KARACHI, March 14: Eminent sports writer, cricket commentator and Dawn columnist Omar Kureishi died here on Monday. He was 77.
Mr Kureishi was suffering from heart disease for some time, but had continued with his journalistic work till his condition took a turn for the worse on March 3. He was moved to hospital, where he passed away on Monday. His Namaz-i-Janaza will be offered at Masjid-i-Tariq in the Naval Housing Scheme, behind Mideast Hospital, after Asr prayers on Tuesday.
Mr Kureishi was one of the most outstanding writers on cricket in the subcontinent, and his columns were also published in major newspapers abroad. But he was also a keen observer of political and social developments and wrote about them not, in his own words, with fury, but certainly with “exasperation and anger”.
As a cricket commentator, Mr Kureishi, together with Jamsheed Marker, had ruled the air waves in the late ’50s and ’60s and counted many cricketers, most notably the late Abdul Hafeez Kardar, as close friends. The media centre at the Qadhafi Stadium in Lahore is named after Omar Kureishi.
He had grown up as part of a large family of 11 children that was often on the move because his father, Col M.A. Kureishi, was a member of the Indian Medical Service and had many postings across India.
Mr Kureishi took a degree in international relations from the University of Southern California in the early 1950s. He had his first encounter with the media and showbiz in the United States where he briefly worked with a radio station and played a small part in a Hollywood movie. He also went to the United Kingdom where he played club cricket.
He was a classmate of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in school in Mumbai and later at university in the US and their friendship stood the test of time.
Mr Kureishi came to Karachi in the mid-’50s and joined the defunct Pakistan Standard. Later, he became resident editor of the Times of Karachi. His brother, Sattoo Kureishi, lived near Karachi airport in a house called Air Cottage and used to hold regular weekly get-togethers there. “Friday Evenings at Air Cottage” became a byword in Karachi’s intellectual and avant-garde circles, and Omar Kureishi soon became an integral part of the set.
In the 1960s, PIA’s then chief, Nur Khan, persuaded Mr Kureishi to join the national flag carrier and together they contributed enormously towards the establishment of a sport infrastructure in the country, inducting many sportsmen into the organization and providing them with a financial cushion.
Mr Kureishi had a long innings in PIA, lasting almost till 1981, except for a brief interlude when he had fallen out with the then managing-director. When the Zia regime took over, he was asked, for political reasons, to leave the organization.
As a cricket commentator, Mr Kureishi travelled all over the world and filed dispatches for many newspapers, including The Pakistan Times, Morning News and The Guardian, London.
He wrote regularly for Dawn for over 25 years, including a series of articles based on his memories of his time abroad and in Mumbai and Delhi. His books include Black Moods, Out to Lunch, The System, The Other Side of Daylight, As Time Goes By and Once Upon a Time. Mr Kureishi is survived by a son, Javed, and two grandchildren. He was awarded the Sitara-i-Imtiaz in 2001.
He was always full of good cheer, and a scintillating company to be with. About his devotion to cricket, he once wrote: “What had been a passion became a love affair and with all the ups and downs in my life, cricket remained a constant”.