Salim Durani: Story of India's Prince Charming
My pursuit of discovering the phenomenon named Col. CK Nayudu has brought me in touch with many great cricketers of yesteryear over the last few months. And one common theme in all these meetings has been, “You met Salim bhai?
His name brings a smile on people’s face
Salim bhai referred here is none other than Salim Durani, the flamboyant all-rounder of his times. His pic in my book ‘A Colonel Destined to Lead’ always managed to bring a smile on the faces former cricketers whomever I met. In fact, the great off-spinner Erapalli Prasanna told me that one reason why he will read my book is because he saw his friend Salim bhai’s pic in it.
Such display of affection from one and all for a person is rare in today’s age and it just speaks volume about the man. I concur with this feeling of warmth towards Durani based on my only meeting with him last year at his residence in Jamnagar.
I distinctly remember his words when I had called him to fix an appointment, he had said, “Jaroor aao, bahut kahaniyan hai mere paas Colonel Saab ke baare mein” (Do come, I have lots of stories to share about Colonel Saab). When I went to his house, I was initially a bit nervous but his mannerism was enough to put me at ease.
“Tu ayega mere saath?”
He told me how Vinoo Mankad was instrumental in shaping his early years as a cricketer. Apparently after watching Durani play a fine innings, The Maharaja of Udaipur had asked Mankad, “Who is it? Will he come to Rajasthan?”. So, Mankad went back and asked Durani, “Tu ayega mere saath?” (Will you come with me?). Durani inquired, “Kahan?” (where?), to which Mankad replied, “Udaipur”.
The rest as they say is history. On his day, Salim Durani could change the fate of a match both with the bat and ball. Although, his stats may not give one an idea about his greatness, he has played key roles in many famous Indian victories. It was his exploits with the ball that paved way for India’s victory over England at Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Madras (now Chennai) in the 1961-62 series. He had taken 8 and 10 wickets respectively in these two matches.
“No Durani, no Test!”
Then the famous victory over West Indies in 1971 at Port of Spain would probably not have been possible without his two crucial wickets of Clive Llyod and Gary Sobers. With the bat, he was known to be a six hitter. He was a heartthrob of the crowd whom he used to oblige with sixes on demand. When he was dropped in 1973 for the Kanpur Test against England, the ground had placards with slogans such as, “No Durani, no Test!”
Earlier this year, the BCCI had invited him for the inaugural India-Afghanistan Test match in Bengaluru owing to his Afghan connection. His grandparents had settled in Afghanistan which became the country of his birth. His father Abdul Aziz Durani was also a cricketer who had represented India in an unofficial Test Match against Australia in 1935-36. He then migrated to Pakistan post partition and is credited with being the coach of the great Hanif Mohammad.
Thankfully, Salim bhai stayed back to treat the Indian fans. Today as he turns 84 years old, I wish him a very happy birthday and look forward to another enchanting meet with him some time in near future.