What is the first image that comes in your mind when you think of a magician? Pulling a rabbit out of the hat? Doing a card trick? Walking on water?
For me, it is a fast in-swinging yorker that dips underneath the bat, surprises the batsman, and castles the stumps.
Let us look back at the magnificent career of someone who did exactly that, Umar Gul – The Magician With the Yorker.
Umar Gul’s retirement evoked an emotional response from all around the world following his final match at the National T20 Cup. Here is our take on Umar Gul’s most memorable moments, his legacy, and what we can learn from him.
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If you love watching fast bowlers and stumps rattled, stay tuned. Several videos ahead! Watch till the end to listen to Gul in his own words.
Pakistan cricket is known for unearthing fast-bowling talents one after the other, especially left-arm quicks. Pakistan is world cricket’s pace bowling factory. Imran Khan and Sarfaraz Nawaz created a rich legacy.
Over the years, they have produced the intimidating Wasims, Wahabs, and Waqars, the breathtaking Shoaibs and Samis, and the gifted Asifs and Amirs. The list is endless. Recently, with the rise of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah, it never seems to stop.
Umar Gul, the architect of Pakistan’s 2009 T20 World Cup victory, is not even mentioned. That is exactly how Gul’s career panned—under the radar.Embed from Getty Images
Debuting in 2003, he burst onto the Test scene later in 2004 against India at Lahore with a brilliant 5-wicket haul and man of the match performance. Unfortunately, injuries kept him out of the squad until he cemented his place later between 2006-2012.
Amidst the artistry from the other end, the numerous controversies and turmoil, and the general ebbs and flows of Pakistan cricket, Umar Gul stayed a constant.
Regardless of whatever happened around him, he just kept swimming.
Pinned his yorkers—day in and day out, consistently took wickets, and bowled at the death.
- 5th highest wicket-taker in T20I and 2nd highest for a fast-bowler
- Highest Wicket taker in 2007 and 2009 T20 World Cup
- Highest Wicket-taker for Pakistan in 2011 ODI World Cup
- Features twice in top 10 T20I bowling figures – both 5/6 vs New Zealand and South Africa
- 6th best T20I strike rate among all bowlers
Tests: 47 matches, 163 wickets, 34.06 average, Best Innings – 6/135, Best Match – 9/134
ODIs: 130 matches, 179 wickets, 29.34 average, Best 6/42
T20Is: 60 matches, 85 wickets,16.97 average,14.1 strike rate, Best 5/6, 4 4-fors, 2 5-fors
T20s: 167 matches, 222 wickets, 20.16 average, Best 6/24, 9 4-fors, 3 5-fors
Umar Gul and the first two T20 World Cups were inseparable. He took 13 wickets in each tournament, ending as the highest wicket-taker in both.
Although Pakistan did not win the 2007 final, his exploits in the world cup were scintillating. One of the moments of the tournament happened earlier when the long and silky haired Gul castled counterpart MS Dhoni.
My favorite memory of Umar Gul though is from the 2009 T20 World Cup. It was just a great World Cup to watch – Netherlands upsetting England courtesy Stuart Broad, the Dilscoop mesmerizing spectators on the international stage, and a clinical Pakistan team.
Gul’s best performance came at a crucial Super 8 stage, when he picked 5 for 6 against New Zealand, reducing them from 73-4 to 99 all out.
Due to his death bowling skills, Gul laid a solid platform which led Pakistan to go one step further this time around—winning a World Cup after 27 years.Embed from Getty Images
The IPL is the flavor of the season right now. Guess what? He even took 4-23 at the IPL with Kolkata Knight Riders in the inaugural season!
Gul was well and truly one of the premier fast bowlers from 2007-2012 across formats. His stellar 6-42 against England was judged as ESPNCricinfo’s Best ODI Bowling Performance of 2010.
He continued his form as Pakistan’s highest wicket-taker in the 2011 ODI World Cup and was a regular member of the international squad till 2013, when injuries began to halt his career. Unfortunately apart from a brief recall in 2016, Gul’s international career was over at the age of 32.Embed from Getty Images
Gul’s legacy is forever etched in stone with the 2009 World T20 triumph, but his impact in cricket is much more.
He taught the world how to bowl in T20 cricket.
These days, T20 leagues invest in “death-overs specialists” with the likes of Andrew Tye, Jasprit Bumrah, Chris Morris, and Shaheen Afridi, but this would not have been possible without Umar Gul’s contribution. He practically created that spot.
Although death bowling was his focal point, Gul was more than just yorkers.
He had the skills as a proper line and length pace Test bowler but evolved his art with reverse swing, bouncers, and most importantly, change of pace slower deliveries, which was uncommon at that time.
Only Lasith Malinga had a death-overs game to compete with Umar Gul and these two pioneered the art of death bowling in T20 cricket.
What Can We Learn?
Right in the middle of his career, Pakistan cricket entered a tumultuous period. Between 2008-2010, an attack on Sri Lankan cricketers, the 2010 spot-fixing saga, and home games shifting to the U.A.E. jolted Pakistan cricket.
As always, Umar Gul would adapt. New situation, new environment, new teammates. Mentorship has been one of his great characteristics throughout his career.
He partnered with the likes of Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, and Mohammad Irfan to transition to another era. In the dry tracks of UAE, they would find new tricks to the fast bowling trade, bringing life out of these pitches.
Adaptability is what makes Umar Gul great.Embed from Getty Images
He was not the fastest of the Pakistani bowlers, nor could he swing it like Asif, but he made sure to reinvent himself when the time was required. He was a shrewd and thinking cricketer. Always one step ahead of the batsman. Having a variety of skills is one aspect. Utilizing the skill at the right moment and varying it effectively—now that is what makes him great.
Animated on the field and quiet off the field, he did his duty. He changed cricket and inspired millions of budding cricketers around the world, mentoring youngsters in the domestic team even to the last day.
We can all learn from Umar Gul and apply these traits in our daily life as well. Change is the only constant in life, and we should learn to adjust accordingly. If we focus on the process and continue to improve our skills, there is no reason why we cannot compete with the best in the world.
Life will throw several challenges at you. You may get injured, have a bad day at the office, go through emotional turbulence, but do not worry.
Hang in there and just keep swimming as Umar Gul did.
What will I miss? Personally, I just adored Umar Gul’s action. It was fluent, uncomplicated, had a slight stop, but was straight to the point.
He was truly a magician.
Thank you, Umar Gul. Have a happy and healthy retirement.
Umar Gul in his Own Words
The best way to end this journey is Umar Gul in his own words. A wonderful send-off to a champion bloke. Listen below.