How we adored Shahid

Shahid was a simple human being, but a difficult opponent to handle, for he wove intricate circles, leaving the defenders groping for the ball.

Mohammad Shahid was a terror for the opposition defenders.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

They ought to have scrutinised Mohammad Shahid’s hockey stick, for the ball stayed glued to it, as did the audience in a trance, watching the artist weave his magic on the turf — natural and later artificial — with the opponents dancing to his tune.

Crowds flocked to the venue to watch just one man — Shahid from Banaras. He was to hockey what shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan was to music.

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Shahid was a simple human being, but a difficult opponenet to handle, for he wove intricate circles, leaving the defenders groping for the ball. He would leave the opponents embarrassed with his skills at the left-in position, the most difficult on the hockey turf. Many a right-back shifted to the left to avoid being reduced to mediocrity by Shahid.

Strong in basics, he developed the famous flick — half push and half hit — with which he would find the top of the net from the top of the circle. It was a deadly missile.

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Shahid was also a compulsive prankster. He once penned a love letter at a hockey camp to his room-mate Jalalludin Rizvi, who, over the moon after receiving it by post, shared it with the third roomie – Zafar Iqbal. The lady love never appeared and Rizvi did not discover the author of the letter. Shahid’s lovely handwriting had done the trick. One doubts if Rizvi knows the truth even today.

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Shahid was the team’s trusted saviour. He was the team. His team-mates hovered around him, made the most of his company, especially on the field when he took on the opposition and mocked their tactics to stop him. He played hockey as if it were an individual demonstration of one’s prowess and endurance. To take two or three defenders in his stride was child’s play for him.

Once he dribbled past five ferocious German defenders, including the advancing goalkeeper, in a Champions Trophy match and, with an unmanned post in front, selflessly passed the ball for a colleague to score. Anyone could have tapped the ball in. Anyone! Shahid never played for himself.

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At the Moscow Olympics, Surinder Singh Sodhi was the highest scorer. But the world saw who set up most of those goals. “All because of Shahid,” was Sodhi’s humble acknowledgement.

Shahid did not score from penalty corners. But he created them from nowhere. And at will. Defenders desperately poked and swung their sticks, but the ball remained elusive. So did Shahid, flashing past them.

Indian hockey was dear to him. Dearer than anything on this planet!