Hashim permitted me to beat him in British Open, admits Azam

Karachi: Azam Khan, regarded as one of the sport’s greatest players, has admitted for the first time that he was ‘allowed’ to beat his older brother, Hashim, when the pair were playing together in the 1960s.

In a new book by British squash journalist Rod Gilmour, ‘Trading Secrets: squash greats recall their toughest duels’, Azam lifts the lid on decades of rumors in the squash world that the Khans had their own rules of family hierarchy and ascendancy.

It was widely believed that a younger Khan could only beat the elder when the latter decided that it was time for the former to take over. This was in line with the respect for the family elder and one ingrained in Pushtun culture.

Older brother Hashim, who passed away in 2013, beat Azam in three British Open finals in the 1950s.

But in Trading Secrets, Azam describes the day when he first beat Hashim.

“The first time I won against Hashim came at the British Open in 1960. Roshan Khan, who was Jahangir Khan’s father, was doing the Squash Rackets Association a favour at the time by playing with several top juniors.

“In return, they changed the rule, the world No.1 and No.2 in the same half of the draw. It would mean Roshan would get an easy passage through to the final.

“I was playing Hashim in the semi-final and usually, as he was the big brother, I respected him and would never beat him because of that. I didn’t want to beat him! I asked him before we went on court whether his leg was holding up. He said it wasn’t good, so I said I had better win as Roshan would have beaten him in the final. He agreed to let me win with his permission.”

In previous interviews, Azam had neither confirmed nor denied the rumours.

He told Squash Player Magazine four years ago: “Respect for an elder brother is very much ingrained in our Pushtun culture. The words bhai sahib [respected brother] meant everything to me. He was my coach and mentor.”

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