IN our very first meeting on a cold winter evening at the Dawn office, Khalid H. Khan asked me if I knew the full name of Sri Lankan pace bowler Chaminda Vaas. It was the question he used to ask every new induction at the sports desk. The scoreboards he sent forward for publishing on the pages were always meticulous in detail; he used to give the full initials of each player. And Vaas’ were the longest. W.P.U.J.C. Vaas was how he would go on the scoreboard.
Of course I didn’t know. But Khalid bhai, as he was known across the cricketing and sports media community of the country, of course knew not only Vaas’ full name but also of every other cricketer that has played the game. Over the years, thanks to him, I know that Vaas’ full name is Warnakalusuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas. That isn’t the only thing I learnt from him. He would’ve been proud if I told him I’d finally learnt Vaas’ full name only a few days ago. Unfortunately I’d never get the chance to tell him that.
Khalid bhai passed away on Tuesday afternoon at the age of 58 after suffering a cranial hemorrhage over two weeks ago, leaving behind not only a huge void for his friends, family and co-workers as well as Dawn but also for cricket in the country.
“Khalid was widely respected and well-loved amongst his peers, players and administrators for his deep affection for domestic cricket and support for the emerging cricketers and leading performers,” Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja said in the board’s condolence message. Ramiz wasn’t the only one who paid tribute to him.
Pakistan cricket star Shahid Afridi took to Twitter say “Khalid bhai was a gentle and wonderful journalist who always supported domestic cricket and performers”.
Former Pakistan Test captain Azhar Ali spoke about his passion for the game. Such was his standing that a lot of cricketers would turn to him for advice when going through a rough patch in the game.
Such was Khalid bhai’s love for domestic cricket that he would protest when we’d ask him to file a shorter story on the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches because of paucity of space. “This is the tournament from where the stars of the future come from,” he would contest. In his 24 years at Dawn, he never missed reporting on a Trophy match. It was only when he became critically ill recently that he missed out on that.
Only a day before he passed out and had to subsequently be put on the ventilator, he told me during our meeting at the hospital that he will be filing a roundup of the matches. That too, despite the doctors having asked him to take complete rest. Such was passion for covering the game he loved. He filed his last report on the Trophy matches from the hospital bed on Nov 8.
“No journalist in the country has covered domestic cricket as thoroughly and dedicatedly as Khalid did,” veteran cricket reporter Qamar Ahmed said on Tuesday. “His devotion was unparalleled.”
Khalid bhai’s copy was always spot on, but he made sure we read it carefully “just so there are no missing words”. When he would write a punchy intro to a story, he’d call me over to his desk terminal to ask if it needed any changing. Usually, they didn’t. But when it did, Khalid bhai would always say that he needs to go back to reading to keep up with the times.
A livewire on the desk, he had an infectious smile that would light up the room. A proficient sub-editor as well, he was Mr. Dependable at the desk. Never would a strike in the city, or even heavy rains, prevent Khalid bhai from strolling into the office as if everything was okay. Khalid bhai would always find a way. If you ran into an emergency and couldn’t come to office, it was no big deal if he was there.
A loving husband and a doting father to his four daughters, Khalid bhai spent his early childhood in Sri Lanka due to his father’s posting in the foreign service. That, he said, helped him memorise the names of Sri Lankan cricketers as he said his classmates had similarly long names. Sri Lanka was his second team and he’d fondly recall his last trip to the island country during the 2011 Cricket World Cup, when he visited his elementary school and met his friends there.
He’d also recall his interview with cricket great Sir Vivian Richards during the Pakistan Super League with great fondness, saying it was “a dream come true”. So much so, he’d posted a picture of him and the West Indian great taken after the interview on the softboard on the desk. There are other pictures too, of him with former Pakistan captains Younis Khan and Rashid Latif.
Those pictures will continue to remind us of the brilliant man Khalid bhai was.
Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2021