Umar Gul served Pakistan well for more than a decade, helping the team win a number of laurels
In the game of cricket batting and bowling both play a vital role in any team’s success. In one-day cricket, if bowlers fail to perform on a day, batsmen have the chance to win the game.
But in Test cricket, if bowlers fail to deliver, no team can win a Test. Without taking 20 wickets in a Test success remains a dream.
Fast bowlers always play a vital role in the success of any cricket team. They are the front-line soldiers. Without the positive role of fast bowlers, a team’s success in any game, especially in ODIs, is too difficult. But fast bowlers’ careers are shorter than spinners and batsmen.
From Fazal Mehmood in the 1950s to Shaheen Shah Afridi now, we have produced great fast bowlers regularly. Not a long time ago, Pakistan had the most lethal bowling attack with Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, and Shoaib Akhtar.
Even after the retirement of these greats, Mohammad Asif, Muhammad Amir and Umar Gul helped Pakistan win a number of matches.
These fast bowlers helped Pakistan win many matches even when they had a fragile batting line, at home or abroad.
Last week after the National T20 Cup, veteran pacer Umar Gul retired from all forms of cricket.
After his retirement, Gul said that he had made the decision with a “heavy heart and after a lot of thinking. I have always played for Pakistan with all my heart and 100 percent hard work. Cricket is and will always be my love and passion. But all good things have to come to an end,” he said.
He was once recognised among the finest Pakistani bowlers of his generation. His excellent control and ability to move the ball in and out made him different from the other bowlers.
He spent much of this time heading the world T20 rankings. His career best 5-6 against New Zealand at the World T20 in 2009 was for a long time the best ever T20 bowling figures.
Gul burst into the circuit in the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup 2002 in New Zealand by claiming 11 wickets at 12.72.
Gul began his international career with an ODI against Zimbabwe at Sharjah on April 3, 2003, taking 2-25. Craig Wishart was his first victim.
His last ODI appearance was against England at Cardiff on September 4, 2016, where he conceded 77 runs for one wicket.
He took 179 wickets in 128 ODIs, at an average of 29.34.
Gul made his Test debut in Karachi against Bangladesh in August 2003. He failed to impress, managing only two wickets after conceding 148 runs.
His last Test came seven years back in 2013 at Cape Town against South Africa. His last Test was not also memorable as he took only one wicket, conceding 120 runs.
In 47 Tests, he grabbed 163 wickets at an average of 34.06.
Gul was one of the best bowlers in T20 Internationals. He captured 85 wickets in 60 matches at a miserly average of 16.97. He is Pakistan’s second-highest wicket-taker (85) in T20Is, behind only Shahid Afridi (97).
Gul, from Peshawar, was the leading wicket-taker during the 2007 World T20. He was also the leading wicket-taker in the 2009 edition when Pakistan won the trophy.
Overall, Umar took 427 wickets in 237 international matches.
He announced his arrival in international cricket with a remarkable performance against arch-rivals India in the 2003-04 series.
The first big moment in his career came in the Lahore Test against India in 2003-04. Gul bulldozed the Indian top order, moving the ball both ways off the seam at a sharp pace. His 5-31 in the first innings gave Pakistan chance to win the Test.
Gul is a supporter of departmental cricket. When the board abolished departmental cricket, he said: “The players felt secured in departmental cricket. We need departmental cricket back, even if it is in grade two, and I will continue to raise my voice in this regard as a member of the cricket committee.”
In an interview, he also pointed out the discrepancy in the income between international and domestic players. Gul revealed that the salary he currently earns from domestic cricket is not enough to support his family.
“The monthly salary I used to receive from the department was sufficient to cover my monthly expenses. But now, honestly speaking, what we are earning from domestic matches, which includes match fees and monthly retainer, is not enough to cover the needs of my family,” the pacer said.
He remained an essential part of the Pakistan side which won the 2009 World T20 and a regular in one-day cricket until around 2012 when injuries forced him to take a break from the game.
He also played a vital role in the 2011 World Cup where he was Pakistan’s leading fast bowler with 14 wickets.
His career dipped in 2013 due to a knee injury which forced him to undergo a surgery in Australia.
Gul throughout his career remained away from any controversy. The lanky pacer played professional cricket in Australia, England, India and Sri Lanka, representing Western Australia, Gloucestershire, Sussex, Kolkata Knight Riders and Uva Next.
His domestic sides were HBL, Multan Sultans, North West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), PIA, Peshawar and Quetta Gladiators.