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Since 1st March, 1999
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Pressure will be on both teams: Qadir
- ‘If he (Shoaib) stays fit, India may well be on the backfoot… watch out for Sami’

Lahore: Shane Warne is the most successful leg-spinner ever, yet many swear there hasn’t been a more gifted practitioner of a difficult art than Abdul Qadir. His last International appearance was over a decade ago but, even years on, it’s not uncommon for youngsters to seek his blessings by touching his feet.

As always, Qadir — remarkably fit, mind you — has time for everybody. “Beta, mehnat karte raho” is a standard line and, invariably, he will hug those who want to be blessed by one who rose from very humble beginnings. Indeed, a trip to his ten-month-old academy (which is also going to have a girls’ wing) on Monday afternoon was quite an experience.

“Please note that the Indian flag is closest to the entrance,” Qadir remarked, as he chatted with The Telegraph. Having registered as the Abdul Qadir International Cricket Academy, he has made it a point to have the national flags of all ten Test-playing nations fluttering on the periphery.

Understandably, Qadir is delighted that the Revival Series is just weeks away: “The pressure will be on both teams, but the Indians are going to have a good chance if Shoaib Akhtar has fitness worries... Of course, if he stays fit, India may well be on the backfoot... Also, your team must watch out for Mohammed Sami.”

The biggest thorn for Pakistan, according to Qadir, will be vice-captain Rahul Dravid. “Look, he has taken Steve Waugh’s place in world cricket... Mere hisab se Dravid jaisa koi hai hi nahin... He scores whenever the team needs the runs most. For me, that’s the mark of a truly great player. Dravid is going to be Pakistan’s biggest headache...

“How would I bowl to him' That’s a difficult one... All I can say is that I would have locked him in a mental battle... I would test his patience, tease him...”

Qadir, though, added: “Personally, I’m looking forward to watching (V.V.S.) Laxman... I’ve been a fan of his ever since that brilliant 167 in Sydney (1999-2000) and can’t believe your selectors dropped him for the World Cup... Uske class ke batsmen bahut hi kam milte hain.”

Unlike some Australians who made much of the so-called chin music in the lead-up to the series Down Under, Qadir acknowledged that captain Sourav Ganguly wasn’t “chicken-hearted.” As he put it: “He didn’t get runs in the ODIs, but did bat well in the Test series... I don’t agree he’s chicken-hearted. In fact, it will be tough getting him out on our pitches...”

Asked whether the pressure could weigh down Sachin Tendulkar — who made headlines by clouting the star leggie for sixes in Peshawar during his debut series, 1989-90 — Qadir replied: “Perhaps... But, then, he’s such a great player... Moreover, the pressure is going to be on all 11, not only Sachin.”

In Qadir’s opinion, India will be well served by Akash Chopra (“superb technique and excellent temperament”), Yuvraj Singh (“great timing, nerves of steel and big-hearted”) and Irfan Pathan (“superb find who isn’t intimidated by big names and learns from mistakes”).

Talking of Anil Kumble, a member of his tribe, Qadir said: “Australian trip ne zaroor confidence badhaya ho ga... But, let’s see how he fares. Today, he has more variation and, even if he doesn’t get wickets, has the ability to put batsmen under pressure.”

Incidentally, while second son Imraan has had to give up leg-spin because of a leather-induced allergy, No. 3 Suliman is vice-captain of the Pakistan side currently battling it out in the U-19 World Cup. Besides being a right-handed middle-order bat, Suliman is a handy off-spinner.

Qadir, however, is most excited about youngest son Usman. “Inshallah, in time, he is going to be better than his father... Nau saal ka hai, lekin talent zabardaast hai... I want Suliman to keep climbing but, within me, I have a feeling that Usman will be the greatest of the Qadirs...”

So, not many years down the line, watch out for him. Qadir Senior, by the way, finished with 236 wickets in Tests and 132 in ODIs.

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