scorers. Sachin is probably the second name on the list of best batsmen. Sachin is scoring centuries like most batsmen score fifties. He can probably go on to play for another two years. It's entirely possible that he can play another World Cup. In fact, I'm hoping that he continues to play for a long time because he's fit and is scoring runs. Young players can learn a lot about batting by just watching Sachin bat.


PakPassion.Net: What do you think about Shahid Afridi as a captain?

Hanif Mohammad: He's a daring captain and a fighter. He is very capable of leading the team in T20s and ODIs. He leads from the front and the players rally around him. He isn't concentrating much on his batting these days but he has become a wicket taking bowler and was amongst the leading wicket takers in the World Cup.


PakPassion.Net: Let's talk about your grandson Shehzar Mohammad. How good is he and do you see him playing international cricket?

Hanif Mohammad: He has made his debut in First Class cricket and has done pretty well so far. He started playing cricket at a later age than most because he spent most of his years studying and just came back to Pakistan a couple of years ago. He's 19 years old now so it will take some time for him but he'll be knocking on the door in another 2 years or so.


PakPassion.Net: So you think that he has the talent to represent Pakistan in international cricket?

Hanif Mohammad: Definitely. He is talented and a very good fielder. He's an opening batsman and also a wicket keeper. I don't think anyone can stop him from succeeding but he will need a couple of years to improve.


PakPassion.Net: You were the best opening batsman this country has produced so he must be learning a lot from you.

Hanif Mohammad: Yes. I've been working with him. Shoaib was also an opening batsman so we are helping him improve.


PakPassion.Net: Do you think you would have been as successful in 50 over cricket as you were in Test cricket?

Hanif Mohammad: I've been asked this question before. A good batsman has the shots to play in any form of the game. I had the shots to play 50 over cricket but at the time I concentrated mostly on staying at the crease. I had orders from the captain to stay out there for a long time. It's not difficult to adjust your game. In 64 on a tour to England I was getting the fastest hundred. The skills are the same but you just have to alter your mindset. A good batsman who has a wide arrange of strokes can adapt to all circumstances. One such example is Kallis who is able to bat well in both tests and one dayers.


PakPassion.Net: We thank you for your time. It was a pleasure speaking with you.

Hanif Mohammad: Thank you
 

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Audio Part 1:

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Audio Part 2

<iframe title="YouTube video player" width="480" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/1vRQFhoDOzE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
 
Many thanks to Sabih for conducting the interview and to AZ and Inswinger for writing it up!
 
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Hanif has that reassuring voice that we crave from our elders - I wish he was running PCB today but the politics of that organization would have been too much for him.

An absolute honour to listen to him speak about cricket. A Legend in the purest sense.

Not only him but his while family has served and continues to serve Pakistani cricket in all capacities.
 
A brilliant read! :14:

Well done to everyone involved in bringing this to PP - a true Legend of cricket.

The word great is sadly misused and overused these days, but Hanif sahab is one of the few of those for whom it is entirely apt and just to use it!
 
I recall a time when I had a couple of toe-nails removed and still went on to play a match in Bombay. I had to change my socks after every few overs due to the bleeding. I was only about 40% fit at the time. Jahangir Khan who was manager of the time suggested I don't play, but Fazal Mahmood, who was the captain at the time said my name would be there in the XI. I did play and played the innings of my life. I went on to score about 160 runs in that match before being run out.

amazing, can you imagine the pampered and filthy rich modern-day cricketers going through all this, and all for a pittance.

many lessons to be learned from our past legends.
 
My God ! I have to pinch myself...Hanif Mohammad ?!

This has to be one of the greatest interviews PP have conducted !

What a wonderful gentleman and a true great of the game.
Before I describe that knock, let me just say that I was never a great player. I was an average player, especially as an opening batsman. My technique was good, and my concentration especially was very good, that really helped my batting and the team. My success was simply because of my concentration.

Modest and humble,the 'rockstar' generation of cricketers should watch and learn.
 
My favorite Pakistani !

What a legend :) But why has this been posted so late????
 
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My favorite Pakistani !

What a legend :) But why has this been posted so late????

We posted some parts of the interview as an article ( bits that concerned the semi final)

The rest of the interview had to be held back as it takes some time to transcribe the audio :)
 
amazing, can you imagine the pampered and filthy rich modern-day cricketers going through all this, and all for a pittance.

many lessons to be learned from our past legends.

That's simply amazing. Tells how patriotic he was and still is :bow: :bow: These kind of personalities made PAK. Simply 'GREAT'
 
We posted some parts of the interview as an article ( bits that concerned the semi final)

The rest of the interview had to be held back as it takes some time to transcribe the audio :)

okay sir jee.
Thanks ;) :boycott
 
What an absolute legend Hanif is. The only little I know about him is what my father told me about him, but after listening to him speak here I wish I could have seen him play myself.

Hearing him speak about the game with such humility and grace, he truly was a gentleman of the game.

Hope his grandson can continue to improve and is knocking on the selectors door soon - we need another Mohammed to continue on this great family tradition!!!
 
The original little master, held the record of highest score of 499 in a first class game for a long time before it was broken by Brian Lara. A TRUE LEGEND.
 
What a thoroughly enjoyable and informative interview.

I simply loved this line - "All we had was the bat, we had to protect ourselves with that, and score runs with it as well."

Pure gladiators, no protective gear at all.

By the way, a big thank you to Shoaib Mohammad for all his help with this inteview.
 
An absolute true legend! Brilliant interview and very insightful to listen to his playing days and how and what it felt representing your nation at the international level. One of the best interviews PP has notched up!
 
True legend of Pakistani cricket.

Watchout for our next big one from the Mohammed Family - Mushtaq Mohammed interview in a weeks time!
 
We wish Hanif Sahib the best of health - here is his interview before the WC2011 Semi final between Pakistan and India
 
The first Little Master of cricket. Truly a humble guy in sharp contrast to most of loudmouths of present era. Nice of him to mention Ramakant Desai. Even most Indian guys don't know him.
 
Re: Hanif Mohammad: "My Success was Simply Because of my Concentration" [Audio Interv

I always wished he took up a batting coach role for us.
 
Re: Hanif Mohammad: "My Success was Simply Because of my Concentration" [Audio Interv

Just read the interview again. Hoping for some more talent to serve our team from the very talented Mohammad family.
 
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OnThisDay?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OnThisDay</a> 1934. The Little Master was born. Hanif Mohammad once spent over 16 hours at the crease scoring 337 in Bridgetown in 1957-58 to save a Test where Pakistan followed on 473 runs behind. He was also the first Pakistani to score a triple hundred in a Test match <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Cricket?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Cricket</a> <a href="https://t.co/RqEFww5Zkv">pic.twitter.com/RqEFww5Zkv</a></p>— Saj Sadiq (@Saj_PakPassion) <a href="https://twitter.com/Saj_PakPassion/status/943754031176081408?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 21, 2017</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
 
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