Mushtaq Ahmed remembers the time when he ‘aspired’ to become an Abdul Qadir. Having just broken into the Pakistan team, a young and affable Mushtaq spent hours with his senior — Qadir — to master the art of leg-spin.
It was not easy to emulate someone, who not only redefined spin bowling, but also inspired a generation of young cricketers. “He had a lot of variations and used his arm perfectly. Learning things from him was an experience in itself,” Mushtaq told Sportstar from Lahore, late on Saturday.
Mushtaq, who is yet to come to terms with the fact that Qadir is no more, believes that the world will not only remember just him as a spin legend but also as a ‘great human being’.
“He made it a point to help out the poor people and despite achieving so much, he never forgot his roots. He didn’t leave the environment he grew up in. That’s something unbelievable,” Mushtaq said.
In 1989, when Mushtaq debuted for Pakistan in an ODI against Sri Lanka in Sharjah, Qadir was his team-mate. “He would always tell me that a leg-spinner should never be afraid of conceding runs, but the main objective should be to pick wickets. I listened to his advice and that helped me in the longer run,” the 49-year-old Mushtaq recollected.
During the practice sessions, Qadir would spend a long time with Mushtaq, boosting his confidence. “He told me that I am a match-winner and I should have belief in myself. I still remember how his talks would inspire all of us.” After Qadir’s exit from the national team, the onus was on Mushtaq to step up as the key spinner.
“In cricket, a spinner can’t afford to get scared if a batsman goes after him. He has to wait for the opportunity and go for the kill,” Mushtaq said.
“He had offers from County cricket, but he turned them down. I asked him why he didn't play County cricket and he said that he did not want to reveal the art of leg-spin to the world and it was only meant for Pakistan,” he said. “That was Qadir bhai . An exceptional cricketer and a human being, who always spoke his mind."
While Mushtaq credits Qadir for mentoring him in his early days, Saqlain Mushtaq — another spin ace from Pakistan, who mastered the art of doosra — reminisces how he would skip school to watch Qadir play local matches in Lahore. “He was a magician. Everybody would speak about him when we were growing up. He was a superstar and as a young cricketer, I dreamed of becoming like Qadir someday… He was our inspiration,” Saqlain, who is currently the spin bowling consultant with the England team, said from Manchester.
When Saqlain appeared for the U-19 trials, Qadir saw him at the nets and heaped praises on him. “He told some of the selectors that I would go far. That made him special -- he could spot talents,” Saqlain said.
Eye for detail
During his playing days, Saqlain would call up Qadir and ‘pick his brains’. “He was always ready to help and his understanding of the game was so good that he exactly knew how to trick a batsman. He had an eye for details and his suggestions helped me better doosra,” Saqlain said.
When the two met in Pakistan a couple of years ago for commentary stints, Qadir told Saqlain about how the game has evolved. “Despite being away from the game, he was a keen follower of domestic and international cricket and was well-informed about today’s spinners… He had a great vision,” Saqlain said.
Many in the cricketing circuit believe that Qadir was much ahead of his time. From being a ‘magician spinner’ to becoming one of the sharpest critics of Pakistan cricket — he didn’t fear to call the spade a spade.
That made him Abdul Qadir — uncompromising and always on the point.
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