Salim Durrani was a natural cricketer with an uncanny ability to hit a six on demand. Those who have seen him play speak of the spark of genius that ran through his game.
He was India's first genuine match winner. In fact, it was Durrani who helped India register their maiden Test victory abroad when India defeated West Indies in West Indies in 1971.
Durrani was also the first hero of the actress Parveen Babi. "There is nothing wrong with our cricketers, our selectors are not up to the mark," Durrani told Indiainfo.com in an exclusive interview. The following is an excerpt of the interview.
Can you recall the Test match against West Indies, which you were instrumental in helping India win?
That is indeed a golden moment in my life. It was a tough match and the West Indian pair was batting very sensibly and confidently. None of the Indian bowlers were able to make any impression.
I struck and got the vital wickets of Sir Gary Sobers and Clive Lloyd in quick succession. That turned the table and India won the match. It was my wrong one that did the West Indians in.
The story goes that you almost snatched the ball from Ajit Wadekar?
Not exactly. Ajit was my good friend. When I came to Mumbai for the first time and joined Cipla, Ajit used to play under me. And when you are good friends and have played together, such things happen.
I told him that the wicket was slow and Prasanna also said that he was not able to extract turn from the pitch. I asked Prasanna to bowl round the wicket with a specific field position but, it didn't click.
Then I said that I would like to bowl in a particular way and if he (Ajit) thought it fair then we could come back into the match from nowhere. I took the ball and Ajit agreed.
Sardesai also came to me and said in Marathi that I had finally snatched the ball, but it would do no good. I got the wickets of Sobers and Lloyd in successive overs and we won the match.
It has often been said that you haven't done full justice to your talent?
Probably, you are right. I too believed that I could have played a few more Tests and by God's grace should have captained also. But those days Test matches were a rarity and you could get hardly one Test series in a year. I still got to play for 14 years and that is an achievement.
Did Ted Dexter say you were a better all-rounder than Sir Gary Sobers?
No, that's not fair. I think every cricketer plays to his full potential and tries to do full justice. Gary Sobers is unparalleled and I wouldn't mind touching his feet.