Pakistan's legendary leg-spinner Abdul Qadir has been inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame for a stellar cricket career that spanned for more than a decade.
The man who revived the art of leg spin, Abdul Qadir was an enigma like no other. If it was the sprightly skip and jump in his run-up that first caught your eye, it's his unconditional love for his skill that made you stay. Qadir was magic and in a staggering international career that ran for 13 years he left many spellbound.
Qadir finished his career with 236 Test wickets, still the third among all Pakistan spinners, and 132 ODI wickets, representing the team in 171 international matches across the two formats.
The show before the show
Deception, in any form, is the one skill that great bowlers possess naturally or develop over their career. Qadir was the absolute master at it and it began even before the ball was delivered.
A few steps, a lick of the right palm, a few hops with his arms taking a complete swing to reach up to the skies before the ball was delivered. The hysterical action, that appears slipshod up until the crescendo, somehow turns rhythmical, gluing you in, before the ball is delivered.
Nothing about Qadir was complete without his antics before the ball was bowled. Everything about him was theatrical and he mastered the art of deception with an element of distraction in his inimitable, yet often tried to replicate, bowling run-up and action.
The early signs, including the theatrics, were promising. Fast bowlers were ruling left, right and centre and cricket's clamour for a spinner had never been higher when Qadir stepped into the arena with cameras sopping up every movement of his.
In just his second Test match against England in Hyderabad, he claimed six wickets, removing five of the top six batters to give Pakistan a crucial lead in the first innings. To have a genuinely attacking spinner in a Test team was barely heard of then, but Qadir was about to write a chapter of his own in cricket history.
"Qadir was a bowler with killer instincts," he once told in an interview to ESPNCricinfo. It came to the fore in 1982 when Qadir took 22 wickets against Australia in the home series. Five years later, the magic still burnt bright when he enjoyed one of his best times as a spinner. A 10-wicket haul at The Oval on a wicket where Pakistan batters had put on more than 700 runs earned rave reviews.
Few months later, in the return series in Pakistan, Qadir destroyed England with 30 wickets across three Tests, taking a stunning 9/56, still the best figures by a Pakistan bowler, in an innings in the first Test in Lahore to give Pakistan a 1-0 lead in the series.
Wrist spin in the World Cup
While Qadir's act of reviving spin, and leg spin in particular, gets all the attention, he was One Day cricket's first genuine match-winning spinner. Again in an era of fast bowling, Qadir found ways to stand out, getting to 100 ODI wickets in 69 matches, the third fastest at the time.
He made his ODI debut in the 1983 World Cup, taking a four-wicket haul against the Kiwis in his first game. Probably not as popular is his valiant, unbeaten 41 from No.9 in that very same match. Two games later, he destroyed Sri Lanka with a five-wicket haul, becoming just the second spinner in ODIs to register a five-for. He finished the tournament as Pakistan's highest wicket-taker with 12 wickets in six matches. Four years later, he took another 12 wickets in the next edition of the tournament, guiding Pakistan to the semi-finals yet again.
The legacy of the magician
Such was his aura that Qadir became an icon that generated several young protégés. Mushtaq Ahmed emerged to succeed him by embodying everything that made him successful. Each of his four sons took to cricket too with Usman Qadir, the youngest, currently in the Pakistan cricket team. Quite a few others were inspired by him, including the legendary Shane Warne, who revealed that Qadir "was the guy who we looked up to in the '80s".
Qadir passed away, aged 63, in Lahore in 2019, leaving behind a legacy like few others. Numbers do not do his skill enough justice; Qadir was a mystic who popularised the art of leg spin and gave it an all new flavour, one so vibrant that his name would forever be attached to the skill.
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