Autobiography by Humair Ishtiaq
Reviewed by Omair Alavi
Pakistan has produced a lot of cricketers and hockey players, but only a few have managed to stand out due to their different approach, their over zealous nature and leadership qualities. Olympian Islahuddin Siddiqui is one such athlete who not only represented Pakistan hockey team for more than a decade but his astute leadership and honest approach to the national game made him one of the best ambassadors of Pakistan. ‘Dash Through My Life’ is his story.
Everyone who follows sports in Pakistan knows that Islahuddin was unmatched when he played the game. Not many know that his first love was athletics as he was first a sprinter who later transformed to a hockey player. He was famous for ‘Dashing’ at the opponents during penalty corners, hence the name of the book. Co-authored by veteran journalist Humair Ishtiaq, DTML is one of the few books that will keep you engrossed from the first till last page. The autobiography is written in simple English but the way Islahuddin narrates his story is amazing, just like the way he talks or used to run with the ball, dodging opponents and keeping Pakistan on top.
There is no denying the fact that Islahuddin represented Pakistan with dignity, but in this book, he talks about the highs and lows of his life as well as his career. Although the highs were mostly from his playing days, there is mention of how he felt after being dropped from the 1968 Olympic Games, why were most members of the team banned after the 1972 Olympic Games, and what were his feelings when the Qazi Moheb led national team reached the final of the World Cup in 1990 and lost. He also talks about the coaching assignment he took after Pakistan fared badly in the 1986 World Cup, which ended in disgrace after the team couldn’t qualify for the final at Barcelona Olympics six years later.
In this book, Islahuddin dedicates his success to his loving parents and their teachings. He also discloses that he was the colleague of former captain of the Pakistan cricket team Zaheer Abbas and veteran film actor Nadeem with whom he went to college. He also talks about his friendship with the Indian legend Dilip Kumar whom he befriended during his many tours to India.
Unlike the other autobiographies in the market, this one first takes the reader in comfort zone and afterwards the animated discussion makes even a non-hockey lover love the narrative. Be it discussing the upset Japanese win over Holland in the 1975 World Cup or the disputed goal that saw India become World Champions the same year, Islahuddin is never short of words. He also tells about his exploits off the field like writing about hockey after retirement, playing cricket with friends who were test cricketers as well as doing commentary for local and international media.
It is when he talks about the betterment of the game that he turns serious. He is one of the few players who not only led the Pakistan team with distinction but also helped the national team win the World Cup, the Asian Games, the Champions’ Trophy and the Asia Cup. Islah wants to share his experience with the youngsters but criticises the current management for destroying the national game due to their inept policies.
The pictures published in this book are as rare as the footage available of the maestro. The youngsters may not have seen the legendary Islahuddin play yet this book will help you imagine how great a player he was. It has been written in chronological manner and has forewords from legendary players - the Dutch great Paul Litjens and India’s World Cup winning captain Ajitpal Singh - who are on friendly terms with the author.
Just like he was famous for blocking the penalty corners, just like he was known as the fastest man on the hockey field and just like his ability to frustrate the opponents when he had the ‘magic’ stick in his hand, Islahuddin has written this book with ease. He blasts those who he claims were responsible for the downfall of the game, he praises people like former President General Zia ul Haq for facilitating the boys who gave their best and gives suggestions for improving the game, in his dash off the field.