- 1984-Sunday News
By: ABDULRAZAK FAZAL
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Talk of cricket and invariably Sajjad Lakha’s name comes to the forefront.
Sajjad’s ideals have been Richie Benaud and BS Chandrashekhar, the legendary spinners, and he tries to model on them. This is the tendency with every cricket aspirant who tries to emulate his heroes. Sajjad’s dedication to cricket makes him the country’s leading spinner. Born on 7th August,1957 in Zanzibar, Sajjad is a charming personality exuding with flamboyance. Married over a year ago, Sajjad is still to open account in matrimony. The talkative young lad is loved by all for his wittiness and admired for his courage.
Sajjad is a good all round crickter who is tremendously keen on the game, on and off the field. Sajjad’s cricket began in 1972 when he played for his school, Shaban Robert, in Daressalaam. While in Karachi, Pakistan, he played at the club level for Jafferies and recalls an instance when he was made to play for Layalpur University against the Karachi University team comprising a couple of Pakistani test players.
On Sajjad’s return to Daressalaam in 1976, he played for ‘Eaglets’ before joining Union in 1977. In 1978 Sajjad was selected to play for the National Team in the Quadrangular held in Daressalaam. In his very first appearance against the formidable Kenyans he claimed 5 wickets , including the valuable one of their ace cricketer Zulfikar Ali.
The two seasons between 1980 and 1982 provided Sajjad with a haul of some 90 wickets when Union’s attack was spearheaded by the likes of Amir Ghulamhusain, Bashir Tejani and Yusuf Kabana. He was chosen the best bowler by DCA on two instances, adjudged the best bowler in the 1981 ‘Pentangular’ at Malawi where he was again conferred the same title in 1982 during the AG Tarmohamed tournament.
If the current season is characterized by the charismatic batting of the veterans the past few seasons were marked for the enigmatic bowling of Sajjad. He was the only Tanzanian selected for the trial game in Kenya prior to the selection of the final team to represent East Africa in the 1979 World Cup. Again he was the only Tanzanian in the East African squad that contested the ICC trophy in England last year.
That tour of England remains a memorable one for Sajjad. He was the highest wicket taker with 21 for the team that boasted of East Africa’s cream bowlers. He also shone with the bat scoring an unbeaten 44 against Kingsheath. Sajjad had the honour of receiving coaching at Bournville in Birmingham from the great Basil D’olivera who had been responsible for halting the racist South Africa from participating in international cricket. Incidentally Damien D’olivera, the son of Basil D’olivera who now plays for his father’s county Worcestershire was one of
Sajjad’s three Worcester City victims.
As the initial spell of bowling by Union’s fast bowlers is over it is a usual sight in Daressalaam to see the skipper turning towards the direction of Sajjad and pointing out to him to bowl. Sajjad is crafty enough to keep the batsman guessing about the movement of the ball when it is pitched. On the current scene very few bowlers can extract the same spin from a good length ball as Sajjad does. To be classified a good spinner the degree of accuracy concerning line and length is of great essence. Sajjad has this uncanny ability to extract spin from a good length delivery. Invariably when he bowls full flight the batsman expects short of a length or full toss delivery that he can spank through the covers but that does not always work and proves a misconception.
In a thrilling Sunday league encounter at Coast Gymkhana against Dar Cricketers in 1980 Union were 92 all out by lunch. At tea Dar Cricketers at 55 for 3 anticipated an easy win. Then began the drama as Sajjad became unplayable and Dar Cricketers found themselves reduced to 68 for 7. That was the beginning of the end as Sajjad struck with his following three deliveries claiming a hatrick, an unusual feat in cricket.
The Minor Counties team that had visited last year were contained by the superb bowling of Sajjad as evidenced by his bowling analysis that read 2 wickets for 21 runs off 11 overs of which 4 were maiden.
One of Sajjad’s best bowling performance was recorded against the powerful Universal team of Zimbabwe in the AG Tarmohamed tournament in Malawi last year. The Zimbabweans were sailing smoothly at 103 for 2 when Sajjad stormed in to demolish their middle order line up reducing them to 105 for 7. They could add just 2 runs but in the process lost 5 wickets of which Sajjad grabbed 4.
Also against the visiting MCC side in 1981 Sajjad displayed his powerful spin weapon and claimed 4 of their wickets including those prize ones of Hampshire’s Mark Nicholas and Worwickshire’s Asif Din.
Of late Sajjad is more noted for his accuracy and variation of flight rather than prodigious spin unlike the past. This tendency is ascribed to the negative tactic that he applies so that fewer runs are scored off his bowling. The immense haul of wickets that had characterized his earlier performance is thus lacking now.
Sajjad’s batting contribution has been nothing less spectacular. He is a dependable batsman who has often saved his team from a seemingly hopeless situation. Against Coast Gymkhana in the knockout game a couple of years back Union were trailing at 63 for 5 and the target a long way to reach. Coast’s Kaderbhai was unplayable on that day but Sajjad defied him with a stubborn knock of 28 runs and denied Coast victory. In a similar display against Dar Cricketers in a Saturday game at Gymkhana ground Union facing a score of 115 were 60 for 6 before Sajjad came to their rescue with another responsible innings of 21 runs.
Sajjad has been instrumental to Union. Since his emergence with Union in 1977 Union has won all the trophies except the 1981 Saturday league one. Besides cricket Sajjad also excels in such other sports as volleyball, badminton and squash. He is natural at any sport to which he adapts admiringly, quickly and fairly well.
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