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.
Gul had his first public appearance many many years ago when he had not even celebrated his first birthday. As it happened that a film named "Kundan" was being made in 1948-49, and one of my father's close friend was husband of the late film actress Ragni. And they wanted an infant for a the fil scene. So my father's friend requested for Gul and he was "cast" as an infant star in the film. Well the film name "Kundan" meaning gold or accession or prominence served Gul well as in years to come, he was to rise to prominence due to his love for cricket and expertise. Although, he also took to acting and appeared in a few TV dramas and on stage as well, it was only to explore anything that came his way. But he was, is and would remain a cricket man for as long as he continues to write.
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.
The Family - Growing and Fading : Left: All Five siblings, Gul standing on extreme right, early 1960 - Centre: Everyone on parents' 25th marriage anniversary (1 November 19670 - Right: 1980 All Five Siblings (the last group photo of all five)
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 Mansuri 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.
Good Days when they were together
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.
Left to Right: Seen very recently with daughter (Sara), Himself, Son (Kamil) and Daughter in Law (Samra)
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. (written by Jalal HB)
While we wished Gul to be back soon, the Nature had other plans for him. Gul breathed his last on 4th February 2010. When I reached his house on 5th February 2010, I saw him resting peacefully, draped in his heavily attire. I haven’t cried for years, but that day I could not resist crying. A man who always made us laugh, was making us weep instead. I wish he could live on. He wasn’t that old to die – just 61 years. And on his funeral, people from all walks of life flocked to bid him farewell. I am specially grateful to Javed Jabbar, Riaz A Mansuri and Islahuddin who condoled with me. And many whom I didn’t knew came and hugged me. And my heart continued to cry as his funeral procession reached the grave yard and he finally disappeared as mother earth embraced him forever.
Now that he is gone, only memories remain. This is how friends remember him:
A school days friend of mine, Farhat Qayyoum Naz (now settled in Australia) wrote in his e-mail to me, "It took me back to the time when I used to come to your house during and after our school days. Gul Bhai's beautiful smile and shiny eyes were some of the profound memories I have of that time. Also, from time to time, I used to read his sports related articles on the internet. Gul Bhai's passing away has saddened us all but if you look at his achievements and contribution to journalism and cricket you realise how meaningful and glorious inning he had. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. May Gul Bhai rest in peace." Ameen
Gul's college days friend Pervaiz, remembers Gul in his own words. In his e-mail to me he writes, "Dear Jalal Bhai, Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Pervaiz - Pervaiz Munir Alvi. I am a friend of your brother Gul. We were classmates and friends at Government College Lahore. I along with other friends used to visit your home at Iqbal Street off Macleod Road. During those visits I had met you and your other brothers. I know that was a long time ago, but my memories of Gul are as fresh as yesterday. He was hell of a guy and I am sad that he is no longer with us. We remained in touch during seventies and eighties and then we both got busy in the drudgeries of our respective lives, but I always got his news through our common friends. And now our common friends have delivered the sad news of his premature departure. Please accept my condolences. May God bless his soul. Ameen. I have few pictures of Gul from our student days. I will be happy to share them with you. Gul will be with us as long we live. With regards. Pervaiz." (photos shared by Pervaiz are as under)
Ms Asma Barlas (presently Professor of Politics and Director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity Ithaca College and Gul Bhai's colleague at PU Department of Journalism) in her e-mail to me, writes, "Dear Mr. Bhatti, I am terribly saddened to hear of Gul Hameed's death and pray that God will grant him paradise. Thank you so much for letting me know and also for sending me the link to your blog. I was glad to see the pictures of his children and hope that they will help to keep his memory alive. He was such a warm and caring person with a terrific sense of humor and I'm sure all of you will miss him sorely."
So we live on by the memories and good friends that friends shared. I pray the departed soul to be blessed and may he rest in eternal peace for ever. Ameen. And Gul Bhai, rest assured we really loved you and you will always stay in our hearts forever. (Jalal Hameed Bhatti)
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