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Md Shahid, the stylist (8/2/2008)
--K. Arumugam
When India won the Series against Pakistan in 1986, Hassan Sardar, the Pakistani captain summed up, "We have not lost to India, but to Shahid."

This was what Shahid was capable of. Every time the Varanasi born shackled off the shadow of defenders, it ended in India making a goal, a penalty corner awarded or a stroke gained.

Shahid, unlike Dhyan Chand or Balbir Singh, was not exactly groomed to score goals. As an inside forward, his role was mainly to set up goals. For the almost 9 years Shahid played for India, he was our schemer and scorer rolled in one.

During 1984 and 1985 India did not lose a single match to Pakistan, the controversial Dhaka Asia Cup final in which five Indian players were suspended being the lone exception. Hockey was at its best with the irrepressible Shahid on one side and the master Hasan Sardar on the other.

undefined Born in 1960, the year India forfeited its hegemony on the Olympic gold, Shahid took up the game very early during his school days. His entry into the veritable hockey nursery, Lucknow Sports Hostel, did wonders in honing his skills. After figuring in a few junior international engagements, he graduated to senior grade when he was even below 19 year of age. The 1979 Esanda World Cup marked the arrival of the great player.

At the Moscow Olympics, the youngest of the Indian lot, Shahid, set up so many goals and proved to be a saviour. Fittingly, he scored the winning goal in the final off a cross from right winger MK Kaushik. This fourth goal took away the match from the fighting Spain. India defeated them 4-3 for its eighth Olympic gold. On return, captain Vasudevan Baskaran said, “I haven’t seen a better player than Shahid”.

The run up to Seoul Olympics was bumpy. Azlan Shah Cup and Pakistan series wins in 1985 was marred by last finish at the World Cup a year later. Further, Shahid and coach MP Ganesh drifted, leading to him used sparing at Seoul. India lost the semis by a point, unable to score a goal against the British. Shahid was played only in the second half! Dejected Shahid announced his retirement soon after.

Shahid was the man of the moment for those who believed in the Asian style of hockey and his role in strengthening it cannot be overemphasised. For them, Shahid provided the much needed saving grace.

Dhyan Chand gave a sporting identity to the nation still under colonial rule; Balbir Singh personified emerging native talent; Leslie Claudius signified the Anglo-Indians legacy besides setting a benchmark for endurance while Shankar Laxman symbolized the goal-keeper's supremacy in victories. What then is the role of Shahid? Modern hockey’s marketing marvel -- as his game brought enormous crowd – though the authorities couldn’t see him as such.

Shahid adapted to the needs of the new playing surface without compromising the essentials of the Oriental system. He proved that these intrinsic skills are still as useful as they were in the halcyon days. He defended his style: "God has gifted me this talent of dribbling. I do it naturally, without any training or practice

Part extract from the book 'Great Indian Olympians'

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