Abdul Qadir: Spectators’ delight and a batsman’s nightmare

Qadir was a lovable leg-spinner. He could spin the ball in, and then out putting the batsmen in a perpetual trance.

Abdul Qadir was a revolutionary leg-spinner during the 1970s and '80s.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

If ever there was a spectators’ delight and a batsmen’s nightmare, it was Abdul Qadir. It is said that spinners, unlike the fast men, are calm, yet fierce, and very sure of what they want to do with the ball. Only, Qadir was different. At times, like B.S. Chandrasekhar, he appeared clueless how the ball would behave once it left his hand. Honest to the core, he would admit it so sportingly.

Qadir was a lovable leg-spinner. His approach, bounding in his tracks, threatening to break into a dance, angular approach, a little jig, and the ball would move in the direction of the batsman, in a loop, in a charming loop, luring his prey to doom. A wicket would be celebrated with a little hop and he would want to feel the ball urgently, as if wanting to caress it and implore it to repeat the act.

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He could spin the ball in, and then out. The batsman was perpetually in a trance. When he would be convinced the ball would spin away, it would curl in viciously, bemusing the batsman, and the wicket-keeper. There was action galore in the middle when Qadir was practising his art of taking wickets. There were genuine occasions when the batsman stepped out of the crease with little guilt of having lost his wicket, such was Qadir’s prowess of snaring his victims.

Qadir uproots the stumps of England's Ian Botham. PHOTO: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

Batsmen would appear so vulnerable when facing Qadir. Surprisingly, the same batsmen, when facing his spin partner, assumed an attacking posture. He was an absolutely natural spinner, eccentric, but a match-winner. He did not mind if the ball had shine in abundance. He was so sure of himself. If Wasim Akram, a legend with the ball himself, rated Qadir a “magician” he was only echoing the views of thousands of cricket followers.

Qadir commanded respect. True, a young Sachin Tendulkar once blasted him in 1989 in an exhibition game on the tour to Pakistan but the Indian maestro never ran down the Pakistan great. The googly was a well-concealed bomb and the flipper a devastating weapon. Qadir was a self-taught champion, a great favourite of Imran Khan. Even well-set batsmen could never relax when Qadir was on – he got them with the drifting spinner on the off-stump or bowled them round the legs.

He was a bundle of contrivance when the pitch assisted his style. His skills multiplied manifold in such circumstances and made batting the most hazardous task on the planet. Despite his endearing histrionics on the field, Qadir was a bowler much-feared by the best in business. He was truly an inspirational leg-spinner and flourished in an era when batsmen were known to be excellent players of spin, but rarely when Qadir bowled.

Qadir was a great favourite of Imran Khan. PHOTO: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

Qadir was an important, integral, part of Imran’s strategy to win a match. He was adept at breaking a partnership. He reveled in stifling the scoring rate. Batsmen could not have frustrated him with their defence or their pad-play. Qadir always pegged away, stump-to-stump, exploring the angles, hitting the uncomfortable spots on the pitch, picking the edges with subtle change of line and length. He was a delight even when fielding in the country, striking conversations with the crowd, at times enraging his captain.

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Cricket was never dull when Qadir bowled. Or batted. Remember the tense moments when he pulled off the match against the West Indies in the 1987 World Cup match at Lahore? He kept his nerves, hit a six off Courtney Walsh to swing the match Pakistan’s way. Typically, his celebration was in keeping with his mutiny, his bat raised and his gait suggesting accomplishment of a job as if it was just another day in the office. This one was with the bat though.

Qadir in conversation with South Africa's Imran Tahir in 2012. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

 

Cricket has always been enriched by characters who brought cheer to the proceedings. Derek Randall’s antics when fielding, Javed Miandad’s comic acts when batting, Dennis Lillee’s aggressive instincts when bowling livened up the game all over the world. Qadir was one of them, an ever-smiling, ever-competitive, adding a much-appreciated flavour to the game. In his death, the game has lost one of its greatest entertainers. When he retired, a great many batsmen did not hide their relief. They would now not hide their respect for a great rival.