Syed Mushtaq Ali was a legendary Indian cricketer of all time. He was known as a big hitter of the ball and one of the fastest runners between the wickets. Figures should not be the yardstick to measure Mushtaq’s stature, as he played in 11 Tests, totalling 612 runs at an average of 32.21. Mushtaq played for Central India, Gujarat, Holkar and United Provinces, spanning two decades and more. In 1950-51 season, he scored 948 runs for Holkar, with a hat-trick of centuries, 125 v UP, 100 v Hyderabad and 100 not out v West Bengal, apart from 187 v Gujarat. He aggregated 5013 runs in the Ranji Trophy at an average of 49.15.
His popularity among the fans was so immense that when spectators found that he was not in the Indian team to play the Australian Services, they staged a protest in Calcutta in 1946.
Taking a walk down memory lane, his son Gulrez Ali, recalls how his famous father rejected former Pakistan prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s offer of Pakistani citizenship just after the partition in 1948. Mushtaq was offered Pakistani citizenship twice by the erstwhile Pakistan premier.
“My father once told me that he was invited by Zulifqar Ali Bhutto, if my memory serves me right, around 1947-48 to come to Pakistan and live there but he refused.”
“The second proposal was, I think, during Bhutto’s meeting with Indira Gandhi in Shimla in the 70s. He politely refused on both the occasions, telling Bhutto that – India is my home, it has given me everything and I will live here all my life.”
Born on December 17, 1914, in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, at 19 years and 19 days, Mushtaq became the youngest ever then to represent India against the MCC team led by Douglas Jardine in 1933-34 at Calcutta. Mushtaq had passed away at 91. Fittingly, India’s domestic T20 tournament has been named after him.