Syed Haider Ali, ‘Godfather’ of Railways cricket, dies at 79: The Tribune India | So Good News



New Delhi, November 6

Syed Haider Ali, a domestic cricket stalwart, and one of the best left-arm spinners never to play for India, has passed away after battling prolonged illness.

Haider died in Prayagraj on Saturday. He was 79.

Haider is survived by two sons – Syed Sher Ali and Raza Ali.

“He was suffering from chest congestion for some time now. After a routine check-up with his doctor, we were on our way home when he suddenly collapsed. He died around 1.30 pm on Saturday,” Raza, a former first-class cricketer, told PTI.

Haider made his first-class debut for Railways in the 1963-64 season and went on to play for his side with distinction for close to 25 years.

A classic left-arm orthodox spinner, who honed his skills on docile tracks around the country in the 1960s and 1970s, bamboozled batters through lies and deception.

By the time he hung up his boots in 1988, Haider was by far the most famous cricketer for the Railways.

He finished with 366 wickets in 113 first-class matches, scalping three 10-wicket hauls and 25 five-wicket hauls, at an impressive average of 19.71.

Not only did he achieve a lot as a spinner, Haider was equally adept with the bat, making invaluable contributions when batting at No.7.

“He scored 120 against Vidarbha at Nagpur in a Ranji Trophy match in the 1984-85 season. I remember we had lost seven wickets and were staring at an innings defeat. We would have lost that match without him,” former Railways coach Vinod Sharma told PTI.

Having 3125 runs, including three centuries and 10 half-centuries from 158 innings, is a testimony to his achievements as a batsman.

Not many know that Haider began his first-class career as a tearaway left-arm pacer. It was at the insistence of former railway captain William Ghosh that he switched to left-arm spin.

After his retirement, he took on the mantle of Chief Selector of the Railways.

“He was our selector when Railways won the Ranji Trophy titles in 2001-02 and 2004-05 seasons respectively,” Sharma recalled.

As the news of Haider’s demise started trickling in, the Railways cricket fraternity was in a state of shock.

Sanjay Bangar, the former Indian all-rounder, who played for Railways in the 90s, remembered Haider as a “stalwart” and a “well-respected” person.

“Very unfortunate to hear the tragic news. I never got a chance to play with him but I played when he was the chief selector for the railway team. He was a faithful one. A soft spoken and well respected individual,” Bangar told PTI.

– It is a big loss for us. I can’t even begin to describe how I feel right now. He made Railways cricket a force to be reckoned with. He was our godfather,” explained Sharma.

Despite being such an irresistible force on the domestic circuit, Haider never made the transition to international cricket.

In a way, he was very much an unsung hero, having plied his trade at a time when India boasted the famous quartet of spinners, namely Bishen Singh Bedi, Erappali Prasanna, Shrinivas Venkatraghavan and Bhagwath Chandrashekar.

However, Haider never harbored any resentment for not making it to the Indian national team.

“He would always say that Bedi was India’s No. 1 spinner, followed by Padmakar Shivalkar and Rajinder Goel,” noted Sharma.

“Take my name only after these three cricketers,” he added.

Railways and the Jammu & Kashmir team, who are playing a warm-up match at the Karnail Singh Stadium here in the national capital on Sunday, observed a two-minute silence before the match, in Haider’s honour.


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