One of the Greatest All Rounders in the History of Cricket
Syed Abid Ali was born on 9th September 1941 in the great city of Hyderabad. He is one of the greatest all rounders that have played the game of cricket. He served Indian cricket in all the departments of the game. The only players that come close to his class are Vinoo Mankad, Lala Amarnath, Kapil Dev Nikhanj, Eknath Solkar and Mohinder Amarnath. I have known him personally. He is a genuine human being, full of warmth and compassion for others. He brought these qualities to the game that he played with passion.
Syed Abid Ali did his early schooling in St. George’s Grammar School in Hyderabad. He moved on later to All Saints High School. Both these schools have given India several test players of quality. In 1956, he was selected to play for Hyderabad Schools purely for his fielding ability. He scored 82 against Kerala and won the best prize for fielding. A few years later, State Bank of Hyderabad formed a cricket team and gave him a job to play for the Bank. He started his first class cricket career as a fielder first and went on to become a wicket keeper before he made his mark on batting and bowling as well. He made it to the Hyderabad Juniors side in 1959. He played in the Ranji Trophy for Hyderabad from 1960 onwards. He got his first century in 1967. It was in the same year that he was selected for the test team tour to Australia and New Zealand.
Syed Abid Ali has played twenty nine tests for India, scoring 1,018 runs with a highest of 81. He had six half centuries. He picked up thirty two catches and 47 wickets with a best of 6/55. He played five one day matches, scoring 93 runs with one half century and picked up seven wickets. He has played 224 first class matches, scoring 8,901 runs with a highest score of 173 not out and picked up 416 wickets. He played his first test on 23rd December 1967 against Australia at Adelaide and played his last test against the West Indies at Delhi on 11th December 1974. He played his first one day match against England on 13th July 1974 at Leeds and played his last one day match against New Zealand during the first One Day World Cup in England at Manchester on 14th June 1975. He played first class cricket between 1959 and 1979.
Syed Abid Ali’s best batting and bowling performance came during his debut series against Australia in 1967. In the Sydney test, he scored 78 and 81 in both the innings respectively with the latter being his best test score and in the Adelaide test, he had figures of 6/55 that were his test career best.
As a batsman, Syed Abid Ali was a watchful lower order batsman though he has played at one down many a times when the situation demanded. He was a great asset to all Indian captains. He was a right hand bat and a right arm medium fast bowler. He was brilliant with the new ball, getting the ball to swing both ways when the track and the weather conditions assisted him. I had the good fortune of watching him bowl Tony Lewis of England with the first ball of the test match when India was playing the visiting English side at Brabourne Stadium in Bombay in 1973. What could be said about his fielding capabilities? He was an outstanding fielder. I rate him as one of the greatest Indian fielders. Only Eknath Dhondu Solkar or Mohammad Azharuddin could have challenged his abilities.
Unfortunately, the placid Indian pitches were doctored for spin and so Syed Abid Ali and Eknath Solkar played the second fiddle on the dead Indian tracks with their primary aim being the removal of the shine from the ball to pave the way rather early in an innings for the legendary spin quartet of India to take over.
Syed Abid Ali is an uncle of mine and I am proud to have come across a genuine person like him. After he retired from first class cricket in 1979, he has had many coaching assignments. The principal ones being the Andhra Cricket team and the United Arab Emirates cricket team. He has seen many tragedies in his personal life since then. He lost his young son a few years back. He lives in retirement in California, United States of America now. With his endearing smile and his resilience against fate, he carries on with the struggles of modern life.
Syed Abid Ali has been described to have had the feet of a sprinter, the energy of a marathon runner and the temperament of a decathlete. He ran between the wickets as if on invisible skates and threw himself at the ball while fielding no matter what ground it was. When the victory runs were scored in that fateful test at Port of Spain in West Indies in 1971, it was Sunil Gavaskar and Syed Abid Ali who marched triumphant to the pavilion to be greeted and congratulated by Sir Garfield Sobers who is the greatest all rounder that the game has seen.