Abdul Qadir obituary

Pakistani cricketer who turned the unfashionable leg break into a powerful new weapon

Until the arrival in the late 1970s of Abdul Qadir, cricket’s most arcane discipline – leg break bowling – appeared to be in terminal decline. In the first-class game no one had much bothered with its difficult subtleties for more than a decade, and there were no players at international level who could hold a candle to former exponents of the art such as Clarrie Grimmett and Richie Benaud. Many teams contained no leg break bowlers at all, and commentators routinely wondered whether, outside club cricket, they might be heading for extinction.

Qadir, who has died aged 63 of a heart attack, changed all that. In 67 Tests for Pakistan between 1977 and 1990 his magical talent as a “leggie” – spinning the ball with the wrist rather than the fingers, thereby turning it more dangerously away from, rather than into, the right-hander – fired the imagination of a new generation of cricketers. Among them were a fellow Pakistani, Mushtaq Ahmed, Anil Kumble of India and the young Australian Shane Warne, who went on to become one of the greatest bowlers of all time. Leg breaks became sexy again and, although wrist spinners are still a rare breed, no one talks any more about their extinction.

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