During the period of his championship, however, Hashim won more titles than anyone in the history of the game—often under codeine dosage to ease the pain in his knees, or while battling the flu or suffering from cramps in his wiry legs. Meanwhile, to ensure the continuity of the dynasty, two other Khans have been toppling over whatever opponents Hashim may have missed. These Khans are young Mohibullah (the heir apparent) and Roshan.
A few weeks ago the Pakistan ambassador to the U.S. introduced Mohibullah and Roshan to President Kennedy at the White House. The President wondered how it was that the Khan family happened to show such worldwide dominance in squash. "We told him," recalls good-looking, dark-haired, left-handed Mohibullah, "that members of family play every day—the older ones against best competition available; young ones, who start the game at about 8, under best instruction. Almost every member of family either plays or teaches. We think it is good for Pakistan to be champion in squash."
Hashim, who lives alone in Detroit while his wife and seven children live with Azam and his eight children in London, was ruminating recently over the special qualities of the Khans that make them outstanding players. "Azam is having best drop shot," he said. "Mohibullah has biggest variety of shot-making and hits hardest ball. Azam has most determination to win. Hashim has thinking and experience. When opponent likes fast game, Hashim plays slow; when opponent likes slow, Hashim plays fast. Against big man, Hashim makes him stoop to floor with low shots. Against tennis player used to open tennis court, Hashim hits ball all the time very close to wall. Against Frank Sedgman, who rushes to front wall like tennis player rushing to net, Hashim gives plenty of lobs. Against player wearing glasses, Hashim gives many high shots, which he has difficulty seeing because of light overhead. When Hashim teaches, he emphasizes thinking."
It is probably significant that in this summary Hashim made no mention of Roshan, whom some consider the best of all the Khans. In the 1958-59 season Roshan out-Hashimed Hashim by winning the British, Pakistan, U.S., Australian and Egyptian opens—and he is the only Khan, experts say, to have truly mastered the American game. The trouble is that Roshan stems from the other branch of the Khan family. His forebear was Abdul Majeed's contemporary, Said Ali Khan, who played the game with a long white beard that in no way bothered his kills. Because Hashim and Roshan each wish to see his side of the family at the top, a spirited rivalry results. Sometimes it leads to mayhem.
In 1956, down two games to none in the final of the Dunlop Open, Azam, who represents Hashim's side of the clan, hit Roshan in the mouth with his racket, knocking out five of Roshan's front teeth. Advised to default, Roshan, who seemed far less distressed than Azam over the mishap, took time out, lost two games but won the fifth for the championship. In the finals of the U.S. open that year, Roshan, having eliminated Salaun in the semifinal and leading Hashim one game to none, was cracked in the calf by a murderous smash off Hashim's racket. Unable to run, Roshan continued to play but lost in a rout. In the 1956 U.S. open, Roshan got his wrist in the way of Azam's racket twice and his right eye once. He managed to beat Azam, however.
When the Khans play non-Khans they rely on a vast repertoire of strokes—drop shots, lobs and so on. When they compete against one another, however, they generally hit straight down-the-wall shots on the presumption that it's foolish for a Khan to try to outfox a Khan. They play what is called "tight squash"—that is, they position themselves very close to one another, hitting the ball over the opponent's shoulder or around his back or from under his legs, sometimes stretched over or across him like a trellis vine. "When the Khans play one another," a British expert has commented, "they could be wearing the same pair of pants."
Over the last decade the Khans' influence on the style of play—particularly in England—has been tremendous. Their emphasis on power, flick shots, half-volleys and aggressive volleys rather than on pure stroking and careful placements has speeded up the game. A major Khan theory is to swat the ball back to an opponent so fast that he cannot get set for his shot.
The Khans themselves, besides having the endurance of Sherpas, are remarkable contortionists who seem able to cover remote corners of the court at lightning speed and sometimes appear to be going in two directions at once. Since the American game is a very fast game anyway, their influence has been less over here, but many American players and coaches have tried to borrow their tricks. Noting that Hashim and Mohibullah both choke their rackets, Diehl Mateer, considered America's finest player, once adopted the style only to find it weakened his shots. Since Hashim and Mohibullah hit some of the hardest balls in squash with their choked grips, their technique is apparently another Khan secret.
Squash to the Khans is not a game at all, but a sacred family trust. With single-minded zeal, they have learned to dominate it as no other family has ever dominated any sport, and a Khan would no more give away a point or a secret to a stranger than a Boston Brahmin would dip into the family capital.