'I would put Shahid in the same league as Messi'

If you look for comparisons across all sports, I would put Shahid in the same league as Lionel Messi. Simple, he played hockey at that level. Only three others in hockey matched him. They are Shahbaz Ahmed, Teun de Nooijer and Stephan Veen.

Baskaran..."Shahid, according to me, will be remembered as one of the greatest players of modern hockey."   -  M. Periasamy

Mohammad Shahid made his International debut in the four-nation tournament in Kuala Lumpur in 1979 under my captaincy. He was a small boy (19 years) then. The team was full of stars such as myself, Surjit Singh Randhawa, Ajit Pal Singh and Ashok Kumar. And the first thing I did was to accommodate him in my room. Thereafter, for nearly 12 years, we stayed together during tours. We shared a close relationship.

>READ: Indian hockey great Mohd. Shahid passes away

 

In the Bangalore camp at the Kanteerava Stadium, prior to the 1980 Moscow Olympics, barring me, Kaushik and Bir Bahadur Chetri, most of the players were in their early 20s. Shahid was the leader of the youngsters. One of the main reasons why the team gelled well was because of Shahid; he was the biggest plus point. He used to sing ghazals and songs sung by Kishore Kumar. After our dinner at 7 pm, we all used to wait for Shahid to sing. And he never made a fuss. The team unity was great, thanks to Shahid.

Being a leftie by nature was an advantage in itself. Generally, in hockey ‘right’ is the supporting hand. So being a leftie, he turned out to be a very good dribbler. And moreover, I have never seen him play under pressure. Being a left-half myself and one who was very close to him, he would always say before the match ‘mere ko ball dena’. All you need to do is give the ball to him and he will decide.

> READ: Dhanraj Pillay pays tribute to departed legend Shahid

Whenever the ball is in the 25-yard circle, everyone’s eyes will be on Shahid. His elimination skills were very good. The combination of Zafar Iqbal (left extreme) and Shahid was a big threat to opponents. Their combination almost always resulted in penalty corners.

If you look for comparisons across all sports, I would put Shahid in the same league as Lionel Messi. Simple, he played hockey at that level. Only three others in hockey matched him. They are Shahbaz Ahmed, Teun de Nooijer and Stephan Veen. All four had separate identities, but one common factor that bound them was that they were very good in creating goals. We haven’t had anybody like Shahid in the Indian team for many years.

Of the 16 players who were part of the Indian team in the Moscow Olympics, he is the first and the youngest to die.

Shahid, according to me, will be remembered as one of the greatest players of modern hockey. Not only Indian players, even players from other countries spoke highly of him. Players of the class of Australia's Ric Charlesworth, Neil Hawgood and Pakistan’s Hasan Sardar and Qamar Zia all had high regards for Shahid. Such was his quality.

As a good friend, Shahid's death is a personal loss for me.

(As told to K. Keerthivasan)