Shahid, a destroyer of defenders

Mir Ranjan Negi describes Mohammad Shahid as an entertainer on and off the field. "Special players like him create unique situations in a match," says the former India goalkeeper while paying tribute to his team-mate and friend.

Shahid was heavily marked due to his reputation as a playmaker.   -  The Hindu Archives

Mohammad Shahid would have converted 10 out of 10 penalty strokes in hockey under current rules, pointed out former India goalkeeper Mir Ranjan Negi.

Negi and Shahid were room-mates since their junior days.

"Shahid destroyed defenders with his trickery with the ball. If defenders could not read him, how could a goalkeeper?" said Negi in praise of Shahid's skills.

"The running penalty stroke in use now leads to a one-on-one situation between the attacker and the goalkeeper. Visualising Shahid outwitting goalkeepers during strokes, using ball control and stick skills is delightful,” he added.

Negi described Shahid as an entertainer on and off the pitch. “Special players like him create unique situations in a match. Shahid was heavily marked due to his reputation as a playmaker. Zafar Iqbal had such great understanding with him that Shahid on the attack would leave the ball and move in another direction, taking at least three rivals with him. Zafar would then dart in for that move, take the ball and cut in past puzzled opponents."

Negi recollected a funny incident during a tour to Africa, with Shahid as the surprise packet. “The huge African defenders had not heard about him, so they closed in for the tackle. Shahid would slip past one, feint against the second and hoodwink the third. At one point, the defenders stopped tackling him and just stood there laughing at their own plight against Shahid," recalled Negi.

“Shahid had a shuffle quite distinct from the others that helped him overcome tackles.”

According to Negi, the hockey wizard’s passion for ghazals made him an interesting room-mate. “We hit it off from the junior days and toured France for the the Junior World Cup in 1979 in Versailles. He loved Ghulam Ali's ghazals and would hum them all day. He was relaxed before big games and despite his reputation and expectations from him, he did not think too much about the opposition, he said.

Shahid, according to Negi, would practise his stick skills and ball control in his hotel room.

The former India goalkeeper explained: "Children of players or relatives would visit us at the hotel. Shahid would put on acts using the hockey stick and the ball, I remember him practising on these routines in the room. Greats like him had a sense of pride which did not go down well with some seniors. He was criticised for keeping possession of the ball for too long. Many forwards owe him credit for setting up goals for them by deceiving the defenders using those very skills. The forwards had an easy task of tapping in his fabulous passes."

Shahid first made an impact in Mumbai representing the Lucknow Sports Hostel side in the Aga Khan Hockey Tournament, recalled Negi, a former Mumbai Customs player.

Negi said that he stayed in touch with Shahid after retirement. “Every two days, he would send me a message. Once when I called, Shahid's son answered and told me about his father’s memory lapses. I could not meet him personally. There will never be another friend like him. I am grateful for the happy moments he gave us, on the hockey turf and off it."