February 7, 2010

Gul Hameed Bhatti’s death creates huge vacuum in sports journalism


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Death, we all know, is inevitable. In the case of Gul Hameed Bhatti, who expired at Karachi’s Liaquat National Hospital on the evening of February 4, it was not entirely unexpected because his health continued to deteriorate after the stroke suffered nearly a year ago.

He was a courageous man, having successfully fought a battle against the oft fatal disease of cancer about a decade or so ago. Although he was in his early 60s he couldn’t recover after being laid low by what had appeared to be a combination of heart attack and paralysis. The attack was so severe and it caused him considerable harm.

The physiotherapy and medication continued with his son (Kamil), daughter (Sara) and daughter-in-law (Samra) taking every possible measure to prevent the inevitable. Alas even their care and love could only delay it.

Gul Hameed Bhatti, who was Gul to friends and Bhatti Sahib to colleagues, associates and a large number of his followers, will be remembered for a very long time. His death has certainly created a huge vacuum in the arena of sports journalism in Pakistan in particular.

Having known and worked with him closely for no less than three decades, I have had no doubt in mind that his commitment to the profession was legendary. He distinguished himself by working with the missionary zeal without worrying for the monetary benefits or rewards.

He was a workaholic person to whom meeting and beating deadlines was a matter of life and death. He had his own style of doing things, the most notable being maintaining a register to update the records besides doing it to the computer. He was engaged in so much of paperwork because he was passionate about being absolutely sure about everything.

Gul Hameed Bhatti was a great all-rounder, using the sporting term. His forte was cricket statistics but he was equally versatile in writing reports and articles on all sports. The icing on the cake was his ability to produce those catchy headlines that made the sports pages of ‘The News’ most sought after ones.

He is credited to have revolutionized the sports journalism in Pakistan. He added a new dimension to the profession by bringing out three to four high quality sports pages day in and day out for close to two decades.

The Jang Group certainly provided him the machines and the infrastructure but he’s the man chiefly responsible for having turned it on. It was a master stroke on part of the Editor-in-Chief, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, to have appointed the Sports Editor right from the planning stage of the newspaper.

Gul Hameed Bhatti was a perfectionist in terms of his work. Quite a few of his write-ups are worthy to be recognized as masterpieces of Pakistan’s sports literature. His thoroughly researched articles often served as guidelines for the sports administrators who just wondered how this gentleman possessed so much depth in knowledge and insight about so many games. They used to turn to him for verifying records and seeking advice as well.

He was the most complete sports journalist of the country. Nobody could lay claim for coming a close second. He will be greatly missed in the sports circles.


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