Syed Burki. Legend of legends. Keeper of keepers. Batsman of batsmen. Man of men. Many men. Many, many men. So many men! A Ronnie O Sullivan maximum of 147 to be precise. That’s how many men have played for the Gipsies during the time Burki has presided over the club.
Captain fantastic Burki is not only responsible for many of the clubs successes and the development of so much fantastic talent here but also for bringing flair and class to generations of gasping audiences.
Burki had been spotted as a 15 year old by Callum Ramsay on his honeymoon in Pakistan, a year prior to Ramsay founding the club along with Kris Evans, Hugh Haughton, Dwight Naysmith, Kevin Garricks and Ed Baker. Ramsay, having already discussed the starting of a cricket club with the other founding fathers at their local, was so impressed by the young man’s eye for the ball whilst playing in the street that he decided to take his contact details. Of course, by the time the Gipsies were formed and Ramsay looked to recruit his man, he had been signed up by local Pakistani outfit, Gaand Maaroers. None-the-less, Naysmith persuaded the others that this young kid could be the difference and the six founding fathers got together just over £100,000 between them to sign the man who would go on to become the club’s greatest ever.
Arriving at the club at the tender age of 17, just 25 days after the foundation of the Glouceter Gipsies, young Burki was a fresh faced boy still wet behind the ears and with a lot to learn in the game. Still, it didn’t take him long to learn, going from strength to strength at lightning pace over the next couple of seasons, he managed to represent Pakistan U19s on 20 occasions. -A matter of great pride for both the promising youngster and the fledgling Gloucester Gipsies club. By gaining his call up and getting a consistent run over 2 seasons, Burki really put the Gipsies on the map and allowed them to the become the club they are today.
At the time of retirement, Burki was second on the Gipsies all time competitive run scoring list with 13391 runs. Of course, had he not left for 9 seasons he would be at the top of the tree with double the runs of second place (in his time away he scored a further 16000 runs). Still, in terms of OD cricket, and that’s all there was in Burki’s first spell at the club, he’s top of the tree with a grand total of 11521 competitive Gipsies runs, and his incredible 1st wicket stand of 390* with Kris Evans is likely to remain a club record for ever. He also holds the record for the most OD centuries (50), highest OD individual score (222*) and most OD sixes (133).
However, his time at the Gipsies was not without controversy. On the 3rd of April 2006 it was announced that talks between the club and Burki over a new contract broke down. Burki himself announced publicly that there was unrest and just 13 days later the club announced they would be letting Burki go, along with Evans and Backley. They were 3 of the club’s 4 best players at the time but were said to have had formed their own little clique in a divided dressing room. However, just 6 days later a twist in the tail saw the club backtrack on their announcement that they would be selling the trio. It had emerged that there were no cliques in the dressing room, nor were there contract disputes, but that the then-tea lady, Rose Szarowicz, had been putting the 3 off their game by trying to get involved romantically. Burki didn’t come out of the situation with flying colours after Szarowicz had announced in the local paper that he was ‘a right perv’, but the fact he stayed was the main concern to the fans. Immediately the team prospered on the pitch, progressing in the both the league and the cup.
Burki had been a key player in the first 2 pieces of silverware for the club. Champions of their OD league in successive seasons, the club then had 2 seasons of struggling to stay in the 4th tier of English OD cricket before succumbing to final day relegation in the third season at that level. With that relegation came the infamous Gipsies exodus where almost the entire playing staff left alongside manager Dinho who went on a self-imposed exile that went unexplained at the time.
Of course 2 seasons later saw the return of Dinho and top of his list was to rebuild the club and hopefully get Burki and other stars back. It wasn’t for another 7 seasons that Burki finally returned, spending a total of 1144 days away. Now a 32 year old, Burki did everything he could for the club to make up for lost time, spending almost very waking hour at the club, and many sleeping ones too!
Just a month after the return of the club’s prodigal son, Burki scored the runs that made him just the third player at the time to make 5 figures of competitive runs for the club. He went on to take the OD batting award as a 34 yr old in season 19, did it again at 35 the following season, played in the invincible FC team who went 33 games unbeaten over 4 seasons, played in the epic BT20 win over the world’s best team in season 21, contributing a vital run out, and, over 20 years after first playing for the club he took the OD batting award yet again in season 22 at the age of 37. The man seemed to get better and better with age.
With a career total of 29545 competitive career runs @ 75.95, few can argue what this man has brought to the game of cricket. Add to that 978 dismissals from behind the stump and you can see why he was held in such high esteem to be given a statue in his honour at the very centre point of the shire.
The song first sang during the Gipsies’ first ever promotion year still rings loud whenever the Gipsies are on a promotion campaign (which has been quite often in their illustrious history): “Eeeeeee ai ee ai ee ai oh. up the batto league we go, when we win promotion this is what they sing: we are Gipsies, Gloucester Gipsies, Burki is our king!”
King. Keeper. Batsman. Captain. Leader. Legend. Hero. Man. In Burki we trust.