The world of cricket will remember the ‘70s and ‘80s forever for the unbeatable dominance of the West Indies, who not only stacked their side with bone-chilling pace attacks from the quartet of Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and Joel Garner, but also made rival teams as helpless as a child through the batting exploits of Sir Vivian Richards, Clive Lloyd, and others. It was during this time in 1977 when international cricket was introduced to a 22-year-old Lahore-born youngster, who with his unique and extravagant bowling action won hearts of one and all. He was none other than Abdul Qadir.
Qadir, who breathed his last in Lahore on 6 September 2019, will hold a unique place in the hearts of cricket lovers from India, Pakistan and, of course, world cricket. When the art of bowling meant only the fast and furious pacers from the Caribbean islands, Qadir’s twist and turn became a batsman’s nightmare.
He successfully used a craft so rare of his time and revived the art of leg-spin which otherwise was like a patient lying on the ventilator of a hospital for long. If the legendary Shane was a genius, Qadir was an artist at work every day, who, with his innovative deliveries, especially the googlies, could take any batsman for a ride. His bowling exploits made the Men in Green a formidable force in world cricket and they could challenge any teams, including the colossal West Indies.
“Qadir’s bowling statistics do not do justice to his genius. Had he been playing cricket now with the modern DRS system, where batsmen can be given out on the front foot as well, Qadir would have gotten as many wickets as the great Shane Warne,” Pakistan Prime Minister and former captain, Imran Khan, under whom Qadir prospered and played almost all his matches for Pakistan, remembers the legendary spinner.
Abdul Qadir was the pillar of one of the finest test sides of Pakistan led by their supreme leader Imran Khan. To put things into perspective, from 1985 to 1990, Pakistan were unbeaten for 10 series in a row and Qadir played a pivotal role in that.
The year 1986 saw a dominant West Indies touring Pakistan at a time when the Caribbean side led by Richards lost only two of their previous 53 test matches. Yet, what happened in the first test of the three-match series is written in golden words. Pakistan were bowled out for a paltry 159 in the first innings in Faisalabad. However, just three days later, it was Qadir who ensured that Pakistan were well on course to a famous win. Needing 240 to win, Qadir terrorised the West Indies batting attack, by doing the thing he loved most, and took 6-for-16. West Indies were bundled out for 53, their lowest score in their history. In those five years, Qadir bagged 124 wickets from just 36 matches.
Qadir always proved to be a match-winner against the likes of West Indies and England. He played seven tests against England and took as many as 41 wickets, including 30 wickets from three Tests in a series against England at home in 1987. That series also saw him registering his best bowling figures in Test cricket – a masterful 9 for 56 in Lahore. His numbers might not be as mind-boggling as his successors Shane Warne and Anil Kumble would end up having, but Qadir was a maestro in his own right.
Watching a leg-spinner in full flow is like envisioning Vincent Van Gogh putting a final touch on famed paintings such as “The Starry Night” or even “Wheatfield with Crows”. One can say the same while watching Shane Warne in action. Having said that, the twists, the turns, the loops and the flippers of Abdul Qadir made him a propagator of the wizardry of leg-spin. If watching leg-spin is a complicated task, Qadir, through a craft that was truly rare for his time, made it clear time and again that he was not an ordinary leg-spinner but a trailblazer.
However, Qadir failed to have a memorable impact against India throughout his career. Despite his lack of success against the Indian batsmen at large, Qadir’s bowling action surely earned him a huge fan following across the border, including the author himself. Not to mention the myth associated with a 16-year-old Sachin Tendulkar smashing Qadir for three sixes in one over in a rain-curtailed ODI game in Peshawar.
Death is the final frontier in anyone’s life; it silences an individual forever. Abdul Qadir’s sudden demise at the age of 63, and the subsequent outpouring of tributes from cricket fraternities all around the world goes on to show that he put his heart and soul in reviving the complex craft that is otherwise known as “leg-spin,” Rest in Eternal Peace, Abdul Qadir.
The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.