Interesting is the fact that, how actors flashing on TV screens tend to drown in their on-screen characters while officers wear the dress of formalities while on duty. Strangely enough, all of us have contrasting facades of our personalities that vary according to situations and people we come across. We are admired for some characters, hated for others, while some find it difficult to switch between them. There are some who cannot maintain that balance; Umer Gul is one of them- indeed.
It seems like forever, watching Gul galloping diagonally towards the crease, charged with energy. He has been an obsession for almost a decade now. He made his debut at 19 and was pointed out as a ‘seamer’ when he first appeared on the big stage. He imposed a strong impact running through the Indian top order in a test in Lahore, 2004.
Injuries hindered his resurgence as he was sidelined for a period of two years, but his energy turned out to be unstinted and he reappeared against England in 2006. Eureka!
The show went on and Gul was known for his seam and swing and the bounce he got from the length deliveries. Then came Mohammad Asif, an opening bowler of great control and guile. Gul silently moved aside, accepted the role of a first change bowler and excelled in it; bowling economically as the third seamer and making full use of the reverse swing on offer.
He went unnoticed for several months until the doping controversy engulfed Pakistan. Sadly, when Shoaib and Asif were banned, it was none but Gul who came abreast to the role of the opening bowler.
What more can be said in his account- another character. As Hitler was made for mass killings, Gul was created to rattle the stumps. His deadly toe crushing Yorkers are feared by many and handled by a few around the world. Put it like this, T20 cricket invented a noxious machine: a Guldozer. He guldozed the black caps world t20 2007, with the career best figures of 5/6 and is 2nd among the leading wicket takers in the T20 format. Pakistan missed him in the next world t20 in the Carribean, so much that if he had bowled that ill-fated last over, he wouldn’t have conceded the required runs.
Gul became a habit then, like a fighter pilot firing at will, bombarding the crease with ballistics and missiles. The trio of Amir, Asif and Gul seemed the right flowers in the bouquet of our fast bowlers. Then, as always, came the drop scene- the selfless Gul came to rescue after the humiliating match-fixing scandal. We saw that 3rd seamer role again, the 3rd and 4th ODI of the England series, he showed great control over the reverse swingand blew away the English batting at 90 miles an hour.
Gul bowled well with the new ball too, he was very impressive at the start of the world cup until Shoaib Akhtar left the scene. He was bashed by Sehwag in the semifinal and we saw him melt under pressure. Then on, Gul became inconsistent and for the first time in years he was unable to do justice to his roles. Still, we could see that passion and honesty, he ran hard every time he came on to ball but something was not clicking. Gul was finally rested for a series against Australia and that was the first time in 5 years we didn’t see him playing for Pakistan.
Now that Pakistan has found gems in Junaid and Irfan, Gul seems to get settled to the role of the third seamer. We saw him making breakthroughs and applying pressure at the same time on the Indian batting lineup. He has been an honest bowler right through his career; a rare quality found in Pakistan’s pace battery. He has strongly held the legacy; Waqar Younis had left behind. He has played lots of cameos with the bat, the most recent of them being against SA in the t20 world cup 2012 and has given the tale a lot more respectability. He has sacrificed a lot for the betterment of the Pakistan team, be patient with him because his best years as a fast bowler are still ahead of him.