By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The death of Aziz Rehmatullah, a veteran cricket statistician, on June 16 has found marginal space in a few national dailies of Pakistan. He certainly merited better sendoff at the strength of his overwhelming contributions to the game which is loved by millions in the country.
The 81-year-old Aziz Bhai, as he was popularly known in the cricket circles, indeed remained one of the unsung heroes whose love affair with the sport lasted lifetime. His statistical pieces, which he compiled with incredible passion, caught the imagination of a large number of readers besides having inspired budding writers immensely.
His compilations had started seeing light of the day in the 1970s as his statistical works got published in various national and international magazines and periodicals. He rose around the same time when Gul Hameed Bhatti was making his mark from the platform of The Cricketer Pakistan which joined soon after its launch in 1972.
Gul Hameed Bhatti and Aziz Rehmatullah could be described as the pioneers of cricket statistics in Pakistan. While Aziz Rehmatullah pursued a full-time job as accountant at a private company to make his ends meet for nearly quarter of a century, Gul Hameed Bhatti had the opportunity of earning his entire livelihood by writing and editing cricket literature.
Despite limited time at his disposal, Aziz Rehmatullah wrote, compiled and produced books regularly. In the company of his friend Haji Abdul Razzaque, also a cricket enthusiast who had great love for collecting books and magazines, he brought out a quarterly magazine by the name of Cricket World. The magazine was rich in content but it couldn’t become a successful business model and was closed down after just a few years despite promising much.
Aziz Rehmatullah, who never looked short of energy, re-entered magazine publishing in 1986 when he launched Cricket Herald with the legendary Javed Miandad being its Chief Editor. Their partnership couldn’t last long with the batting maestro choosing to part ways early. Then he tied knock with the Original 'Little Master' Hanif Mohammad but this marriage of convenience also failed.
Taking a leaf out of books of Hanif Mohammad and Javed Miandad, both of whom were known and respected the world over for their gritty batting against the deadliest of bowling attacks, Aziz Rehmatullah showed tremendous resilience by continuing the publication of Cricket Herald whose subsequent Urdu edition brought greater financial rewards.
The hurricane which followed Pakistan’s tame surrender in the 1999 World Cup final at Lord’s also blew away Cricket Herald and even the great Aziz Rehmatullah was unable to put the pieces together despite his numerous attempts. The abrupt closure of the magazine was obviously a massive shock for the ageing statistician.
His books also stopped coming as the years took its toll and he preferred to work from home much earlier than the world in general was forced to do it with the outbreak of Covid-19. On the basis of his accomplishments, he deserved far greater recognition than what came his way in his lifetime. Hopefully he would be compensated posthumously with an award at the national level as we have had numerous such precedents.