Here is to Salim Durrani, a cavalier batsman and lethal bowler

Salim Durani, acclaimed Indian cricketer died April 2, 2023. Photo: Twitter @BCCI

It was as a ten-year-old that I first saw Salim Durrani (also spelt Durani) play at Jamnagar. My brother Manoj and I were taken to watch a friendly game of cricket at the Jamnagar cricket stadium by our eldest brother Trilochan’s friends, Micky Chana and Kartikeya Sarabhai sometime in late 1971 or early 1972.

Since Trilochan was away in Boston pursuing his Master’s degree in architecture at Harvard and our father Manharray had died barely a year earlier, my brother thought it would be a good distraction for the two of us to watch some cricket.

The memory of the game itself is hazy but that of the 37-year-old Durrani is quite vivid. Given Sarabhai’s connections, we were in the very best VIP enclosure where we could see cricketers walk to the ground up close; perhaps five feet away from us. Durrani was already the most charismatic figure of Indian cricket then. His tall frame, rakish good looks and an air of cavalier disregard for the bowler he was facing, not to mention his shirt collar upturned, all added to his charisma.

I remember saying to Manoj “aa jo” in Gujarati (see this) as Durrani walked past us, all padded-up and gloved and the shirt collar upturned. There was thunderous cheer with some in the enclosure already chanting “sixer, sixer” in anticipation of his reputation as a batsman (In those days we called them batsman and not batter) who hit sixes at will. Of course, Durrani himself had no illusion about his much-celebrated prowess as in many interviews years later he would say, “No one can hit a six on demand. It is only when you occasionally get a delivery (ball) that can be hit that you hit. It was my good fortune that I would occasionally get a ball that could be hit.”

I do not remember how much he scored during the Jamnagar game but don’t think it was much because he returned to the pavilion quite quickly. In any case it was a friendly tie, and the result did not really matter. I do remember though that once standing in the Third man position, he seemed to deliberately let the ball slip through under his legs, gifting the batsman a boundary or four runs. It was all in good fun. Incidentally, the predominant job of the Third man is to save runs.

Along with the wicketkeeper Farokh Engineer, Durrani’s teammate and three years younger than him, Durrani was perhaps the most charismatic presence in the Indian team in the 1960s and 70s. I remember distinctly the slogan “No Durrani, no Test” after he was dropped from the team for 1973 Test match at Kanpur for reasons which were not entirely clear. He was so popular that there was a countrywide protest. Interestingly though, his career statistics do not necessarily reinforce his reputation.

As a batsman, during his 29 Test appearances he scored 1202 runs with one century (104) and seven half centuries. He had 15 sixes to his name. In the first-class cricket, he played 170 matches and scored 8545 runs with 14 centuries, 45 half centuries.

As a bowler he took 75 wickets in Test cricket at an average of 35.42 and economy of 2.47. In the first-class games, he took 484 wickets at an average of 26.09 and economy of 2.69.

As a bowler, Durrani’s slow left arm orthodox style could be utterly unplayable and win matches. For instance, during the second innings of the 1971 Port of Spain Test match, Durrani claimed two rapid wickets of the great sluggers Clive Lloyd and the legendary of Gary Sobers, the latter for zero and changed the course of the game. That was India’s first Test win against the West Indies.

On his day, Durrani was a match-winner either through his sixes or wickets. Given his six-plus feet height he could turn the ball very sharply leaving batsmen struggling.

Born in Kabul, Afghanistan on December 11, 1934, he made his name and reputation in Jamnagar, the bastion of Indian cricket because of Ranjitsinh, the Maharaja of Nawanagar’s unbridled passion for the game and himself one of the finest cricketers.

Given his obvious good looks and charisma it was inevitable that Salim Durrani would be offered movies. He did one called ‘Charitra’ (Character), 1973, with Parveen Babi where he played the Hindi cinema version of a bad boy. The movie had Durrani mouthing lines such as “सूरजचढ़नेकेबादमैंहरउसऔरतसेनफरतकरताहूँजिसकेसाथमैंनेरातगुज़ारीहो.” (After sunrise, I hate every woman with whom I have spent the night.) Not much of an actor, he did not make any worthwhile career as a movie star.

Had Salim Durrani been a cricketer in current times he would have been one of the most admired cricket stars flooded with lucrative endorsement deals. He came at a time when cricket was cricket and not a straight path to insane fame and fortune.

In his passing, we have lost one of those brilliant originals who made the game of cricket the game of cricket.

(The author is a Chicago-based journalist, commentator and filmmaker. Views are personal. He can be reached at

This article appeared in on April 2, 2023. updated by author. Used with permission.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here