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This Pakistan cricketer joined India’s victory celebrations after 1983 World Cup victory

By Harsh Thakor 

Abdul Qadir virtually re-defined the art of leg spin bowling, taking artistry or wizardry, to zones not scaled. In full flight, he resembled a magician experimenting or performing tricks. In his running stride he resembled a snake dancer. No spinner more perplexed batsmen, who simply could not read his googly. There were spinners who turned a ball more, had more classical style of flight, but none had such bag of tricks as Qadir. Qadir’s was simply a manifestation of mysticism, with the suspense of an Alfred Hitchcock novel.
With a characteristic bounding action, he disguised his speed, appearing to bowl faster than he actually did. His deceptive loop and volatility off the pitch, on the flattest tracks, paved way for batsmen to err. No spinner placed a batsman as much at the corridor of uncertainty, whether to play forward or back. He literally made batsmen shell shocked.
I never saw spinner with such a wide repertoire, possessing a googly, a leg break, 2 contrasting top spinners a flipper and a small leg-break. The control, with which Qadir propelled a ball, was phenomenal, surpassing that of any spinner ever. Few bowlers ever in his time made more crucial breakthroughs to swing the pendulum of games, and it was a sight to behold when team members converged around Qadir, after he dismissed a batsman.
One must give credit to Imran Khan for nurturing Qadir and bringing him into the fold of international cricket. It was Imran’s tutelage that simply brought the best out of Qadir.

Cricketing Career

Qadir burst onto the cricketing scene taking 8-29 and 4-86 ,playing for Habib bank, against Lahore Universities, in 1977-78.He lit the fist spark in the test arena when taking 6-44 against England, who were scuttled for a mere 191 at Hyderabad in the same season.
In England in 1982 in the Lords test,Qadir’s 4-39 played major part in Pakistan winning their first test at Lords. Midway through the day, Qadir bemused the English batsmen as though they were stung by a bee or a web was spun around them. The likes of Gower, Gatting, Botham or Lamb looked as though a trap was set for them ,and the England batting folded apart. It enabled Pakistan to enforce the follow on after posting 400 on the board. In the 2nd innings he made crucial breakthroughs, to enable Pakistan to have enough time to chase down a total of 75 runs, in the 2nd innings.
The seaming track at Headingley in the 3rd test was not conducive to spin, and Qadir could hardly make an impact. In a home series against Australia, Qadir had 22 scalps. He ripped the heart of talented bunch of Australian batsmen, to enable Pakistan to register a clean sweep at 3-0. Rarely was a spinner more respiteful towards opponents.
Playing at home against India, in 1982-83,Qadir played an important supplementary role to Imran Khan, in Pakistan’s 3-0 triumph. He was at his best in Karachi, when taking four scalps in the 1st innings. Throughout the series he troubled class batsmen like Sandeep Patil, Dlip Vengsarkar, or even Sunil Gavaskar. In the 1983 world cup Qadir ‘s match-winning 5 wicket haul against Sri Lanka, which resurrected Pakistan from dire straits, played an important role in it securing a semi-final berth. All along the tournament, Qadir niggled class players, with his guile. In the semi-final, he had catch dropped, of Viv Richards, which had an important bearing on the result. His 12 wickets i at an average of 22 in the tournament, made him the best spinner.
In 1984, at home, Qadir’s haul of 18 wickets played an instrumental role in Pakistan winning their first ever series against England. In 1986 at home, Qadir tormented West Indies, like arguably no spinner ever, winning the man of the series award. His spell on the penultimate day of the 1st test at Faisalabad when capturing 6-16, ripped the flesh out of the Calypso batting line up, with the impact of a combing operation, or a blitzkreig. Viv Richards was caught at shortleg with an absolute peach of a delivery, and earlier Larry Gomes’s stumps were shattered with a blinder. Pakistan won that test by margin of 186 runs. In the subsequent tests of that series, he was as penetrative, taking 8-203 at Lahore and 7-191 at Karachi. The likes of Haynes, Greeenidge, Viv Richards or Richie Richardson literally looked floundering, when facing him.
In England in 1987 Qadir’s bowling was an instrumental factor in Pakistan winning their first ever series on English soil, taking 18 scalps. At the Oval, in the 5th test, on the fourth day, when he took 10 scalps for 142 runs, he took spin bowling wizardry to a scale, possibly no overseas spinner, did in England, with the batsmen sheerly in disarray or completely mesmerised. His ball to dislodge Ian Botham and Mike Gatting were absolute gems, uprooting the middle stump of Botham and deceiving Gatting in flight, who lobbed a catch. Sadly on the last day, he could not trigger a victory, with England holding out for a draw. In that series Qadir defined art of leg –spin, arguably more than any overseas player. Top class batsmen like David Gower, Chris Broad, Alan Lamb. Mike Gatting, in the first innings, literally looked like being in no man’s land.
In the 1987 Reliance World Cup Qadir bowled as though the spirits possessed him, averaging an incredible 2016 with the ball. I can’t forget he manner he tantalised England in the 1st round game at Rawalpindi or West Indies. Qadir also scored an unbelievable 14runs, to earn his team famous win, in the last over, at Lahore. Till then, no spinner performed as well in a world cup.
Against England, at home in 1987,Qadir’s haul of 9-56 at Lahore, manifested spin bowling art at it’s most creative height. In that series he had a record 30 scalps, which ranks amongst the best ever performances by a spinner, in a single test series. Rarely has touring team ever been as bamboozled with spin. Even Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting looked all at sea. At Lahore, his dismissal of Gooch had to be seen ,to be believed, penetrating the gate in devastating manner.
In West Indies, in 1988, Qadir was a revelation, capturing 14 wickets, being the perfect accomplice for Imran Khan and Wasim Akram. He tormented the likes of Gordon Greenidge and Viv Richards .In the first two tests his bowling played an integral part in a win at Georgetown, and coming close to winning at Trinidad. In the final test at Barbados, dubious umpiring decisions prevented Qadir from running through the West Indies batting line up. , and winning Pakistan the unofficial world test championship. Setting a target of 266 for victory, Pakistan were on the brink of famous series victory with West Indies tottering at 180-7 , before Qadir was denied catch off Jeff Dujon at short leg and later off Winston Benjamin. In that game Qadir took spin bowling art to heights rarely transcended, in the Carribean.On the evening of the 4th day, it simply looked as though he would roll over the Calypso batsmen. After 1989, his career declined, after a 6-160 at Auckland in the 2nd test. Qadir sowed the seeds for the resurgence of spin bowling in Pakistan, with stars like Mushtaq Ahmed blossoming, or later Saqlain Mushtaq.

Evaluation

Qadir captured 236 wickets at an average of 32.80, in 67 test matches, with 12 five wicket hauls and 5, ten wicket hauls. Statistics do scan justice to the true prowess of Qadir, or his impact. In his era few were better match-winners, or could as spectacularly turn a game from the depths of despair. Even if statistically a street ahead, I do not rate Shane Warne or Murlitharan as hard a proposition to negotiate and possessing as much variety of Qadir , or Bishen Bedi or Subhash Gupte eclipsing his wizardry.
Qadir played an important role in shaping Pakistan into one of the most powerful sides in the world in 1987-88 and earlier in 1982.He was an integral part of one of the most lethal bowling attacks with Wasim and Imran, and was a central character in Pakistan arguably turning into the moral world champions in 1987-88. Few spinners shaped their nation’s fortunes to turn it into top team as Qadir.No doubt Shane Warne eclipsed him, in terms of temperament and consistency and Bishen Bedi or Subhash Gupte, were more complete, conventionally.
No spinner troubled the likes of Graham Gooch as much as Qadir, or even Ian Botham or David Gower. In terms of pure or natural talent, I would place Qadir only behind Wasim Akram amongst all bowlers, and amongst the dozen most talented cricketers of all time. As a pure match-winner amongst spin bowlers only Warne and Murlitharan eclipsed Qadir. Qadir has 100 test scalps in winning causes at an average of 23.49.
In ODI’s Qadir conceded a mere four runs per over, which was remarkable by any standards. He captured 132 scalps at 32.16 in 104 one day internationals. Qadir was selected at 88 th place in Cristopher Martin Jenkins’s 100 best cricketers and chosen by Dickie Bird in his all-time XI. Unfairly he was excluded by Geoff Armstrong and Geoff Armstrong, in selecting top 100.. In his top 100 cricketers. Pace bowling giant Michael Holding chose Qadir in his all-time test team. Without question, Qadir would comprise a place in my selection of best 100 cricketers.
A blot in his career was that he was hardly successful on Australian tracks or in India. With a gun on my head, I would select Shane Warne in in my all-time team instead of Qadir because of consistency and temperament. Overall I would rate Qadir behind only Shane Warne, Murlitharan, Jim Laker ,Subhash Gupte and Bill o’Reilly, amongst spinners.
Amongst Pakistani cricketers, I would place Qadir, in my view n the league of Zaheer Abbas, if not with the likes of Imran Khan or Javed Miandad. He could also be very handy batsmen scoring very effective forties or thirties. Qadir played some cameos in ODI’s in tough circumstances. In test matches, he has 3 fifties to his credit. The six and four he hoisted over the ropes of Courtney Walsh to pull of a victory in the last over in the 19867 Reliance cup, is always embedded in my memory. If he applied himself more, he could have turned into a genuine allrounder.

Personal Life

I always recollect the life exuberance he brought to the game, and his sheer sporting spirit ,unselfishness or gamesmanship. At times he got emotional on a pitch, At times temperament got the better of Qadir, like when he was engaged in a brawl with a spectator in the stands at Barbados in 1988.or when sent home during a New Zealand tour in 1985.
But after game, he was one of the friendliest characters, as open as ever. I can’t forget how Qadir joined India’s victory celebrations after the 1983 world cup victory. He always had a kind word for India. An overtly religious man, who stressed on human values. A moment I will always cherish is when he graciously handed his 1987 Reliance cup man of the series award, to skipper Imran Khan.
At times temperament got the better of Qadir like when he was engaged in a brawl with a spectator in the stands at Barbados in 1988.or when sent home during a New Zealand tour in 1985. Qadir ran a private academy near Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. His four sons carried n his trail in cricket with varying levels of success, but his role in Mushtaq's ascendancy and, to a lesser extent that of Danish Kaneria, should be complemented.
In November 2008, Qadir was appointed Pakistan's chief selector, but he relinquished his post after a little over six months. Sadly he perished to a heart attack at the age of 63, in November, in 2019.
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Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist who has extensively studied cricket

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