Qadir – a magician with the ball

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By Qamar Ahmed

IN the death of Abdul Qadir, Pakistan and in fact the cricketing world has lost a larger than life exponent of the art of leg-spin and googly bowling. His sudden death on Friday due to cardiac arrest sent a wave of shock and grief among his fans all around the globe who admired the way he skillfully practiced the rare and nearly extinct art of wrist spin bowling.

Not until his entry into the international scene in 1977 December, when he made his Test debut against England at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium, that people realised that here is someone who would shine like a beacon as a spin bowler of the highest quality.

His debut, which I covered, may not have been a significant one for he only took one wicket in that match; but as the series progressed he did show the promise that would catapult him in the years to come as one of the best wrist spinners of our time, or any time for that matter.

With his angular run up to the wicket and with a hop and jump to deliver the ball with a high trajectory made him a dreaded opponent for batsmen who were not adept to negotiate such high class spin bowling comprising not just sharp leg-spin but also the flippers and googlies and top spin.

Up his sleeves he had a variety of tricks that he always unfolded to mystify any batsman on a helpful wicket. Dubbed as a ‘Magician’ for his bowling prowess, Qadir with maturity and experience developed himself into an integral figure for the Pakistan outfit. Be it Javed Miandad or Imran Khan as his captain, he would put in his best as the situation demanded.

I will never forget his domination with the ball on the England tours under Imran in 1982 and later in 1987, a series in which Pakistan beat England for the time on their soil. But what I remember most vividly was his magical bowling of 6 for 16 at Faisalabad in 1986-87 series against the West Indies to bowl them out for just 53 as the likes of Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Richie Richardson and Larry Gomes bowed out to him one after the other.

His best was the magnificent 9 for 56 against England at Lahore in a Test that Pakistan won by an innings and 87 runs. That was a controversial series that mainly due to the historic stand-off between umpire Shakoor Rana and England captain Mike Gatting in the Faisalabad Test.

I can tell you too that in 1955 Indian tour of Pakistan I watched leg-spinner of the time Subash Gupte who I thought was the best I saw till I covered Shane Warne’s Test debut at Sydney against India in 1991 prior to the 1992 World Cup. Warne in his debut Test took only 1 for 150 when Ravi Shastri made a double century and Sachin Tendulkar scored a hundred. But Warne ended up with 708 wickets to become the most successful spinner of all time.

He could, however, not master the googly – the wrong ‘un — as Qadir did. On one of his visits to Pakistan in 1994, Warne showed his willingness to meet Qadir to learn the way he bowled the googly. The visiting Australian journalists were also keen on this meeting and I organised it at Qadir’s house where both he and Warne ended up bowling with an orange on the living room’s carpet.

I travelled with Qadir all around the world and also witnessed an unsavory incident during the decisive Barbados Test of 1988 when Pakistan on the verge of a series victory was denied the match through some atrocious umpiring of David Archer and the West Indies managed to hang on to a drawn series.

But before it ended Qadir, after being denied an appeal for a catch off Geoffrey Dujon’s bat, walked in anger to the long leg fence where he was hurled abuses by a heckler Albert Auguste in one of the stands. Qadir in anger punched the man who fell. At the end of the match, Qadir was taken to the court and later had to pay US$1,000 in an out of court settlement before Pakistan team left the Caribbean Islands.

I also had the privilege of hosting Qadir and Sarfraz Nawaz at my place in London during the 1990s when he came back from Trinidad after playing in a charity match there. And that was an experience to remember as well.

The former captain of Pakistan and now the Prime Minister of our country Imran Khan, who captained Qadir and also played alongside him, paid rich tribute to the man’s skills on Friday. “With his death I have lost a close friend and a team-mate and that is hurtful. Qadir brightened Pakistan’s name in the cricket world,” said Imran.

Another former captain Mushtaq Mohammad, himself a leg-spin bowler moaned his death saying. “It is indeed a very sad news to hear about Qadir’s untimely death. He was a world class spinner. Sarfraz Nawaz his colleague for many Test was as much grieved and was in tears to know about Qadir. “He was a gentleman cricketer and great soul-mate to have around.”

From 1977 to 1993 Qadir ruled the roost as one of the greatest spin bowlers the game has seen, taking 236 wickets in 67 Tests and 132 wickets in ODIs.

Rest in peace my friend, we are all going to miss you!!