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Farewell A.R.Zaidi

A.R.Zaidi, an English cricket commentator, better known for his three-decade long association with Radio Pakistan, passed away due to a cardiac arrest, in Islamabad, on April 24, 2020, aged 62.

That he continued to follow Pakistan cricket with so much commitment, was no surprise to his close associates for at the start of his career in the civil service, he had shared his thought with a CSP Officer, by claiming, ‘I am very crazy about English cricket commentary’. In short, a determined individual, who managed his career and passion, quite successfully.

One of eleven children of Professor Muzaffar Hussain Syed, Syed Ahmed Raza Zaidi, was born in Lyallpur (Faisalabad) on December 31, 1957. The family, resident in Jinnah Colony, enjoyed good name in the city, for his grandfather Syed Mohammad Aslam Zaidi had served as a Khateeb (Islamic preacher) in a local mosque, for more than six decades, till his death in 1981.

After topping the Board exams as a Grade 8 student, Zaidi did his matriculation from Divisional Public School in 1972 and continued with his cricket. At Government College, near Dhobi Gate, Lyallpur (now Faisalabad), where he studied till 1978, he featured regularly in the cricket matches played on the No.1 ground, also referred as Mini Stadium. Besides inter-collegiate competition, Zaidi founded a club of his own, a name of which could not be confirmed. He also led Agricultural University, Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) on tours of Rawalpindi and in the Sindh.

Having followed all international and domestic cricket in the city with great passion and enthusiasm, in October 1978 not surprisingly, he picked the right seat for the Pakistan-India encounter, ‘I was just sitting behind the arm of Kapil Dev when the historic first ball was bowled in the first Test at Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad’, After moving to Islamabad in 1986, he was again a keen participant in the regional cricket at the grassroots level in the country’s capital. An avid collector of sports magazines in his youth, his first article was published in The Muslim, a daily newspaper. Lately he had also contributed few articles to Scoreline, a monthly cricket magazine, including one on old Bohranwala ground in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad)

It was through his PR skills in Islamabad circles that Zaidi found himself sharing a microphone with the legendry Omar Kureishi on Pakistan Television, in a three-day match between BCCP Patron’s XI and the 1989-90 touring Indians at Pindi Club Ground. He also worked alongside Chishty Mujahid, Tariq Rahim and Shahzad Humayun, both in Pakistan and in all major cricket playing countries.

Senior English commentator Chishty Mujahid, recalled his time with Zaidi, ‘He was a colleague with whom I shared the microphone on innumerable occasions. He was friend of long standing who was always supportive and helpful, besides being a great company and a gracious host. I shall miss him very much as will his fans all around the globe. He was a very competent forthright fearless and authoritative civil servant. I am deeply saddened and utterly devastated by this terrible news.’

After four years with United Bank, he passed his civil service exams in 1985. As a bureaucrat he progressed to the secretary level till his retirement in December 2017 from Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. He was an officer from the 13th Common Audit and Commerce Group. His younger brother Mahmud Mursal, teaches Urdu at Divisional Public School, Faisalabad, the school he himself attended, besides being a poet. Married twice, Zaidi, is survived by two sons and two daughters.

The writer is indebted to Chishty Mujahid and his Divisional Public School friend Mahmud Mursal, for their contribution in the article.