Dubai: Abdul Qadir, the ‘magician’ who passed away at the age of 63 on Friday in Lahore, played a big role in adding flavour to the excitement of India-Pakistan matches at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. Right from the Eighties, I’ve had numerous opportunities to interact with him, especially at Sharjah and developed a relationship even after he retired from the game.
I got a call from him once in 2007 when he was passing through the UAE to let me know that he was going to play in Kerala. He was already 51 years old then and was captaining the Pakistan Seniors in a Veterans’ series. Former Kerala captain J.K. Mahendra had organised the matches in Kochi and Kozhikode.
Many years after this match, Qadir came to UAE again and narrated how he beat the Indian veterans led by Mohammad Azharuddin in Kozhikode despite a century from Pravin Amre. He loved fans backing him and won the hearts of everyone through his unique rhythmic action.
Qadir took great pleasure in terrorising batsmen — not through sledging but through his aggressive approach and the turn that he generated with the ball. He played almost all his matches in Sharjah under Imran Khan’s captaincy and both had huge admiration for each other. Qadir was always a treat to talk to, and he once narrated how Imran asked him to grow a French beard to create more fear in the batsmen.
In 1989, Qadir was one of beneficiaries of the Sharjah’s Cricketers’ Benefit Fund Series that staged the Champions Trophy, alongside India’s Krish Srikkanth, West Indies legend Vivian Richards and another Pakistan spinner Iqbal Qasim. It was Qadir’s three-wicket spell that defeated the West Indies and helped Pakistan eventually to lift the trophy. After the match, I asked him what makes a good leg spinner and his response was: “You must always think before you bowl and never deliver a ball that a batsman is expecting. One should vary every ball … all the six balls should never be the same.” His dancing action while approaching to bowl was actually meant to buy time to read the batsman’s mind.
Qadir’s last international match was in Sharjah in 1993 in the Pepsi Champions Trophy against Sri Lanka. Although he did not get any wicket in that match, he took Pakistan to a two-wicket victory with an unbeaten seven runs — walking away very much a winner.