Hashim Khan, Patriarch of a Squash Dynasty, Is Dead

William Yardley in the New York Times:

ScreenHunter_759 Aug. 22 15.05Hashim Khan, who learned to play squash when he was a boy, retrieving stray balls for British military officers in Pakistan, and went on to become a champion and the patriarch of a family dynasty in the sport, died on Monday in Denver. He was believed to be 100.

His death was confirmed by his son Mohammad.

Pakistan was not yet an independent nation when Khan began working as a ball boy at a British officers’ club near Peshawar where his father, Abdullah, was the head steward. When he was not fetching balls hit over walls — courts used to be roofless — young Hashim watched game after game.

When the officers cleared the courts, he went out to practice, barefoot. Sometimes he traded his lunch for lessons. The hard work eventually got him a job teaching squash at the club and led to the belated break that made him a star.

He was in his 30s and a national champion in his homeland when a player he regularly defeated, Abdul Bari of Bombay, made it to the final of squash’s British Open. Khan had not played internationally, but Bari’s success prompted Khan’s supporters to raise money to send him to the tournament in 1951. There were concerns that he was too old, but with Pakistan having just become independent from India, it was a matter of national pride.

He was at least 36 — and possibly several years older — when he played for the first time in the Open, squash’s most celebrated tournament. Khan made an impressive debut, vanquishing an array of international stars on his way to the final, where he defeated the man presumed to be world’s best player, the four-time champion Mahmoud Karim of Egypt, 9-5, 9-0, 9-0.

Khan won the Open for six straight years. In 1956, he defeated his cousin Roshan in the final. Roshan was 26 at the time. Khan was in his 40s.

The next year, he lost to Roshan in the final. Although it was a defeat for Khan, it enhanced his family’s fame.

More here. [Thanks to Farrukh Azfar.]