Growing up in a cricket-mad family in Kenya, Baharat Hassan had dreams of playing in England but that precocious boy could not have even dreamt of becoming President of one of the most famous clubs, and most revered grounds, in the cricket world.
Attacking middle-order batter, occasional bowler, excellent cover point fielder, more than competent wicketkeeper, Commercial Manager, Committee member, Vice-President, Club President and all-round cult hero, ‘Basher’ Hassan has fulfilled many roles for his adopted county since his arrival in England in 1966.
At the January meeting of the Nottingham Cricket Lovers Society (NCLS), ‘Basher’, as he is affectionately known, told a packed audience the story of that journey – with a few detours along the way – concentrating on his cricket in Nairobi and his first few seasons with Nottinghamshire.
Basharat began playing club cricket in his pre-teens and by the time he was fifteen was being picked for representative sides in Kenya, and for East Africa. Having shown his potential in club cricket he made his First-Class debut for an East African Invitation XI against the touring MCC in November 1963.
His batting – and keeping – greatly impressed members of the opposition, including England legend Tom Graveney, and he was encouraged to try his luck in the County game. Even with such support it still took a while and it was three years later that he moved to England.
Notts were the first county club to offer a contract, initially for just one season and he signed up…confident about his own ability but unsure how he would cope with the cold in England. “The day I arrived,” Basher said, “it was bright and sunny – but I still had to put a coat on!”
His modest contract included ‘accommodation,’ which turned out to be a room at the Nottingham YMCA (breakfast included) and on his first day he had to ask directions to the ground.
As Basher told the NCLS, to much laughter, he mistook the Trent Bridge Inn for the entrance to the cricket ground on his first day with his new employers!
He displayed proudly photos of himself and his family during those formative cricket years in Nairobi, along with plenty of team photos in which Basharat became an increasingly central figure. In that era – late 1950s – England/MCC and other international teams visited Kenya fairly regularly and the young Basher played with, or against, such luminaries as Graveney, Basil d’Oliveira, Roy Marshall and Everton Weekes.
All of which was excellent preparation for his introduction to cricket in England. Initially, he had to wait for two years to qualify to play county cricket (this was reduced to one year during his qualification) so he was sent out by Notts to play club cricket in two seasons, firstly at Worksop.
“I remember them telling me that I would get a meal as part of my payment,” he said, “That turned out to be fish-and-chips – every Saturday.”
Basharat Hassan did establish himself in the Notts first team squad, often fielding close in at short leg if he wasn’t behind the stumps and making some impressive scores. Even so, when Garry Sobers joined Notts in 1968, the regulations on overseas players meant he was more often in the second XI until the regulations were relaxed.
Undaunted, he continued to impress and was picked for the Rothmans International Cavaliers, a nomad side that played Sunday games against county opposition and whose success paved the way for the Sunday League and the growth of limited-overs cricket.
Ironically, when Basher hade his debut for the Cavaliers, against a University ‘old boys’ eleven, his skipper was the man who was keeping him out of the Notts First XI, Garry Sobers.
Basher recalled that he opened the bowling with Sobers and bowled nine overs in the day. He was also there at the end of the innings, at the non-striker’s end when Garry closed out the game with three consecutive sixes (apparently in pursuit a side bet with opposition captain Ted Dexter).
With such a full life and busy career - Basher was part of the 1981 Championship winning squad - he could only touch on some of his achievements in one meeting. He did find time to tell the story of how he had been drafted into to the England dressing room to take up Twelfth Man duties as a specialist bat-pad catcher in the Ashes Test at Trent Bridge in 1985. There was even the suggestion that he might join the squad for the next test at Old Trafford but the Aussies were not keen on a specialist being given the duties again.
When invited – more correctly instructed – to field as ‘sub’ Basher had to race home to get his kit and alert his wife Ann to put the television on in case he was featured at any point.
One fascinating recollection was how close he came to being a Pakistan test player. Basharat qualified for selection because his parents had been born in Pakistan and he was approached by the then captain to see if he would make himself available. In the end, though, the selection panel opted for another all-rounder and the chance was gone.
Basher ended the evening by stressing how much he loved being part of Nottinghamshire cricket and his pride in being chosen as the club’s President. A long-serving and much-loved character around Trent Bridge, it seems certain that there are more ‘Basher’ anecdotes to be discovered.
Membership of NCLS is £15pa or entry on the night for £5 per session. The next session, on 2 February, will look feature near neighbours Derbyshire with a talk from David Griffin plus a session with Anuj Dal who played for Notts and Derbyshire and is now vice-chair of the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA).
Full details of the 2022/23 programme from email@example.com.
A copy of Basharat Hassan’s autobiography, Basher, is in the Trent Bridge Library and available members of Notts CCC to borrow.