IND Vs PAK Davis Cup: Meeting Separated Brothers Says Pakistan's Hamed ul Haq On Team India's Arrival

Pakistan's former tennis player, Hamed ul Haq recalls being treated like family during a satellite tournament in India and now wishes to extend the same hospitality to the Indian Davis Cup team as they arrived in Islamabad after 60 years

X/ Sunil Yajaman
India Davis Cup Team Photo: X/ Sunil Yajaman

For Hameed ul Haq, meeting India captain and coach Zeeshan Ali in Islamabad was like reuniting with his separated brother. (IND Vs PAK Davis Cup Streaming | More Tennis News)

More than 36 years have passed since he visited Bengaluru but the former Pakistan Davis Cup captain vividly remembers how Zeeshan's father, the late Akhtar Ali, would take care of the Pakistan players.  

He still remembers how he made the mistake of entering Trivandrum without a valid visa and was sent back by a DIG without causing any discomfort to him. 

Hameed, now 62 years old, still remembers the generous act of Indian player Srinivasan Vasudevan who took him home when he was struggling to find accommodation in Bengaluru in 1987 when he had gone to the city to compete in a satellite tournament. 

He still remembers that Delhi food was as spicy as he would get in Karachi.

Hameed, honoured with the Pride of Performance (a title in Pakistan) in 2000, is gushing about the fact that an Indian team has come to Pakistan to play tennis.

"Now that I am meeting the Indian contingent here in Islamabad, it feels like I have met my own brothers, who got separated. Coach Zeeshan Ali is a very good friend of mine. His father Akhtar Ali also used to help us a lot. He was like our father and coach, he was helping the Pakistanis a lot," Hamed told PTI in an interview.

"During the Asian Cup in Dubai, I had lost the semifinal to Zeeshan. In Lahore also I met him. I knew he is coming, I was waiting with excitement for him. I want to take him home and help him see the city, but you know, it is not possible in current circumstances."

In India and Pakistan, applicants get city-specific visa because of the diplomatic tension between the two countries.

Hameed, who played Davis Cup between 1984 and 1997, had travelled to Delhi for the Asian Games in 1982, and fondly shared memories of those days.

"I don't feel I am in a foreign land when I go to India. India is like Pakistan. The language, the food, the attires, everything is similar. The spicy food that we have in Karachi, the same taste we got in Delhi too. 

"Then, in 1987, I played Satellite tournaments in Bombay, Bangalore and Trivandrum. I was facing problems in getting an accommodation, and India player Vasusevan learnt about it and took me to his home.

"There was a security concern, but Vasudevan said he did not care and took me home. I felt like I am staying at my own home. Whenever there was an issue, someone would stand up and find a solution for us."

Hameed also shared how he was helped by a concerned Indian when he got carried away and dared to meet his uncle without a valid visa.

"I had one uncle in Bangalore and another in Coimbatore but I did not have visa for that place. I could not go there. But my Bengaluru uncle bought me a ticket and said you go and don't worry. 

"In Trivandrum a DIG who was a student of my uncle was surprised to see me and asked 'how did I get here'?

"He said you could be in trouble, you have come without a visa, and sent me back. He handled the situation so well. So I was treated well even there. 

"Otherwise, I could have been picked up by the police and probably would not have returned. So, I have some great memories from India."

Hameed's father, Siraj ul Haq, was one of the finest tennis players in undivided India. He also played hockey.

During World War II, for war fund-raising a championship was organised between the amateur and professional players. Siraj was the best professional player at that time and Ghaus Mohammad was the best amateur.

"The matches were played in Bombay, Madras and Lahore. My father used to talk about those days. He even played hockey and competed in Agha Khan Gold Cup and was part of the team that became the first Muslim side to win that tournament, in 1942," Hameed said.

Talking about the upcoming tie, Hameed said, "Indian tennis has always been ahead of Pakistan tennis.

"We have learnt a lot from Indian tennis. When Anil Khanna was at helm, he supported us a lot. We have got some good results on grass but the Indian team is also very good on this surface. 

"They know what is required. I feel India have better chances to win this tie, but since Pakistan has two very experienced players in Aqeel Khan and Aisam ul haq Qureshi, if they play singles, then the contest will be tight."