Remembering Gul Mohammad
Gul Mohammad(left) and Col Rafi Nasim
May 8, 1992 was the fateful day when Gul Mohammad a great cricketer of his times, a highly capable coach and a proficient cricket administrator, departed for his heavenly abode. In his death Pakistan lost a legend, a man of only good qualities, high values and golden traits.
Gul was a wizard as far as his knowledge of cricket and its administration was concerned and no one could possibly match his dedication to duty and honesty of purpose - his greatness as an all round cricketer notwithstanding. He was perhaps the closest cricket friend that I had. As such the intensity of my feelings about the loss of an illustrious companion from whom I learnt a lot about the game, is bound to be greater than others.
During my days of cricket, Gul Mohammad was still in India. He migrated to Pakistan after I had joined the Services. Our friendship thus took its root when in 1978 I took over as Secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan (BCCP) now (PCB) for the first time. Gul Mohammad happened to be the Director of Gaddafi Stadium. Having known his marvelous character traits like honesty, integrity, devotion, untiring capacity of work and efficiency as an administrator, I offered him all the boost up that his job required. Being too great a man to be confined to the control and maintenance of the stadium only, I decided to utilize his immense knowledge and experience of the game in solving other cricket matters as well.
Gul Mohammad was born in Lahore on October 15, 1921. Nazar Mohammad the stylish opening batsman of the early 50`s was his childhood cricket pal. They played cricket in the street and in school together, later joining Islamia College, Lahore where in the company of giants like Fazal Mahmood and Imtiaz Ahmed formed a team that thrashed their adversaries all over India.
That was the era when outstanding players used to be picked up by the Rajas and Nawab's of Indian states. On a special call from Maharaja of Baroda, Gul Mohammad joined his team, which already had a galaxy of stars like Vijay Hazare, HR Adhikari, CS Nayadu, Raja Amir Elahi, BB Nimbalkar and others. Gul Mohammad remained a super star of the Ranji Trophy Championship, the top cricket tournament of India till he returned to Pakistan.
The one who excelled as a top batsman, an effective pace bowler and a superb fielder, Gul was also known for often pulling his side out of trouble through his good all round performance. His historical achievement in the Ranji Trophy final between Baroda and Holkar in 1946-47 where he touched the apex by slamming a personal score of 319 runs in partnership with Vijay Hazare (288) became the hallmark of his cricket career. Between them the two stalwarts piled up 577 runs, which became a world record for the 4th wicket partnership. Hazare was Baroda's hero with a tally of 561 runs for the season. The only player who surpassed him with a total of 596 runs was an adventurer with the bat called Gul Mohammad.
He remained a top player in Indian domestic cricket and it was for his outstanding performance that in 1946, Gul a stylish left handed batsman and a brilliant cover point fielder was selected to tour England with the Indian team, where he made his Test debut at Lords. He also toured Australia in 1947-48 and played in all the five tests. During this tour an Australian critic described him as `a daring batsman who often made one's heart leap into the mouth'. Similarly many observers of the game declared him as a marvelous fielder. During the Pakistan Cricket Team's tour of India in 1952, Gul Mohammad represented India in two test matches against Pakistan.
He returned to his homeland in the mid 50s and played his only Test for Pakistan against the visiting Australian team at Karachi in 1956 and was termed as a symbol of concentration and responsibility. After playing nine tests, eight for India and one for Pakistan, Gul Mohammad said goodbye to test cricket. He happened to be one of the three test players who had the distinction of representing both India and Pakistan, the other two being AH Kardar and Raja Amir Elahi. Fazal Mahmood would have been the fourth one had he not declined to tour Australia with the Indian team in 1947.
Other unique features of Gul Mohammad's career were that he also played against Pakistan, his country of origin and that he was the only Pakistani cricketer to have played against the late Sir Don Bradman and could talk about the Don for hours.
After retirement from cricket, Gul Mohammad turned to cricket administration, joined the Board as Director Gaddafi Stadium and worked as such till 1987 when he joined the Punjab Sports Board as a cricket coach. During his stay with the Cricket Board he changed the shape of things. He made the dry and drab cricket field look green, painted and renovated the building to give the stadium a dignified look, introduced modern ground equipment, overhauled the sewerage system, the water system and every thing else that had been neglected for many years.
Gul Mohammad possessed such overwhelming love for the game and was so keen about its progress that after joining the Board he developed himself into a specialist in grounds and pitches. He acquired such a deep knowledge of the subject that he could discuss for hours the properties of ground, soil, grass, water and the type of rolling required for different kinds of pitches. As a first step he prepared all the pitches afresh with proper earth-clay formulation so as to bring them at par with international standards.
Apart from his other attributes Gul Mohammad was an excellent coach. He acted as the Camp Commandant-cum-coach during many national camps, a number of our test cricketers having learnt the finer points of the game from him. He was a symbol of loyalty, devotion, deep insight, honesty and administrative ability. He was an untiring man who stood on the ground for hours in the scorching sun to ensure that things moved properly.
In his heyday Gul Mohammad was an all-round sportsman. Apart from being a born cricketer, he was an athlete, a swimmer and a recognized kabaddi player. A staunch believer in physical fitness, he used to skip up to 3000 times in one go as a part of his extensive physical regimen. He moved the skipping rope with such lightening speed that it was well nigh impossible to keep a count of his skips.
The man was so dedicated that he would accept any cricket assignment cheerfully, even at the peril of his health and life. One never knew what was brewing inside the man who was so physically fit and stressed its importance to others. His cancer of the liver was diagnosed only six months before his death, which he fought with tremendous courage.
Gul was a bold man, not one who would surrender, accept defeat without fighting or take things lying down. Cricket being his life and soul; we used to discuss various aspects of the subject for hours. Even a day before the eternal call, he sat calmly and discussed cricket for many hours with former captain Imtiaz Ahmed who visited him in the hospital. He defied his last journey till the end and would have continued fighting, was it not the will of God. For his devotion to the game and popularity among the cricketers, Gul Mohammad will live in the hearts of cricket fraternity for all times to come. On the day of his 9th death anniversary, we again pray to Almighty God to grant his noble soul a place in the heavens.