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NOVEMBER 2001 Contents
Page 2 of 8
PAKISTAN SQUASH - THE
(All photos courtesy Squashtalk.com)
THE HASHIM SAGA
Hashim Khan was the top player in undivided India by virtue of his successes againstall in the various tournaments played in those days prominent amongst which were the Army Championships and the India Cricket Club Championship in Bombay. At the time of partition he was 33 years old - an age where the best days for a sportsman are normally behind him.
Abdul Bari, his cousin who had preferred to stay behind in Bombay at the Cricket Clubof India, was sponsored by the Indian Government to play in the British Open in 1948 and again in 1949. He reached the finals on both occasion losing in the finals to the redoubtable Egyptian Mahmood Al Karim (Squash professional at the Gezira Club in Cairo). Karim, ever remembered for his languid grace, his spotless attire, his flowing white trousers, had started to acquire an aura of invincibility. After all he had already won the British Open five successive times after the end of the second World War and there was no other player to challenge him. However, Abdul Bari had run him extremely close in both finals, losing each time in five games.
Hashim and Bari had played each other a number of times, and Hashim had been thewinner each time. He therefore implored his officers to give him a ticket for the British Open where win meant the top position. A bunch of enthusiastic officers (including Group Captain Raza, Zafar Chaudhry, Nur Khan, Bapu Murad) decided to help him. Hashim's cause was also helped by a call to the fledgling Pakistan Government from the Pakistani High Commissioner in London, Habib Ibraham Rahimtoola, suggesting that Pakistan too should send someone because an Indian Abdul Bari was figuring prominently. A case for Hashim was prepared.
A second opinion was sought from Commander Kelly, an Irish officer who had seenthe British Open. Kelly felt that Hashim was not good enough to beat Mahmood Al Karim. Hashim's response was simple, ³... if Bari can take Kareem to five games, I can beat Bari, therefore I deserve a chance.² His argument carried the day. The officers contributed to his expenses in Britain, transport was on a Transport Aircraft of the Pakistani Air Force, the year was 1950.
Hashim was a funny sight in Britain. A balding, barrel- chested, knock kneed, 5'-5" inheight, Hashim¹s Squash shoes screeched excruciatingly on the unfamiliar wooden courts. The genius who was used to concrete floors, open skies, playing barefoot in hundred degrees fahrenheit temperatures, suddenly found himself in the alien surroundings of cold, damp, wooden floored Britain. It did not take him long to make the adaptation and he found himself looking forward to his first sight of Mahmood Al Kareem.
Hashim was impressed with what he saw. A languid, graceful player who seemed toglide effortlessly over the court with an uncanny anticipation and one who never seemed hurried or unbalanced. Mahmood Al Kareem's stroke making was superb, with winners directed into the two front corners of the court and returns buried deep into the back corners. Hashim devised a simple strategy, he would retrieve and retrieve, play the waiting game and only go for his winners when absolutely necessary. They met in the final of the Scottish open in Edinburgh. Hashim's strategy worked. He raced at top speed over every inch of the court and one could almost smell the burning rubber. Kareem's rhythmical sophistication found the simple orthodoxy of Hashim too much and Hashim won 9-0, 9-0, 10-8.
Those who dismissed this as a freak occurrence later realised that lightening couldstrike twice. In the final of the British Open, Hashim was down 5-2 in the first game. In a rally where he retrieved 57 winners from Karim he broke all resistance and did not lose a single point to win 9-5, 9-0, 9-0. Most players were grateful to take a game off Karim. Hashim had annihilated him. A new era was about to dawn and Pakistan had an introduction to the sporting world despite being only three years old.
The Pathan invasion which continues to this day had started in earnest and Hashim wasits originator. He is the grand daddy of them all - the biggest name in Squash to this day. Hashim Khan returned to a hero's welcome that took him completely by surprise. It never crossed his mind that his victory could have such political significance. When his plane touched down in Karachi, the Governor General and an official party were there to greet him with speech after speech. He was also presented with a gold watch which had been specially engraved. Overcome with emotion, he was only able to reply with one word - 'Thanks'.
Hashim next flew by chartered aircraft to Peshawar where an even bigger receptionawaited him. Five hundred guests were waiting for him at the airport. When he drove in an open car through the city, thousands of people lined the way. Schools had been closed so that children could take part in the celebrations. Hashim was touched. He knew that most of the well wishers had never even seen a game of squash let alone played one themselves, yet they were cheering and clapping and chanting his name.
A country which was not yet five years old had its own world champion. The boost tonational morale was incalculable. Hashim Khan was a name that could be waved with pride. Hashim was to win the British Open seven times.
What was Hashim's secret? Humility, gratitude to God Almighty, unswerving respectto his superior officers which he carries to this day. His emphasis on physical fitness is the stuff legends are made of. An example of his fitness is his preparation mode for events. Every day he would play five games each with brother Azam, brother in law Safirulah, Mohammed Amin (father of Mohammed Yasin, Mohammed Saleem, Maqsood Ahmed), nephew Mohibullah, all in succession and after he had played, his final remark "Yes I feel a little tired".
Now in his 80s, Hashim is a sprightly squash immortal who still plays in the veterans’ matches at the British Open every year. He is settled in Denver, Colorado, US.
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