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Lest we forget - Riaz-ud-din

©Daily Jang

The passing away of Riaz-ud-din, struck by a cardiac arrest in his sleep on June 11, 2019, aged 60, was a severe blow for Pakistan cricket, for he was one of its most respected and accomplished umpires in the country.

His dedication to the game was evident in his official duties, both as an umpire and tournament organiser at the club level in Karachi.

Born in Karachi (Sind), Pakistan on December 15, 1958, Riaz took to umpiring at a relatively young age and after earning good reputation at both club and domestic first-class level, aged just 31, he was appointed by the cricket Board to stand in an ODI and all three Test matches against the West Indies in 1990-91.

For a recipient of good reviews from rival captains – Imran Khan and Desmond Haynes – surprisingly, his international duties were short lived for his distinguished career in white coat, included only 12 Test matches and same number of ODIs. With no international team visiting Pakistan for a decade till recent resumption of fixtures, Riaz’s opportunities to stand at the highest level, were further limited.

The highlight of Riaz’s career was his inclusion in ICC’s elite panel and officiating as a neutral umpire in Test matches in New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. In a 34-year career, he stood in 310 first-class, 257 List A (limited-overs) matches and 92 T20 games, thus making him perhaps the most prolific umpire in Pakistan. He also stood in women’s cricket. and accepted an invitation for the 2017-18 Bangladesh Premier League.

Equally popular outside Karachi, Riaz’s visits to Punjab, Azad Kashmir and Peshawar were eagerly awaited by a large circle of friends, with late night gatherings featuring card games. He stood in five Quaid-e-Azam Trophy finals – 1990-91, 1991-92, 1993-94, 2002-03, 2008-09 and two Patrons Trophy finals – 1998-99, 2000-01.

His friends and associates spoke of his wholehearted devotion to the game and some called him a workaholic, for he often stood in two separate matches within 24 hours. Having officiated in a domestic match during the day, after few hours’ rest, he was ready for another stint in a floodlit tournament.

He batted right-handed and bowled off-breaks, whenever time permitted him to play club cricket in Karachi. Riaz-ud-din was CEO of Al-Imran CC in Zone 1 in Karachi. A resident of Liaqatabad, Karachi, he had retired from PNSC (Pakistan National Shipping Corporation), months before his death. A bachelor, he is survived by a brother and a sister.

The writer is indebted to Junaid Ghafoor, a fellow umpire, in compiling an obituary.