When Gavaskar failed to watch a Hyderabad star in action
Hyderabad: Much before the Sanias and the Sainas became poster girls of Hyderabad sports, the city had its first star in Mir Khasim Ali, who represented India in TT for close to a decade, and such was his popularity that even Sunil Gavaskar failed to enter a packed stadium where the young sensation was playing.
Being a part of three World Championships, three Asian Championships and two Commonwealth Championships, Ali, 65, who now lives a quiet life in the city where he once ruled the roost, fondly remembers the 'Golden Days' when sports stars did not earn money but a lot of "respect".
"Those were different days. We never played for money. It was just about honour. I remember Sunil Gavaskar once told me that he could not enter a stadium in Mumbai where I was playing because it was packed. Later of course, he was always welcomed to sit in the front row when he became a Test star," Khasim told PTI in a freewheeling chat at his Bashirbagh residence in the city.
An Arjuna Awardee in 1969 - the year he was senior national champion for a second time around, a good-looking Khasim was even rated as the most handsome sportsperson by a national sports magazine, ahead of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi. Compliment the graceful man about his looks even now and Khasim blushes.
"It was embarrassing. Girls would ask for autographs on their hands. Sometimes I was with my wife and the female attention would just get too much. But I enjoyed the sports part. I travelled the world, played with the best and it was fun," recalls Khasim.
Being Runner-up in the first Commonwealth Championships in Singapore in 1971 was the high point of his career, where Khasim shocked many top players and got a hero's welcome back home. Only current star Achanta Sharath Kamal has bettered the feat by winning the men's singles gold in the 16th Commonwealth table tennis championship held at Kuala Lumpur in 2004.