Mohammed Shahid: Last of Indian Hockey's Golden Achievers
A file photo of Mohammed Shahid. (Getty Images)
New Delhi: Mohammed Shahid, or Shahid Bhai as he was lovingly addressed, fought unto death - just like he played for India with mastery possibly second only to Major Dhyan Chand and sole aim of seeing India wear nothing less than gold. But he won't be there to cheer for hockey at Rio Olympics. Despite the best of attempts by family, friends and the Government of India, the legend lost his battle to a liver ailment on July 20, 2016 - aged 56.
The ghats of his hometown Benares he loved so much and the hockey fields he frequently visited will feel silence of his absence forever. The game has certainly been left poorer with his loss.
Part of the last set of India's 'golden achievers' on the Olympic field, the 1980 Moscow gold medallist was first struck down by jaundice and the resultant liver complications snatched away one of India's most gifted and celebrated sportspersons.
The era of the '70s and '80s may not have been a match for the 'invincibles' of 1928 to 1956, but in Shahid, Zafar Iqbal, Ajit Pal Singh, Vasudev Baskaran and MK Kaushik, India had the best world could watch producing magic on a hockey field.
With Iqbal, Shahid formed a mesmerizing combination that left the fans spellbound and the opposition awestruck.
The short-statured Shahid could drive his way past a sea of defenders with dribbling skills that aren't result of practice but something a player is born with. It won't be, thus, wrong to suffice that Shahid was synonymous to hockey in the era he ruled.
It was heartening to see that Shahid's employers, the Railways, and the Indian government never let the family feel any burden of the huge costs his treatment at the Medanta Hospital in Gurugram required.
The legend is survived by his two children - Saif and Heena - and wife Parveen.
It was in 1979 that he was picked for India's tour of the West Indies, and struck an instant connect with his room partner on the tour - Baskaran. And nothing was left to be proved about his talent when he returned home with the 'Player of the Series' award. Rest, as they say, is history.
The boy Shahid was almost handpicked into the Indian team, and at times criticised for his defensive game. But he was not meant to defend. The best he knew was tie up the opposition defenders with magic that only Shahid could produce at that time. He did not go to the defenders, the defenders came for him, and were always left chasing as Shahid weaved his way past them. India is lucky that he was left alone to do what he did the best, and the 1980 Olympic gold followed.
But he certainly would not have liked to leave the way he did. 'Kings' are meant to rule, as Shahid did for all his years on the hockey field. Not that he gave up, Shahid never did, but this time it was the Almighty umpire up there who blew the final whistle.
Rest in peace, Shahid bhai.