Some people who are gifted with athletic talent may work hard and develop their skill and stamina and if they are successful and if God wills it, they go on to achieve great feats in the sport of their choice. There are a few rare cases where a person has excelled in two different sports. But Hyderabad once had a son who excelled at so many different sports that he was given the nickname of Rainbow. Because he had as many talents as a Rainbow has colours.
His name was Syed Mohammad Hadi. He excelled at cricket, football, hockey, tennis, table tennis, polo and chess. In cricket he was the first player to score a century in the Ranji trophy championship after it was started in 1934. In tennis he represented India in the Davis Cup tournaments. He also represented India in tennis at the Olympic Games in 1924.
Hadi’s father was Syed Mohammad who was an officer in the army in the then Nizam’s Hyderabad State. Tragically the gentleman passed away when his son Syed Mohammad Hadi was only two years old. The family was able to get along but as the baby grew into a boy it was felt that his schooling and education should be under able hands.
That is when the family of Sir Asman Jah, former Prime Minister of Hyderabad State, came to the rescue. Perhaps the family members had known that the boy’s father was an able and dedicated officer and felt that the little boy should be given all possible help to fulfill his potential. No doubt their motives were charitable and the little boy profited from it.
Interestingly Hadi grew up with Nawab Moin ud Dowla who later became a leading patron of sports in Hyderabad. When he was a little older Hadi was sent to Nizam College – then the leading education institution in Hyderabad. It was when he was studying at Nizam College that he developed a love for horse riding and took up the game of Polo.
He was already showing his amazing skills at various sports. He was playing cricket and football for the Nizam college team and his remarkable skills drew the attention of the teachers as well as the coaches and his fellow students. Realising that his destiny lay beyond the confines of Hyderabad, the family of Sir Asman Jah decided to send the boy for further studies to England.
The decision proved to be the right one and when he reached England Hadi joined Cambridge University.
It was while studying at Cambridge that Hadi’s abilities came to be noticed at an international level. He represented the University against arch rivals Oxford. Hadi helped Cambridge to win tennis tournaments against Oxford and also university teams from the USA.
That was not all. He went on to represent Cambridge University in hockey, football and table tennis. The media came to know about this extremely talented lad from Hyderabad in India and his skills caught the eyes of the sports fans and patrons in England. But it was not smooth sailing all the time. He could have become the captain of the University team but was denied the position probably because he was from India.
In a magazine in England it was reported: “The wardrobe in his (Hadi’s) room at Peterhouse must have been bursting with light blue jackets, as he shone at polo, tennis, soccer, field hockey, cricket and table tennis. A particularly fine tennis player, it is at the racket game that his sporting career perhaps hit its greatest heights, as he played at Wimbledon five times, reaching the doubles quarter final in 1926. He also represented India at the 1924 summer Olympics and in the Davis Cups of 1925 and 1926. The run of representative appearances for his country must have more than made up for his frustration at being denied the Light Blues’ tennis captaincy on account of his nationality.”
But the denial of captaincy did not discourage his fighting spirit. He continued to develop his tennis game and was selected to represent India at the Davis Cup on two occasions. His game was good enough to get him a place in the Wimbledon championships five times where he played in the doubles events. And then he also represented India in the Olympic Games.
After returning to India he played cricket for Hyderabad. His first class career lasted ten years during which he scored more than 1000 runs at a healthy average of 32.59 per innings with two centuries. His highest score was 132 not out. He was already an established player in the national scene when the Ranji trophy began and he was the first player to score a century in the championship.
It came in the third match of the inaugural season of the Ranji trophy. The first two matches did not see any century being scored. The third match was played between Hyderabad and Madras at Secunderabad. The match saw the hosts Hyderabad, led by Syed Mohamad Hussain while the Madras team was led by M Venkataramanjulu.
Hyderabad won the toss and decided to bat first. The team scored 256. In reply to which Madras scored 301. In its second innings Hyderabad was in disarray when Hadi walked out to bat. Three wickets had fallen with the total only 12 at that stage. But Hadi turned the game around with a sparkling knock. He scored an unbeaten 132 even as wickets fell at the other end.
He thus became the first ever centurion in the Ranji trophy championship. Needless to say, his batting helped Hyderabad to win the match.
In his first class career Hadi fought duels with legends such as C.K.Nayudu, Cotah Ramasamy, A.G. Ram Singh, Mushtaq Ali and others. Hadi represented the Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram’s team in the Moin-ud-Dowla Gold Cup cricket tournament at the Gymkhana ground in Secunderabad. Back then the tournament was designated as a first class event.
His brothers Hussein Mohammad and Asghar Ali were talented cricketers too who played first class level. So sports talent probably ran in the family. It was not just Rainbow Hadi alone. It is not known now who gave him the nickname of Rainbow. But it may have been a name that was mentioned in the media and was widely accepted after that.
After he left his active sports careers he took up sports administration along with his other duties. In addition to his degree from Cambridge University he had also acquired a Masters degree from the University of Pennsylvania. His educational qualifications and his great knowledge were needed in the government and he served as an administrator. He rose up the ranks to become Joint Secretary in the Education Department in the Government of India.
In Hyderabad he used his contacts and influence to spread the development of sports. He was one of the founder members of the football association along with the famous coach Syed Abdul Rahim and others. He was also a founder member of the Hyderabad Cricket Association and the Tennis Association.
Sadly the multi talented sportsman developed lung cancer in later life and passed away in 1971. He left behind a legacy that inspired and served the interest of sports in and around Hyderabad for many decades.
Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.