Tributes poured in from around the world as legendary Test cricketer and former Pakistan captain, Hanif Mohammad passed away late on Thursday afternoon at the age of 81. Rated as one of the world’s best batsmen in his prime, and one of Pakistan’s best even after all these years, Hanif Mohammed wowed the world with his phenomenal concentration, immaculate defensive technique and natural skill.

His best – and a perfect illustration of these skills – was an epic 337 as Pakistan saved the Barbados Test in 1958 while following on. It was the longest first-class innings then. At 970 minutes, it is still the longest Test innings. Hanif also held the record for the highest first-class score, at 499 scored in 1957, and he held that record for 35 years until Brian Lara bested his total by 2 runs. He was the original “Little Master” before Sachin Tendulkar was bestowed with that moniker – in a nod to Hanif himself.

But Mohammed Hanif is not just another great Pakistan cricket player – his legacy is far greater. He was amongst the pioneers of Pakistan cricket; part of a generation that fostered the great teams produced by this cricket crazy country. Hanif played Pakistan’s first test match and has been with the team since then. After retiring he co-founded the magazine ‘The Cricketer Pakistan’ in 1972, which he edited for two decades. He also served as the manager of the formidable Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) team – while also serving another purpose; scurrying Pakistan for raw talent and helping them reach the professional stage.

Mohammed Hanif is a hero of Pakistan’s post partition history – perhaps it’s first from that period. Immortalised in black and white pictures and print articles; he inspired generations of cricketers and continued to serve cricket even after retiring as a player. His contributions cannot be overstated.