August 2, 2022 Akshanth Gunda

Rainbow man of India

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Syed Mohammad Hadi was a prodigy from princely Hyderabad with a fascinating life. He was the first man to score a century in the prestigious Ranji Trophy and played in Wimbledon for 5 straight years and made it to the Quarter Finals in 1926. 

If that is not enough, he also represented India at the Olympics and Davis Cup, played football for Nizam college, ruled the sports scene at Cambridge University, and wrote a book on football training in Urdu. 

Long story short, there hasn’t been another like Syed Mohammad Hadi. After his father’s demise, he was raised in the court of Nizam of Hyderabad, along with young Nawab Moin-Ud-Dowla – after whom the cricket tournament was named. 

He showed unmatched talent when he was a young footballer at Nizam College as an inside left. He was known for his exceptional stamina, his propensity for taking corner kicks with deadly accuracy, and his ability not to miss any scoring opportunity in the box.

Incidentally, Hadi was a man of extraordinary sporting talent. Everything he touched, turned to gold. He exhibited exceptional prowess in whatever sport he played – tennis, hockey, football, cricket, table tennis, polo or even chess. 

During his study in England, he especially excelled in hockey and tennis and quickly became a favourite. When Hadi embarked upon his final semester, the editor of a college magazine lamented “How can we live without you? How can we let you go?”

In addition to the seven sports mentioned, Hadi also mastered Lacrosse, an American sport, which he readily picked up while studying in the US for his physical education degree at Pennsylvania University.

In 1934, he became the first man to score a century in the inaugural Ranji Trophy against Madras and in early 1936, he starred alongside the Indian cricketing legend Lala Amarnath in an unofficial Test match against Australia in Chepauk. 

His expertise in sports administration also deserves a special mention here. He went to England in 1936 as the player-treasurer of the Indian cricket team. Hadi was one of the founders of athletics, cricket, hockey, and tennis associations in Hyderabad.

Later in his life, he also wrote two books – one on football and another on physical education and as a director of physical education in Hyderabad state, he was responsible for introducing height and age groups for inter-school football tournaments. 

Once young Hadi scored an unbeaten century beating the European team for the first time in years, and a week after he survived a severe attack of plague, but a rumour spread in the city that he was dead. 

Hearing the brutal news, an epitaph was prepared for his grave that read – 

“Here reclines the poor Hadi, quite out of breath

A century batsman now, bowled out by death”

His effortless authority in playing seven sports earned him the wonderful nickname “The Rainbow Hadi”. What a character and what a life. Today is his death anniversary.

Sources:

National Portrait Gallery, The Perne and Ward Library, Rekhta.org, Sport and Pastime/N Ganeshan, Wikipedia commons, India Rail Info.

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