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Nezam Hafiz: The only cricketer to lose his life in the 9/11 attacks

Nezam Hafiz: The only cricketer to lose his life in the 9/11 attacks

Nezam Hafiz played for Guyana and USA. He lost his life during the attacks on September 11, 2001. (Photo courtesy: 911memorial.org)

The Guyanese Nezam Hafiz had passed away on September 11, 2001. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the only First-Class cricketer whose life was claimed by the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York City.

It was a day like any other in New York City. Nezam Hafiz was early to work (he was always early to work: he was brought up in a household like that). He was there, inside the Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. office on the 94th Floor of Tower One of World Trade Centre. They never got to know what he was doing when the aircraft crashed into the building; they will never get to know.

Nezam Ahmed Hafiz is the only cricketer to have been killed by the infamous attack on World Trade Centre on September 9, 2001.

The man

Had he made it big he would probably have made a name as one of the most stylish cricketers around. He played hard — but was seldom spotted in dirty cricket attire; nobody had a permission to touch Hafiz’s hair, and he always smelled of more cologne than was needed.

As his ex-roommate Carl Hooper reminisced: “He’d [Hafiz] go into the bath and, man, he’d be there for half an hour. He’d come out and he had these black shorts, boxers, on, and he would stand in front of the mirror and there was this little curl he had at the front of his hair, just a little curl going, a little wave going, and he would spend minutes just trying to fix it right.”

The career

Born on April 21, 1969, in Rose Hall, Hafiz had taken to cricket at a very early age. He made his debut against the Leeward Islands Under-19s and scored 66 in the next match against Windward Islands Under-19s, both at Kingston. He batted at three against Trinidad and Tobago Under-19s at Spanish Town; the number three in the opposition was a certain Brian Lara.

After a delightful 119 against Leeward Islands at Kensington Oval he was selected for Demerara for the highly anticipated Guyana derby against Berbice: Hafiz’s maiden First-Class match was washed out. He played three matches for Guyana that season and played on till 1990-91 before moving to the United States next season. Before leaving he donated most of his cricket kit to Malteeones Cricket Club — his old club — in Demerara.

He went on to play a Red Stripes Cup match for United States of America (USA)  against Leeward Islands but could not bat due to an injury he picked up while fielding that resulted in five stitches. In the summer of 2000 he went on a tour of England where he scored a 70-ball 58 with nine fours and two sixes against Minor Counties at Stone. He did play one more match for USA — against Cayman Islands at King City later that year.

However, he was strongly associated with the American Cricket Society [ACS]; he played for them in the Commonwealth Cricket League [CCL]; he earned a name as an improviser with the bat and a keen runner between the wickets. During his tenure ACS won CCL seven out of nine times. He went on to lead ACS, and was subsequently selected as an all-CCL captain in New York’s Inter-League Tournament.

In 2001, Hafiz was named the vice-captain for an USA tour to Canada. With USA taking strides in international cricket (they qualified for ICC Champions Trophy in 2004) Hafiz was one of the contenders for the captain’s spot.

It was not to happen, though.

Instead, if you go to Panel N-6 of the North Pool you will come across his name. He is just one of the 2,983 names in the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Centre site. They have renamed his residence at South Ozone Park in Liberty Avenue, Queens as Nezam Hafiz Villa.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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