Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Gul Hameed Bhatti – A Man Born for Cricket

Those of us who love or read about cricket would be familiar with this name. Whenever cricket is talked about and analyzed, Gul Hameed Bhatti is consulted and expert opinion sought for he is considered an authority on Cricket statistics. He has not reached this place very easily for he has spent all his life for cricket – sacrificing many a opportunity that came his way but he chose cricket and cricket only.

I know Gul Hameed Bhatti since our childhood (he being my eldest brother) and I have seen him nurturing and maturing into a cricket man from his very early life. Eldest of us five brothers, he had a passion for cricket from the very childhood and he wanted to make a name in it. Those were the times when abduction of little children was very high, and our father being from Police (serving in Interpol) kept us at home after school time and wouldn’t allow us out after we came back from the school. While we all five brothers played cricket in our small courtyard (we called this domestic cricket as “Ghehgray Chalegray” – I don’t know how and who of us coined this word as it didn’t mean nothing but cricket). In his free time, Gul chose to play cricket on papers. He would make two teams, make them play and then record the entire innings with detailed analyses and hand drawn photos of action of bowlers and batsmen. He would write so artfully that it would look as it were typed. There are cartons full of such notebooks still packed somewhere in his house which were (and I hope still are) his prized possession.

But our late father wasn’t impressed. Like all fathers of his time, he also wanted Gul to be become a doctor, so he insisted upon him to opt for pre-medical in his high school. Which he did, but wasn’t much in it with his heart. So he couldn’t become a doctor. Then my mother wanted him to be a pilot as one of my maternal uncles (Captain Khusro Nawaz Khan) was in those days one of the best pilots of PIA. So he made the preliminaries, went to Karachi for initial training and came back to Lahore to get his solo license. He flew for 45 hours, but then he opted not to be a pilot either.

At that stage, he was given a choice to do what he felt like, so he took admission in journalism in the Punjab University. He did well as journalism was close to his passion of writing about cricket and obtained his Masters with honour and distinction. He continued to write about cricket and then for the first time joined “The Cricketer” by one Riaz A Mansuri and started writing from Lahore. Then Riaz invited him to Karachi to take over as the editor. I still remember the day when I went to see him off at  Lahore Railway Station and bade him farewell. So that was in early 70s and with that he bade goodbye to Lahore and took up his permanent abode in Karachi. Under his control, “The Cricketer” was transformed into an international standard magazine with quality printing and substance.  Gul  was also credited of introducing "the five Pakistani cricketers of the year" section which became an instant hit with cricket fans. But probably no journalist came to be as closely associated with the magazine as the indefatigable Gul Hameed Bhatti, guru of stats. He wrote for the magazine for years till he parted ways with it and joined “The News” and later rose to be the editor (sports) of all Jang Group of publications.

In 1978, he married Razia Bondray (later Razia Bhatti) who was then editor of “The Herald”. Both being journalists were a perfect match and lived happily thereafter. Had two children (Kamil and Sara). Razia in the meantime left Herald (in  fact forced to do so during the times of General Zia ul Haq) and opened her own “The Newsline”. But once again the democratic government of the time struck her and she under severe mental torture and harassment, had a brain haemorrhage and within hours she was no more. The departure of his beloved wife was a great shock and it was hard for him to take stock of the situation. But he did for his two growing children.

He also started writing about Hockey, Olympics and other sports related to Pakistan. He was seen on TV and Geo Super for which he wrote too. People around him respected him for his critical analysis and detailed reports. Once Anjum Niaz (the prominent writer and columnist) wrote, “I eagerly scan the sports pages to read the obituary of Masood Salahuddin. I am disappointed. Other than Gul Hameed Bhatti and M.U. Haq, the life and times of the great man have been overlooked. Why? It hurts to see the current czars of cricket ignore the men who took Pakistan cricket to dizzying heights that it could ever dream of reaching and that too only seven years after the country wrested independence from England”.  While one Sabina Ata writes about her interview with Gul for a vacancy at The News International. She says, “I remember how nervous I was, when I was called to meet the editor—Gul Hameed Bhatti. I had figured he was some really tough guy, who wouldn’t have time for a 20-year-old being the editor. When I went there, I was surprised to see a jovial man with a hearty laughter, willing to take time out to listen to me. A week later, I was hired as a trainee sub-editor and had to report to In charge Leisure page. We were supposed to compile a whole bunch of comic strips.”

He has always been in the limelight whenever and wherever cricket is played. He has been a member of the Committee for Cricketer of the Year Award set up by Pakistan Cricket Board under Lt Gen Tauqir Zia ®  and many such other committees and organizations.

Life wasn’t easy for him when he contracted cancer but he survived it. However, recently, he is again very sick (though reviving once again with sheer determination and support from his two children, daughter in law and friends/relatives). We all wish him great health and would very much want him back on his computer, writing those juicy comments and analysis synonymous to his name.


Anonymous said...

What a man and what a tribute. I wish him health. Shirazi


Anonymous said...

What comes from heart has an effect. One of the best posts I have read here.

S A J Shirazi said...

Razia Bhatti has contributed in my learning to put the words together. Whenever I sent a story to The Newsline for publication, I would get a peace of advice that would stay with me till it would become a habit.

May Allah rest her soul in eternal peace.

Unknown said...

Assalaamu Alaykum,

Well, after my father (Late Captain Khusro Nawaz Khan) Gul Bhai has always been a father figure to me. Since he moved to Karachi in 1974 I can't recall countless time he took us out to eat Spinzer's ice cream cones, go to the movies, play cricket in our front yard, read comic books all day during Eid day, etc.

May Allaah (SWT) give him health and long life.