October 23, 2012

Recalling Wasim Bari’s pivotal role in Pakistan cricket


By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Wasim Bari has been one strong pillar on whose shoulder the destiny of Pakistan cricket rested for quite a while. He was as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar behind the stumps. Seldom did anything elude him even if it was yards away from him either side. 

He was hailed as the greatest-ever exponent of the art of wicket-keeping by none other than Alan Knott, who himself was a master artist. He had complimented Bari in a BBC show hosted by the greats John Arlott and Fred Trueman, when asked to compare the legendary wicket-keepers. 

It was the greatness of Knott as well for having showered Bari, one of his illustrious contemporaries, with lavish praise. 

The Englishman also acknowledged other gifted wicket-keepers but he had no doubt in his mind about Bari being a cut above the rest. 

The summer of 1971 was the most memorable one for Bari when he had managed to eclipse Knott with his brilliance, a fact which was even acknowledged publicly by a man of the stature of Ted Dexter. 

The whole of the 1970s as well as the early 1980s belonged to Bari as he helped the Pakistan bowlers enormously by plucking catches out of thin air. 

His unblemished wicket-keeping allowed the speedsters like Imran Khan and Sarfaraz Nawaz to fire on all cylinders. His nimble movement behind the stumps encouraged the spinners like Abdul Qadir and Iqbal Qasim to do all kinds of experimentation. 

He was the pivot around whom the Pakistan team revolved for well over a decade. He was the unsung hero. He was hardly ever mentioned in the headlines despite contributing most significantly in Pakistan’s rise among top teams of the world. Wicket-keeping indeed is a thankless job. 

All their good work is forgotten on basis of a single missed opportunity. Yet Bari was one man who committed very few mistakes in a remarkably long career. One must not forget that he had to stand and deliver on the dusty pitches of Pakistan where the ball hardly rose above the ankle height more often than not. 

Bari has remained an unassuming soul all his life. He has not cared to worry about his accomplishments not getting the due recognition whereas the lesser gifted colleagues of his caught the media attention somehow. 

A firm believer of letting his work do the talking he proved his mettle in senior management positions at the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), after hanging up his gloves. 

He also remained associated with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), having served as the chairman of the national selection committee for quite sometime, before joining the institution full-time. 

With enormous cricketing knowledge and experience allied with the senior management expertise, the soft-spoken Bari still has a lot to offer to Pakistan cricket. He is one man who can help tremendously in building bridges and closing the gaps. His role can be vital in lobbying with the other Cricket Boards at a time when the PCB is under pressure to revive international cricket in the country.


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