Abdul Qadir deserved more words for his deeds

Updated: Sep 12, 2019, 09:11 IST | Clayton Murzello

The lack of quantitative and qualitative tributes to the late Abdul Qadir in England against whom he enjoyed most success was nothing short of surprising

Abdul Qadir deserved more words for his deeds
Pakistan's Abdul Qadir displaying his grip on the 1982 tour of England. Pic/mid-day archives

Clayton MurzelloEastern Magic'. That's what appears above an action picture of Abdul Qadir in the 1983 edition of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. Below that Ken Kelly image are the words: "Abdul Qadir of Pakistan whose flighted leg-breaks and googlies revived a dying art in England in 1982."

Qadir, who passed away in Lahore last Friday following a cardiac arrest, went on to do more for the art of wrist spin to merit quantitative and qualitative tributes especially in England — whose batsmen Qadir, more often than not, troubled and tormented.

Sure, he didn't even make the Test XI on his first tour to England in 1978. Indeed, his match analysis of 10 for 211 at the Oval in 1987 did not eventuate in an England defeat and Mike Gatting's Englishmen felt they were undone by some dubious decisions by umpire Shakeel Khan when Qadir claimed nine for 56 at Lahore in 1987-88. But which England batsman of that era can underestimate the skill involved in Qadir's 82 wickets against them in 16 Tests?

On the day Qadir passed away, the sports desk of a leading newspaper in London reduced Qadir's influence on the game to a small item which included Wasim Akram's tribute tweet, carried among snippets during the last Ashes Test at Old Trafford. Another heavyweight UK newspaper didn't even commission a tribute as they normally do. The rest couldn't care less. Yes, the Ashes battle was far more important in space allocation, but what is not understandable is the fact that several commentators and player-turned-writers who played against Qadir were not moved to produce something which would pass off as an obituary.

The lack of tributes in the land where Qadir became the force he went on to be notwithstanding, the mesmerising leg-spinner provided English writers a good amount of fodder through his performances and I found it worthwhile to dig up some material.

Hence, I pulled out my 1985 edition of The Slow Men by David Frith, which has Qadir on the cover. The bubbly Pakistani is also part of the subtitle – 'The Art of Spinners from Tich Freeman to Abdul Qadir.'

Frith wrote that Qadir "bore the responsibility of holding a life in his hands, for true leg-spin delivered from a compact, even cocky, approach and with all the mystique of a dozen wrist angles allied to strength of finger and pinpoint length, really belonged to another age."

Qamar Ahmed, the doyen of Pakistani cricket writers, informed readers in the September 1982 issue of Wisden Cricket Monthy of how Qadir, the son of a preacher, always carried a prayer mat in his kit bag and quoted him as saying, "I never forget to thank the maker."

Phil Edmonds, the former England left-arm spinner, pointed to Qadir being far more successful at home than abroad while attempting to put Qadir's performances (168 out of his 236 wickets were claimed on Pakistan soil) in perspective in the book 100 Greatest Bowlers. "Give him the driest, barest and hardest strip of earth anywhere from Lahore to Karachi and he will make the ball talk when nobody else can get a squeak out of it," wrote Edmonds.

What did Richie Benaud, another leg-spinning star think of him? Qadir was among the spin probables before Benaud finally went for Shane Warne in his Greatest XI DVD. Benaud said Qadir tried to get a wicket every ball which was not the kind of advice he received and dished out to spinners. "He was wonderful. He gets into my short list because he is a character, he's the sort of fellow I found exciting, he was good to have in the side and he was great for the spectators coming through the turnstiles," Benaud said.

Recalling Qadir's action – which caused some followers of the game to call him a disco dancer – made me wonder why no one thought about producing a flicker book on his action. But Patrick Eagar, the ace photographer, came up with a frame-by-frame sequence consisting of 12 pictures which was published in the October 1982 issue of Wisden Cricket Monthly which had an accompanying piece by Jack Bannister. "Qadir has a highly distinctive routine through which he meticulously wanders before the ball is sent on its way grudgingly, just as if he is reluctant to ever part with the ball he tosses and caresses so lovingly," wrote Bannister, a former Warwickshire medium pacer, who claimed 1198 first-class wickets.

Qadir's emergence in 1982 provided better air for cricket to breathe in but not everybody visualised that other great practitioners of leg-spin would come along and give that art a good name.

Robin Marlar wrote in Wisden Cricket Monthly: "If Abdul the Tweaker is the last of his kind, and heaven forbid that it should be so, at least we have seen a good 'un." Mushtaq Ahmed and Anil Kumble made their Test debuts in 1990 while Shane Warne arrived in 1992.

No skill is easy to master, especially leg-spin. And like fast bowling, the slow variety can be unrewarding. Qadir didn't have it easy. Three Tests against India in 1979-80 could fetch him only two wickets. And, he could send back only tailender Neil Foster when he joined the 1987 tour party from the second Test at Lord's, after attending to his ill wife back home. He went wicketless in the next Test at Leeds only to strike some form in the final Test at the Oval and later that summer, bruised fingers prevented him from taking more than three wickets for Rest of the World against MCC in the MCC Bicentenary match at Lord's. Qadir's final Test wasn't satisfying either – the solitary wicket of Brian Lara – on his home ground at Lahore.

There are better ways to end a Test cricket career and, at 63, he wasn't old enough to say goodbye to a life in which he had so much more to offer.

It would be appropriate if Qadir's tombstone bore the same words that Wisden 1983 used in that caption.

mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper

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