Gul Mahomed

GUL MAHOMED was one of the small band of cricketers who have represented two countries in Tests. He played eight times for India and once for Pakistan. He was born in Lahore and died there on May 8, 1992, aged 70, after a long illness. Gul Mahomed was a diminutive, dashing left-handed batsman who could bowl steady left-arm seamers at medium pace. Above all, he was an outstandingly brilliant fielder in the cover area; he could gather left-handed and return at great speed at a time when Indian fielding was often very unathletic. It was once said that a fish could not slither out of his hands.

As a youth, he played for Islamia College, the nursery of many Test cricketers from Punjab, and made his début in the Ranji Trophy in 1938-39 for Northern India when he was 17. He soon announced his class by hitting 95 for Muslims against Hindus in the Northern India Triangular Tournament. He made real progress in 1942 and scored a forceful hundred for the Rest of India against Western India, facing an attack of Test standard. Meanwhile, the Bombay Pentangular Tournament had provided him with the chance of making two more hundreds and he and Hazare - batsmen of contrasting styles - shared a stand of 302 for a Bengal Cyclone XI against a Bijapur Famine XI in the Brabourne Stadium in Bombay. This was a foretaste of what came later.

Gul Mahomed did well enough in trials to secure a place on the trip to England in 1946 but, in an interview many years later, he was sharply critical of the Nawab of Pataudi's captaincy, maintaining that no one apart from Merchant was given a proper chance to run into consistent form. He played without success at Lord's in the First Test. Back in India, however, he and Hazare shared what remains the largest stand for any wicket in first-class cricket. It was in the final of the Ranji Trophy between Baroda and Holkar. Gul Mahomed came in with the score at 91 for three. When he was out for 319, eight hours 53 minutes later, they had put on 577 for the fourth wicket, part of a total of 784.

Gul was a member of the post-Independence team which toured Australia as pioneers in 1947-48, captained by Lala Amarnath. The team failed dismally and he made only 130 runs in five Tests but fielded brilliantly throughout. He represented India against the newcomers Pakistan in their first two Tests in 1952-53. But he then migrated to Pakistan and in 1956-57 he was chosen for his new country against Ian Johnson's Australians at Karachi, and made the winning hit. Earlier, he had been a great success as a professional in the Lancashire League with Ramsbottom.

In his full first-class career he complied 5,614 runs, including 12 hundreds, for an average of 33.81, besides holding 60 catches and saving countless runs. He picked up 107 wickets in occasional spells, which cost him 27.19 apiece. In his nine Tests he made only 205 runs at 12.81, but he was popular wherever he played and was an early exemplar of the best sub-continental tradition of entertainment and athleticism.

© John Wisden & Co