Abdul Qadir © Getty Images
Abdul Qadir © Getty Images

The leg-spin legend Abdul Qadir was born on September 15, 1955. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the man who helped revive the glorious art of leg-spin in the 1980s.

It was a grim era for leg-spinners, the late 1970s and the 1980s: the four-pronged attack of the West Indies, first under Clive Lloyd and then under Viv Richards, made batsmen submit to their brutal yet controlled ways; the Pakistani pacers — Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz, and later on, Wasim Akram — provided them with fair competition; Australia had Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, and Max Walker, and much later, Craig McDermott; Ian Botham partnered Bob Willis; and New Zealand and India had their greatest fast bowlers.

The batsmen were also formidable: from Sunil Gavaskar to Gundappa Viswanath to Dilip Vengsarkar, from Lloyd to Richards to Gordon Greenidge, from Geoff Boycott to David Gower, from Zaheer Abbas to Majid Khan to Javed Miandad, from Greg Chappell to Allan Border, they were all there.

ODIs had evolved, and spinners were often considered a burden in the format. They were at best reduced to a containing job — bowling flat and holding one end up as the fast bowlers led the attack. It helped if the spinner could bat a bit: at least he would be able to contribute more than being just the eleventh player to be selected.

Wrist-spinners had suffered more in the business. While finger-spinners often find it easier to maintain a steady line and length the leg-spinners rely more on flight, guile, and variation — forms of art that really do not have any significance in the shorter version of the sport. It was a dying art, they said. Whatever hope there was for classical spin was ruined by the decimation of the Indian trinity in the hands of the ruthless Pakistanis in 1977-78.

Then, from the alleys of Lahore, there rose a messiah. Here was a man from a modest background and without a coach; here was a man who believed that “if a person is bowling from dawn to dusk, when he goes back home he should still have something left in the bag. He is leg-spinner. If there is nothing left, he is not leg-spinner.”

The world called the man with the French-cut beard, the unique action, and the indecipherable flight and turn a wizard; a wizard he was — the man who revived the dying art of leg-spin in the world of cricket. The mystique of Abdul Qadir Khan, along with the smiling assassin Miandad and the regal Imran, played a long role in making Pakistan the only team that could meet West Indies in the eye.

Few people could pick his flight, and Vic Marks was certainly not one of them: “Good Lord, he’s bowled me a full-toss. Where shall I smash it? Hang on it’s a low full-toss. Not to worry. Maybe it’s a half-volley. Oh no, it’s a length-ball and I’m groping hopelessly.”

Rahul Bhattacharya, in his excellent book Pundits from Pakistan, wrote: “I do remember his action. I more than remember it. It is my most vivid cricketing image from the 1980s. I, and I was not alone practised it endlessly. I internalised it. It was the greatest joy.”

Bhattacharya was certainly not the only one. There were other imitators of his action — the most famous being Mushtaq Ahmed, Danish Kaneria (whom Qadir refers to as “purely my product”), and Imran Tahir; however, other than them, thousands of aspiring leg-spinners from either side of the border and across the world had tried to replicate that action. This writer was one of the hapless triers who got neither the action nor the accuracy.

It came as a serious disappointment when Bhattacharya had got to know that the action was, in fact, ‘artificial’: “Yes, it was not natural. My action was beautiful, you see. When I bowled with my natural action I was a better bowler, a better finisher.” Qadir had added: “I started studying the psychology of batsmen. I added up all the things I learnt to create some impression in the minds of the batsmen. It was an artificial body language. But very successful.”

Whatever it was, it worked — not only on the batsmen but also on the spectators: we could not leave our seats during a Qadir over. It was beautiful. He remembers an old lady in England screaming when she saw him outside an elevator: “Is it you, Abdul? My daughter, who otherwise has no interest in cricket, always enjoys watching you bowl. She says, ‘Mama, when Abdul is bowling it seems a young lady is dancing on the floor’.”

Bhattacharya perhaps describes it the best: “Starting from a forty-five degree angle to the stumps, hands — the ball in the left — curling up alternatively to the tongue, the body rocking forwards on to the stretched and slightly bent right foot, then back again, and then a stutter!, and another!, and some momentum now, arms swinging like vines in a storm, a jerking parabola to the wicket, and on the seventh stride the body collecting itself into a twisted jump with, at one point, both arms pointing straight up and both feet off the ground, and then the snap-wristed release, the hair flowing behind and the tongue protruding ahead, what contortion, what climax!”

What of the bowling, then? Qadir’s success story lay in his guile and aggressive outlook. He had not a single defensive bone in his body, and never compromised attack for the sake of accuracy. As John Woodcock wrote of him in Wisden, “Unlike Warne, Qadir was always on the attack. He knew no other way. It was a great part of his attraction, as well as of his relative inconsistency. When it comes to deception, as in the way in which he disguised his googly and various leg-breaks, not to mention his flipper, he was a real little sorcerer.”

The leg-break and the googly, the unerring line and length, the relentless stamina — they all set Qadir apart from his peers and successors till Warne appeared on the scenario. Even then, it was Qadir who had revived the art that Warne had improved to perfection. Warne could also control runs: Qadir never bothered. He simply wanted to get them out.

Warne has, of course, admitted that he was greatly influenced by Qadir. Warne had paid a visit to Qadir’s home for tips, and tales are told how the legends practised the nuances of the finest art of cricket on a carpet with an orange. The visit, however, was preceded by a tribute from the Victorian: “To The Best. Thanks for everything. I look forward to catching up with you. Sincerely, Warne.”

Qadir’s leg-breaks were uncanny and his stamina was legendary. However, the most striking aspect of his bowling was undoubtedly his wicked googly. He had two googlies: one that zooted through at an absurd pace, turning out to be too fast for the batsman; the other that came slow and made the batsman look like a fool.

He did not have a top-spinner, though; what was more, he did not believe that such a thing existed: “What is the definition of top-spin? Janaab, if top-spin means that the ball will jump up high by your command, then I think eleven top-spinners would be enough for any batting line-up.”

He went to the extent of saying, “Only those who are less educated in cricket, when they have to keep speaking while giving commentary, only they say things like ‘that was a great top-spinner’.”

It was about the fierce pride he took in his art as well: “Where nothing else can succeed, leg-spin can be successful. That is the beauty of leg-spin. Where the ball is not breaking, the leg-spinner can make it break. Where there are only runs in the pitch, the leg-spinner can bowl variations.” Also, “I could bowl the same ball in ten different ways. Ten leg-breaks. Ten googlies. Ten flippers.”

Playing on pitches that had almost invariably been prepared for batsmen or fast bowlers Qadir had picked up 236 wickets from 67 Tests at 32.80 with 15 five-fors and 5 ten-fors. A hard hitter of the ball, he had scored 1,029 Test runs at 15.59. From 104 ODIs Qadir had picked up 132 wickets at 26.16 and an economy rate of 4.06 — helping establish his art in the shorter format. He also scored 641 runs at an average of 15.26 and a strike rate of 75.50: 102 of these runs had come in sixes.

Despite his successes, just like Warne, Qadir performed way below-par against India. Just like Warne, he was mastered by the Indian batsmen, and his numbers took a toll as a reason, just like Warne’s:

vs India vs Other countries (excluding minnows) vs minnows Total Ratio  of Ave (India / other countries) Difference in Ave (India – other countries)
W Ave W Ave W Ave W Ave
Abdul Qadir 27 51.52 209 30.39 236 32.81 1.70 21.13
Shane Warne 43 47.19 642 24.08 23 22.09 708 25.42 1.96 23.11

Qadir’s First-Class records were outstanding: 960 wickets at 23.24 was an outstanding tally for any Asian (given their domestic formats) who had not played in England. He had picked up 75 five-fors and 21 ten-fors; with the bat he had scored 3,740 runs at 18.33 with 2 hundreds.

Early days

Qadir hailed from a modest background: legend has it that Imran Khan had spotted the Lahore vegetable-vendor and hand-picked him for First-Class cricket, before fast-tracking him into the Test side.

Qadir had a grand First-Class debut. Playing for Habib Bank in the Sikandar Ali Bhutto Cup in 1975-76, Qadir picked up 6 for 67 to demolish United Bank Limited; in his next match, for Lahore C he routed Bahawalpur for 97 with 6 for 17, and followed it up by hammering them for 112.

He picked up 31 wickets at 17.29 from 8 matches that season and followed it up with 67 more at 16.47 in the next. This included his first ten-for — 6 for 23 and 5 for 31 against NWFP; and an amazing run of 6 for 63, 8 for 183, 5 for 39, and 5 for 68 — the last two coming in the same match.

There was no stopping Qadir. He routed Pakistan Universities with 8 for 29 and 4 for 86; in a month he made his Test debut under Wasim Bari against England at Lahore.

Test debut

It was not an auspicious debut. Qadir toiled hard for 32.7 eight-ball overs on a flat pitch before he eventually had Bob Willis caught by Iqbal Qasim to get his only wicket of the match.

He came to his elements in the second Test at Hyderabad (Pakistan). After England bowled out the hosts for 275, Bari brought on Qadir as the fifth bowler after Miandad. Qadir clean-bowled Brian Rose, and beat both Derek Randall and Graham Roope in flight; the hapless batsmen could only hit the ball back at him. He finished with 6 for 44.

With 4 for 81 (all leg-before-wicket dismissals, thanks to that googly) in the first innings and one more in the second in the last Test at Karachi Qadir announced himself on the international scenario. Here was a force to contend with: a leg-spinner, the kind of which the world had started to forget.

He was dominated by the Indians and did marginally better against the West Indians at home, picking up 4 for 131 at Lahore and 3 for 48 at Faisalabad. Thereafter he was dropped, only to make a comeback in the 1982 tour of England on Imran’s insistence.

Imran had recommended him to grow the French beard for the tour. In the captain’s opinion, it made Qadir look like a wizard. To make sure Qadir listened, Imran added the incentive, “It works with the woman too!” Qadir, complete with his beard, his unique run-up, and his deceptive variety, was ready to take on England.

Qadir rises

Qadir announced himself in England with his very first match, against Sussex. After the Pakistanis declared at 450 for 2 Qadir picked up 7 for 44 and 6 for 78 to rout the hosts for 209 and 228. Two matches later, against Glamorgan, he had 5 for 31 and 4 for 20, and the Pakistanis won by an innings yet again.

The first Test at Edgbaston was a quiet one for Qadir. Pakistan lost by a huge margin despite Imran’s heroics. Then, after Mohsin Khan’s 200 helped Pakistan reach 428 at Lord’s, Qadir removed Botham with the score on 157 for 3; they were eventually bowled out for 227 as Qadir finished with 4 for 39. He picked up 2 more in the second innings, but the effort was subdued by Mudassar Nazar’s 6 for 32. Qadir finished the tour with 57 wickets from 12 matches at 20.82 with 4 five-fors and a ten-for.

Australia toured Pakistan next, and it was here that Qadir established his supremacy. He had picked up 2 for 80 in the first innings at Karachi, but he really came into the second when Imran brought him on early in the second innings to replace Tahir Naqqash.

Qadir clean-bowled John Dyson, and in the same spell he accounted for Graeme Wood, Border, and Kim Hughes. He picked up 5 for 76, his second five-for, to bowl out Australia for 179 and win the Test for Pakistan.

He went a step further in the next Test at Karachi: this time he had 4 for 76 in the first innings, and after Australia were asked to follow-on, he picked up the first 5 wickets. He eventually finished with 7 for 142, acquired his first ten-for, and Pakistan won by an innings. Another 4 wickets at Lahore meant that Qadir finished the 3-Test series with 22 wickets at 25.54.

Later in the season Qadir opened bowling against Rawalpindi, picking up 9 wickets to bowl out the hosts for 125. It would remain his best innings tally. He also picked up 4 for 27 in the second to rout them for 91. He had even bowled unchanged throughout the two Rawalpindi innings (they lost by an innings).

The World Cup

Including an aggressive leg-spinner on the biggest stage of ODIs was a genuine risk. More so if he had not played a single ODI till then. But Imran decided to risk and included Qadir for the World Cup squad of 1983.

On his ODI debut at Edgbaston, Qadir ripped out the top-order of the New Zealand line-up with 12-4-21-4 as the Kiwis reached 238. Things looked hopeless for Pakistan as they were reduced to 102 for 7, but Qadir, coming out at No. 9, scored a belligerent 41 not out, remaining stranded.

He was at it again when he picked up 5 for 44 in his third ODI, against Sri Lanka at Headingley. More importantly, or rather, most importantly, he made people and captains around the world think that leg-spin was quite an essential component of ODIs. The revolution would take some time to come, but the seeds have already been reaped.

Demolishing England yet again

Qadir’s love affair for the English continued. The next year, at Karachi, Qadir picked up 5 for 74 and 3 for 59 on an absolute dustbowl (even Nick Cook returned figures of 6 for 65 and 5 for 18 as Pakistan ambled to a 3-wicket victory chasing 65).

In the third Test at Lahore, Qadir was among wickets once again, finishing with 5 for 84 and 5 for 110. However, time ran out with Pakistan stranded on 217 for 6 chasing 243. They claimed the series 1-0, though.

Humiliating the world champions

It was in 1986-87 that Qadir first got to take on the West Indians. This was going to be better than any other opposition he had played against till then. With Sarfraz gone and Wasim still raw, the onus was on Imran and Qadir to make a fight out of it.

The West Indian fast bowlers skittled out the hosts for 159 at Faisalabad. Qadir began innocuously, picking up a single wicket. Saleem Yousuf, that underrated fighter who got lost somewhere in the quagmire of Pakistan cricket, helped Pakistan set up a target of 240 (some late-order hitting by Wasim also helped).

Every schoolboy of the 1980s wanted to imitate Abdul Qadir's bowling action © Getty Images
Every schoolboy of the 1980s wanted to imitate Abdul Qadir’s bowling action © Getty Images

Imran provided the initial breakthroughs, removing the famed duo of Greenidge and Haynes with 16 on the board. Wasim was replaced by Qadir after 3 overs, and Gomes succumbed to a googly almost immediately. Two balls later, Richards walked back to the pavilion.

After Imran removed Jeff Dujon, Qadir simply sliced his through the tail. The world champions had faced quality bowling, but they were not used to leg-spin of such high pedigree. Richie Richardson was the only one to put up some resistance with a 54-ball 14 before succumbing to Qadir.

The leg-spinner picked up 6 for 16. West Indies were shot out for 53 — their lowest score by a distance (the previous lowest was 76 against Pakistan at Dhaka in 1958-59). Their current lowest, however, stands at 47, thanks to Steve Harmison’s thunderbolts at Sabina Park in 2004. It, however, remains the lowest score by any team against Pakistan.

The West Indians fought their way back in the second Test at Lahore: the revenge was sweet, as Pakistan were bowled out for 131 and 77 and lost by an innings. Qadir, however, returned figures of 4 for 96.

In the drawn affair at Karachi, Qadir once again did commendably — with a fracture and bowling with a plastered hand — with 4 for 107 and 3 for 84.

Qadir had passed the test with distinction: 18 wickets from 3 Tests at 20.05 against the best side in the world were figures any bowler would be proud of. Leg-spin had become ‘fashionable’ once again. India had produced Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, who vanished after an excellent start.

However, in households all over the world, a silent revolution was taking place. Narendra Hirwani was on the fringes of a selection; Anil Kumble was following his Test dreams, as were Mushtaq Ahmed and Ian Salisbury; Paul Strang was still a kid, but he too had similar hopes. Most importantly, a Victorian blonde was honing his skills somewhere with the mission of taking the baton.

The Oval marathon

The 1987 tour of England was not going particularly well for Qadir (he eventually finished with 22 wickets from 11 matches at 44.86). He had arrived late due to his wife’s illness, missing the Old Trafford Test. Once back, he picked up a single wicket at Lord’s and went wicketless at Headingley and Edgbaston.

Pakistan were 1-0 up in the series. All they wanted was to hold on to the lead in the last Test at The Oval. Miandad slammed 260, and Saleem Malik and Imran also got hundreds. Pakistan scored 708 and had virtually claimed the series. Could they win it now on this featherbed?

It was difficult, but Qadir — out of sorts till then in the series — began the painstaking journey after Imran removed Chris Broad. The conditions were unfavourable, but he kept on picking the batsmen one by one. Wickets did fall, but not frequently. England batted out 99.4 overs and scored 232. Qadir bowled almost unchanged and finished with figures of 44.4-15-96-7.

England followed on, but once again Qadir found himself fighting a lone battle. He had been bowling since the third morning, refusing to give in. He had to prove a point. He carried on even after Wasim was down with appendicitis and had to undergo an emergency surgery and Imran broke down.

Still, he managed to provide the jolts, reducing England to 139 for 4. Mike Gatting and Botham then added an unbroken 176 as an exhausted Qadir could not deliver any further. He finished with 53-21-115-3, which meant that he had virtually sent down close to a hundred overs without a break.

The second World Cup

Pakistan were definitely among the clear favourites for the 1987 World Cup. Qadir was no longer an ODI debutant. Along with Imran he had to assume the responsibility of a senior bowler. He picked up a couple of wickets against Sri Lanka at Hyderabad (Pakistan), but that turned out to be just a warm-up.

After Pakistan had scored 239 for 7 at Rawalpindi, England seemed to be well on target despite the fact that Qadir had cleaned up Graham Gooch. They reached 141 for 2 when Qadir hit timber once again, this time to dismiss Tim Robinson. With Imran down with food-poisoning it looked a hopeless cause when England reached 206 for 4.

It was then that Qadir put a stranglehold on the batsmen, with Tauseef Ahmed for company. It was leg-spin at its best, and the hapless Englishmen were left clueless, being completely unable to force the tempo. The runs did not come as the asking rate inched up higher, well past the danger-zone.

Lamb fell leg-before to a googly from Qadir. John Emburey panicked and was run out, and Qadir had Paul Downton caught-behind two balls later. With runs almost impossible to come by, Pringle and Phil DeFreitas also committed hara-kiri and were run out; England were bowled out for 221 and Qadir finished with 10-0-31-4.

Four days later, he was in the thick of things again. He was dominated by Richards as West Indies scored 216; however, Pakistani wickets kept falling, and despite a fight from Yousuf, Pakistan were left to score 14 from the last over to be bowled by Courtney Walsh.

Qadir and Jaffar took a single each, and thanks to an overthrow Qadir managed a brace off the third. With the ball up in the slot and long-off inside, Qadir moved towards the leg and plonked the ball over long-off for a huge six. The next ball went to deep extra-cover for another two.

The last ball, one that followed Walsh’s magnanimous gesture of not Mankading Jaffar, was hit towards third man. Qadir had managed to pull off yet another amazing win.

Qadir picked up 3 wickets in each of the matches against England at Karachi and Sri Lanka at Faisalabad. However, millions of dreams were shattered when Australia knocked Pakistan out of the World Cup in the semi-final at Lahore.

Routing England again and leading Pakistan

After Imran’s retirement, the onus to lead Pakistan’s attack fell on Qadir. He came to the forefront, and how! Miandad included three spinners in his lineup and used Mudassar Nazar as a new-ball bowler. Qadir came on to bowl with virtually a new ball, and within no time England were reeling at 44 for 4 — all 4 wickets falling to Qadir.

After Tauseef snared David Capel, Qadir kept on picking up wickets. Broad’s 192-minute finally vigil ended when he fell to Qadir for 41, leaving England at 94 for 8. Neil Foster and Bruce French added 57, but England were eventually bowled out for 175. Qadir had bowled unchanged yet again, returning figures of 9 for 56. This remains the best ever Test figure for a Pakistani.

After Pakistan acquired a 217-run lead, (Qadir scored a whirlwind 38) the three-pronged spin attack of Qadir, Tauseef, and Iqbal Qasim bowled out England for 130. Qadir finished with figures of 4 for 45 and match figures of 13 for 101. These remain the best match figures for a Pakistani after Imran’s 14 for 116.

The other two Tests of the series were drawn with things hitting an all-time low, especially due to the infamous verbal fight between Mike Gatting and Shakoor Rana at Faisalabad. Qadir, however, continued with the phenomenal performance, picking up 4 for 105 and 3 for 45 at Faisalabad and 5 for 88 and 5 for 98 at Karachi.

Qadir finished the series with amazing figures of 30 wickets from 3 Tests at 14.56. Since the First World War only Hadlee and Harbhajan Singh have taken more wickets in a 3-Test series. In the Karachi Test he also got his highest Test score, a 61 that included 4 sixes — all off Emburey.

In Miandad’s absence, Qadir was asked to lead the ODIs that followed. England avenged their loss in the Tests with a 3-0 win: they managed to conquer Pakistan but not Qadir. The captain picked up 8 wickets from 3 ODIs at 13.87. He got to lead Pakistan in the Asia Cup next year as well, where he picked up 5 wickets at 10.80.

From 5 matches as captain Qadir had picked up 13 ODI wickets at 12.69. This is the best bowling average by any captain with over 10 ODI wickets by a significant margin.

In the lion’s den

Pakistan were scheduled to tour West Indies in 1988, and Imran was brought out of retirement to lead them. The series turned out to be possibly the most closely contested one in the 1980s. Imran went in with a strategy of playing only three frontline bowlers in the form of himself, Wasim, and Qadir. He used the likes of Mudassar, Ijaz Faqih, and a few others as the support staff.

Qadir began the series innocuously with a single wicket in the first innings at Bourda, when Imran bowled out the hosts for 292. The Pakistan response was led by Miandad and the ubiquitous Yousuf, and they acquired a lead of 143. It was all Imran and Qadir from there. The captain took 4 for 41 while the leg-spinner had 3 for 66, and Pakistan romped to a 9-wicket victory.

The second Test at Queen’s Park Oval was also an Imran-Qadir dual act: Imran picked up 4 for 38 and 5 for 115, and his trusted lieutenant responded with 4 for 83 and 4 for 148. Miandad, too, scored another hundred and Yousuf contributed again; Pakistan finished with 341 for 9 chasing 372.

It all depended on the third Test at Kensington Oval. After an intense battle of nerve and skills West Indies required to chase 266 in the fourth innings. Wickets kept falling, with only Richardson putting up a fight of sorts; things seemed over at 207 for 8 when Winston Benjamin joined Dujon.

Imran had been clobbered by Richardson, and he let Wasim and Qadir do the bulk of the bowling. The duo sent down 63 of the 77 overs Pakistan bowled. As things got tense, David Archer and Lloyd Barker ruled a couple of decisions in the batsmen’s favour. This did not go too well with Qadir.

After two vehement appeals — one against each batsman — were turned down by Archer in the same over, Qadir took back his cap and trudged back to fine-leg to a series of jeers and boos from the crowd. Qadir, already irked, walked up to the fence and punched a 21-year-old youth called Albert August on the face.

The police decided to let the Test carry on. After Dujon and Benjamin led West Indies to a much-disputed two-wicket victory, however, Qadir was arrested, and it took the diplomats of the countries to step in and free the mercurial leg-spinner.

Fading out

After the series, Qadir’s career tapered out slowly. He had a decent home series against Australia and had a haul of 6 for 160 at Auckland, but that class was missing. His career received a severe jolt when he was taken for three sixes in the same over by Sachin Tendulkar in an exhibition match.

Mentored by Qadir himself, a 20-year-old Mushtaq Ahmed had made his way to the Test side and had begun on a successful note. With his form on the wane, Qadir played his last Test at his hometown; Brian Lara became his last Test wicket. Thereafter he retired from First-Class wicket.

He earned a surprise recall in Pepsi Champions Trophy at Sharjah as late as in 1993-94. He picked up a wicket against West Indies, but twisted his ankle during his eighth over against Sri Lanka, and never played international cricket again.

Qadir came back to First-Class cricket four years after his retirement; it did not seem that he had a gap in his career. The numbers were staggering. In his first 6 matches, he picked up 48 wickets at 15.85 with 5 five-fors and 2 ten-fors. Even though the last 2 matches ruined his figures, a bit he still finished with 52 wickets from 8 matches at 20.21.

He played 2 more matches the following season, snaring 11 wickets at 20.63. Even in last match, for Habib Bank against Railways, Qadir returned figures of 2 for 33 and 4 for 104. As late as in 1998-99, he played a season for Carlton in Victorian Premier Cricket and won the Ryder medal for the Player of the Competition.

Post-retirement

Qadir took to coaching after he had decided to call it quits. He coached the likes of Mushtaq Ahmed and Kaneria; other than being an idol for Warne he was approached by Steve Waugh and Andy Flower to coach Stuart MacGill and Strang respectively.

The soundest bit of advice, however, was reserved for Kumble when Tendulkar took him to Qadir in 1997: “You want me to tell you how my ball will break more, but I want to tell you that your ball will never break more in your whole life. But you keep bowling variations. In the first three days of a Test this will come in handy for you.” What followed is history.

Qadir also acted as an expert on PCB, and was appointed the Chairman of National Selectors in 2009. However, he quit after six months due to continuous intervention of the coach Intikhab Alam and the manager Yawar Saeed.

This outspoken, no-nonsense nature stuck. When asked about the Pakistan fast bowlers’ ability to bowl reverse swing on air for PCB, Qadir had responded: “We all know that the ball has always been made by the Pakistan fast bowlers, but with so much scrutiny on this series, this has not been possible. Even against Bangladesh in the Peshawar Test last year, the fast bowlers were unsuccessful, till after a break wickets fell in a heap.” He was fired.

Qadir’s brother Ali Bahadur has played First-Class cricket, as have all four of his sons — Rehman, Imran, Sulaman, and Usman. His daughter Noor is married to Test cricketer Umar Akmal.

A wall poster in Lahore advertising Abdul Qadir International Cricket Academy © Getty Images
A wall poster in Lahore advertising Abdul Qadir International Cricket Academy © Getty Images

Qadir runs a coaching centre called Abdul Qadir International Cricket Academy, and his business card famously reads (courtesy Bhattacharya’s book):

ABDUL QADIR
KING OF SPIN
Millennium 2000 No. 3 Sportsman from All Sports (The Sunday Times England News Survey)
Pride of Performance (Pakistan)
Life Membership from MCC (England)
Ryder Medal from Australia
Life Achievement Gold Medal Award from PCB
Founder of Cricket Academy in Pakistan
Abdul Qadir Cricketer Academy for Boys and Girls

The man who had revolutionised leg-break — who thought, dreamed, and lived for the art — was also probably one of the greatest patriots the sport has seen. He turned down offers from England, Australia, and South Africa (he was offered a blank cheque there), but he refused.

He wanted only his country to benefit from his skills. He did not want to expose himself to the batsmen of the other countries for the sake of money. He placed his country above anything else. After all, he has always believed, and still believes in “I’m because of Pakistan, Pakistan is not because of me.”

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42