Teammates and opponents give a guard of honour to Umar Gul (centre) during the National T20 Cup in Rawalpindi. AFP
Pakistan bowler Umar Gul, who earned the nickname 'Gul-dozer' for his rattling of stumps, has called time on his 17-year cricket career.
With no crowds to bid farewell to the national hero because of coronavirus restrictions, the Twenty20 World Cup winner bowed out to a guard of honour from teammates and opponents after his final match — a disappointing defeat — in Rawalpindi on Friday.
"I want to be remembered as someone who tried his best for the country and it's flattering that I was called 'Gul-dozer' during this memorable journey in cricket," the 36-year-old told AFP.
It was a topsy-turvy journey for Gul, whose affair with cricket began on the crowded streets of Peshawar.
Pakistani cricketer Umar Gul holds a ball before the start of a match during the National T20 Cup in Rawalpindi. AFP
He entered the international arena exactly a month after the legendary pace duo of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis retired following Pakistan's disastrous 2003 World Cup.
It was like the baton of swing bowling had been passed from one generation to another, Gul recalled.
"It was tough to fill those shoes but I tried my best and it was great to lead Pakistan to the final of the Twenty20 World Cup in 2007 and then to the title two years later," he said.
He finished with 163 Test and 179 ODI wickets, but he achieved his greatest success in Twenty20 cricket, the start of his career coinciding with the launch of the shortest format in 2003.
Former Pakistani cricketer Wasim Akram gives some useful tips to the Sri Lankan players. File photo
Gul was at his destructive best in England in 2009, finishing as the top wicket taker of the Twenty20 World Cup with 13. That included a mesmerising five wickets for just six runs in the semi-final win over New Zealand.
"Winning the World Cup was the highest point of my career," he said. "I remember those were very tough days and there was unrest in our country so our win brought smiles back on the faces."
At the time, Pakistan's military was fighting an insurgency from militants in the northwestern region of the country.
Fakhar Zaman led the way with 76 while fellow opener Abid Ali scored 74 and Haris Sohail 56. It was Amir who gave Pakistan an early breakthrough when he had Avishka Fernando caught behind for four by Sarfaraz Ahmed,
The Pakistan Cricket Board on Saturday confirmed the departure date and said the team will be quarantined in Derbyshire for 14 days, under restrictions in place for the coronavirus pandemic, but will be allowed to practice during that period.
Mohammad Hafeez, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Hasnain, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman are now eligible to travel to England and join the 20-player party and 11 coaching staff who left on Sunday, said the Pakistan Cricket Board.
"There have been so many great ones over the years and I am confident that the future will be bright again," added Waqar, who formed a celebrated partnership with left-arm quick Wasim Akram and is now Pakistan's bowling coach.
Team Manager Joxean Matxin Fernandez (Spa) will lead the squad alongside Sports Directors Andrej Hauptman (Slo), Simone Pedrazzini (Swi) and Marco Marcato (Ita).
Indian women will play a three ODI series in the captaincy of the Harmanpreet Kaur against Sri Lanka’s 19-member squad, which is being led by Chamari Athapaththu.
A dominant England has swept New Zealand 3-0 in the Test series with an aggressive seven-wicket victory in the third and final Test match on Monday.