Dubai: Much before the Mahendra Singh Dhonis and Yuvraj Singhs became famous for their six-hitting prowess, Indian cricket fans in the sixties and seventies used to demand sixers from a certain charismatic all-rounder — Salim Durani.
Now 83 years old, Durani, who was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, was there at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru when his country of birth made their Test debut against India on Thursday. He was invited by the Board of Control for Cricket in India for this Test match as he is the only Afghanistan-born Indian cricketer. He tossed the coin and also handed a memento to Afghanistan skipper Asghar Stanikzai.
Left-handed Durani played for India in 29 Tests from the sixties to mid-seventies, a period when fewer Test matches were played. He scored 1,202 runs but almost every innings by this batsman was entertaining as the crowd loved watching his belligerent style. He also bagged 75 wickets with his left-arm spin. His batting had all the qualities that Afghanistan batsmen display today- daring and aggressive and always ready to challenge the best of bowlers.
Durani also had dashing good looks — something which got him a huge female fan following; so much so that he went on to act in a Hindi movie named ‘Charitra’. He played for Gujarat, Rajasthan and Saurashtra in India’s domestic cricket and had 14 hundreds in first-class cricket to pile up 8,545 runs. He was in tremendous form in the 1970 Irani trophy and a journalist is said to have remarked that the tournament should have been named Durani trophy!
So popular Durani was among fans that when he was once dropped for a Test match in Kanpur in 1973, spectators protested waving placards and shouting slogans: “No Durani, no Test.”
Durani was born to Aziz Durani, who was a wicketkeeper and played unofficial Test matches for undivided India. After the 1947 partition, his father moved to Pakistan and even coached legendary Pakistan batsman Hanif Mohammad.
After his birth in Kabul, Durani stayed on in India and made his Test debut for India in 1960 against Australia. In 1962, he hit a 104 against the strong West Indies team led by Frank Worrell in the Port of Spain Test match. His fighting century came when India was forced to follow on, till he was finally dismissed by Garfield Sobers. Durani now lives in Jamnagar, a city located in the Saurashtra region in Gujarat.