Abdul Qadir — Legend and the man

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Shahzeb Khan

ABDUL Qadir Khan, (1955-2019), one of Pakistan’s greatest cricket legends, passed away on 6 September, 2019. The former Test bowler is a huge name in the history of the sport. Qadir is regarded as one of cricket history’s best leg-spinners and as such, he greatly influenced cricket itself. Born in 1955, Qadir achieved great success early in his career. He was playing international cricket by 1977 and shined as one of the best leg-spinners in the world. Leg-spinning is a bowling style that is difficult to master and deliver great results. A right-handed leg spinner delivers the ball so that it spins from right to left as it travels across the pitch and changes its direction when it bounces.
Because of the success of the West Indies and Australian cricket teams with their predominance of fast-bowlers, leg-spinning fell out of fashion by the seventies. Qadir revived it and kept it alive in the eighties. He subsequently inspired a generation of new leg-spinners across the world, including the great Australian cricketer Shane Warne. Abdul Qadir’s career in international cricket, which lasted until 1993, won Pakistan many accolades. In addition to his tremendous skill, Abdul Qadir Khan was endowed with great integrity. The Pakistan Cricket Board is riddled with corruption, but Qadir, once a chief selector for the PCB, kept a clean record.
I had the honour of meeting Qadir a few years back when I was practising cricket. My mother moved to USA with me when I was five and returned with me to Islamabad when I was thirteen. After moving back, I took up cricket enthusiastically, but the coaches I found turned out to be dishonest. I and my mother have property dispute with PTI MPA Abdul Rehman Khan Niazi and his sons, who occupy our house in Islamabad by force while my mother, a widow, single parent and myself, a child, lived in America. After our return, they got back at us by using their influence to bribe people, including my coaches, to sexually harass me. Criminal as it is, the matter is even more reprehensible as every coach announced during first few sessions that I possessed exceptional talent. In other words, coaches were acting to push talent out of cricket.
To dissuade me from playing, one coach even organized physical assault to break my finger bones, leading to police report and subsequently written complaint to Naeem-ul-Haq in PTI’s Islamabad Office. Unfortunately, Naeem was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness so I don’t blame him for not tending to my complaint. My mother took me to Lahore to receive training at the Qaddafi Cricket Stadium. There, I met Abdul Qadir. He offered to coach me. Qadir invited me to his home office. I was surprised to see how frugal his accommodation was. He lived in a red brick building in a dense part of Lahore with shops underneath his residence. His office had no windows and was dimly lit during load-shedding. The room was filled with trophies, rewards and pictures of Qadir with prominent cricketers. A Pakistani flag filled one corner. Evidently, Qadir was not living as a man of many means. Despite that, he showed no signs of having been compromised when coaching me. This is the memory about Abdul Qadir I will carry with me to the end of my life.
Throughout the lessons he imparted, Abdul Qadir remained, to my surprise as a teenage boy practising cricket in Pakistan, full of integrity and wisdom. He was an inspiring coach. Regrettably, I couldn’t remain in Lahore to continue with his coaching as our property dispute had to be fought in Islamabad and I didn’t want my mother to fight it alone. I was honoured to have met Abdul Qadir, and fortunate to have had him as a coach in what was, and remains, trying circumstances for me due to my only house having been snatched by a hooligan who sits in Parliament of Punjab. Abdul Qadir’s passing is a great loss, but his legacy lives on. Players will continue to be influenced by Abdul Qadir. I will always cherish the memory of having been coached by a cricket legend who was trained as a sportsman and educated as a “man.”
—The writer is an environment activist, opinion columnist.