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My Heart is Set on Playing for Pakistan" : Usman Qadir

The son of the legendary Abdul Qadir, 19 year old Usman is a highly rated leg spinner and more than useful middle order batsman who has represented Pakistan at Under 15 and Under 19 levels. Usman was also a member of the Under 19 World Cup squad that lost to India earlier this year by one wicket in a quarter final encounter in Townsville, Australia and was also a member of the Pakistan Under 19 squad that had a very successful tour of South Africa.


By Saj Sadiq (20th December, 2012)

PakPassion presents an exclusive interview with Usman Qadir. 

The son of the legendary Abdul Qadir, 19 year old Usman is a highly rated leg spinner and more than useful middle order batsman who has represented Pakistan at Under 15 and Under 19 levels.

Usman was also a member of the Under 19 World Cup squad that lost to India earlier this year by one wicket in a quarter final encounter in Townsville, Australia and was also a member of the Pakistan Under 19 squad that had a very successful tour of South Africa.

Earmarked for a bright future, Qadir is currently playing club cricket in Australia as well as representing South Australia Under 23s. Qadir hasn't played much domestic cricket in Pakistan as yet, but the coming season could be the kickstart of a great career. Let’s begin by asking you whether you actually wanted to be a cricketer or was it something that you ended up doing because you felt you had to follow in your father’s footsteps?

Usman Qadir: No I definitely wanted to be a cricketer. Cricket was everywhere in our lives, the television, around the house, every spare minute of our live was spent playing cricket and cricket was all over the place there was no escaping it. From an early age I wanted to be a professional cricketer. What about being a leg spinner. Did you not want to do something different in cricket given that your father was a legendary leg spinner?

Usman Qadir: At first I had no clue what leg spin bowling was if I’m being honest. My earliest memory of playing cricket is around the age of 5, playing cricket at home with my father and my brother. I just watched lots of videos of my father bowling and wanted to copy what he was doing. Gradually around the age of 11 or 12 I started playing more and more cricket and practising at home, my father guided me with various grips and helped me with the art of leg spin bowling.

As you can imagine my father is very passionate when it comes to cricket and leg spin bowling and when I saw the passion in the way he was teaching me I had no hesitation in wanting to be a leg spinner. It must have been pretty hectic in the Qadir household when you were growing up?

Usman Qadir: Indeed. There were cricket bats, cricket balls everywhere, pads, gloves and other items of equipment all over the house. You could say it was quite hazardous at times. They were great days though. I’ve always been very close to my father and brother (Sulaman) and they have been great role models and always guided me throughout my career. Is it true that your father had erected cricket nets in your house, to help you and Sulaman practice?

Usman Qadir: Yes that’s true. Before my father’s cricket academy was set up in Lahore we had nets in our house to help us practice at home. My father set up the nets on the roof of our house and every spare minute was spent on the roof practising, batting, bowling and talking about cricket. What’s the best piece of advice regarding cricket you have received from your father?

Usman Qadir: My father has always said to me to be myself and do not worry too much about technique. If you are unorthodox, so be it. If you’re methods are not part of the coaching manual, so be it. What matters is your performance. Some "leggies" make the art look simple, but how difficult is it to actually bowl leg spin?

Usman Qadir: It’s very difficult. It’s not easy at all, particularly if you do not practice enough. There was a time when I couldn’t practice for a couple of weeks and I was really struggling with my bowling in the next match that I played. The ball just wasn’t coming out of my hand quite right, my line was wrong and I kept on bowling full tosses.

It’s a skill that not many can master. It’s a skill where you are trying to outthink the batsman and that can be very difficult at times. Leg spin is not for the faint hearted. Do you think that being the son of a famous cricketer and playing the same sport at a professional level as your father means there is added pressure on you to perform?

Usman Qadir: Not at all. I’ve never felt additional pressure just because my father played many times for Pakistan and is well known throughout the world. Sometimes the public compare you with your father, particularly when you’ve not had a good day, but that should not bother you.

You have good and bad days in sport and I’ve always enjoyed my father coming to watch me play cricket whenever he can. I feel really proud when my father comes along to watch me in action and I always want to perform even better when my father is at the ground. You’ve obviously been taught all of the “tricks of the trade” when it comes to bowling leg spin by your father. Would you say you have perfected all of the deliveries that form part of a leg spinner’s armoury?

Usman Qadir: I don’t think you can ever say that you have perfected all of the different deliveries, I think it’s work in progress. With each game I feel I am learning, facing differing challenges against different batsmen. The introduction of Twenty20 cricket has presented a new challenge for leg spinners and I think nowadays a leg spin bowler has to have even more variety than they had to in the past. You’ve made great strides with your batting of late. Do you see yourself as someone who can eventually be regarded a genuine all rounder?

Usman Qadir: Definitely. I really enjoy my batting. I know there are some spin bowlers out there who see their batting as an afterthought but I take my batting very seriously and I have started to give both my batting and bowling equal time in practice sessions and equal importance too.

I think in modern cricket you have to be able to handle yourself in all three facets of the game. If you are weak in any area, the opposition picks up on that. Perhaps in the past teams would have a couple of fielders that they would hide in the outfield, but the game is such now that you have to be able to contribute in all areas of cricket and that’s why I am trying my best to be able to contribute with bat, ball and in the field. Even selectors nowadays look at what a bowler can contribute with the bat and in the field and that can sway a selectors mind when picking a squad. When the Pakistan “A” squad was selected for the tour of Australia in 2009, you were selected but did not make that tour, why was that?

Usman Qadir: My father was the Chief Selector at the time. I was picked in the squad for Australia and Ijaz Butt who was the Chairman had suggested that I should be in the starting eleven on that tour whenever possible. My father was unhappy with what Ijaz Butt had suggested as he wanted the starting eleven to be picked on merit and not for me to be picked just because I was his son and in protest he removed my name from the Pakistan “A” squad.

Discussions were held afterwards, the details of which I am unaware of, but in the end I didn’t tour Australia with the Pakistan “A” squad. You missed the recent Under 19 World Cup quarter final against India in Australia. That must have been disappointing to miss such an important match?

Usman Qadir: Yes that was a huge disappointment. I had played the previous three matches and was then dropped. It was a decision that the team management and captain made and I respect that decision, but it was disappointing and who knows if I had played, perhaps the outcome may have been different. You’ve played a lot of Under 15 and Under 19 cricket for Pakistan, you must feel that all of this junior cricket is good for your grounding and will help you in future?

Usman Qadir: Yes absolutely. You are getting the opportunity to play against the best cricketers in the world for your age group and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of the cricket I have played at junior levels for Pakistan. It makes you realise at a young age what it means to play for your country and it makes you yearn for more of the same at the senior level.

You are also presented with an opportunity to play in differing conditions around the world and that can definitely help your development. Also if you do well on a tour then that really boosts your confidence as a cricketer. Do you have any particularly memorable matches at Under 19 level?

Usman Qadir: There was one match in particular which was a quarter final against India in New Zealand in 2010. That was a great match for me and in fact I was watching a video of this match only yesterday. Also a match against South Africa in January 2012 in South Africa, I was taking the team to victory but I was run out for 51. You've only played a handful of domestic matches in Pakistan why is that, particularly when some of your Under 19 team mates are now regulars in their respective teams?

Usman Qadir: My plan is to play a full season of first class cricket next year in Pakistan. This season I was given this fantastic opportunity to play club cricket in Australia and I didn’t want to let this chance go by. My aim is to have a good season here in Australia and to make the most of this chance and then go back to Pakistan and put into practice what I’ve learnt in Australia.

I'll be going back to Pakistan after this stint in Australia is over to take part in the Quaid E Azam Trophy.

I’ve also not played much in domestic cricket as in previous seasons I’ve been touring with the Pakistan Under 19s. Are you still contracted by ZTBL?

Usman Qadir: No I left ZTBL and I’m now with National Bank Limited. I’ve been with National Bank now for a couple of seasons. The opportunity to play in Australia, how did that come about?

Usman Qadir: The chance to play in Australia came about due to a friend of my father, Rick Cook who has kept in touch with my father ever since he played club cricket in Australia in 2000 for Cook’s team.

Cook suggested to my father that it would be a good idea for me to get some experience of playing cricket in Australia. My father also thought it would be a good idea and once he had discussed the possibility with me, then Cook went and spoke with South Australia’s cricket coach Darren Berry. How’s it going in Australia, how’s your season developing and what is the standard of cricket like?

Usman Qadir: The standard of cricket here in Australia is very high. The Australian Grade "A" cricket is like first class cricket in Pakistan. I’ve watched some of the first class cricket here in Australia and it’s extremely tough. The pitches are well prepared, the facilities are brilliant and the mindset of the Australian cricketers is very good. In addition the standard of umpiring is very good. All round it's tough, competitive and high class cricket. What do you want to achieve from this season of club cricket and Under 23 cricket for South Australia?

Usman Qadir: When I came over to Australia I had set myself the goal of breaking my father’s record of 72 wickets in a season in “A” grade cricket. So far I have taken 33 wickets in 5 matches and I have 7 matches left.

As well as the goal of taking more wickets than my father did, I also want to use this opportunity of playing cricket in Australia to improve my all round game and to toughen up mentally and then go back to Pakistan with confidence and self belief and a good season behind me. Recently I interviewed Dean Jones and he was very complimentary about your bowling. What are the coaches in Australia advising you on?

Usman Qadir: The coaches that I’ve worked with in Australia have been brilliant. They do not try and over-coach you, they let you learn from your own mistakes and offer guidance on areas where they feel you need some help. None of the coaches in Australia have tried to make major changes to my bowling or batting, rather it’s been little pieces of advice here and there which is great for me. Has homesickness kicked in yet?

Usman Qadir: Oh yes. I’m missing home and my family but these are the sacrifices you have to make. Who knows this time I’m spending in Australia on my own may eventually help me towards international recognition one day. Speaking of international recognition, come on tell me is it Australia or Pakistan that you eventually want to play for?

Usman Qadir: I’ve been offered to play for Australia. A few people over the last couple of months have spoken with me about it, but I’ve not made a decision as yet. I want to discuss all of the options with my father and then make a final decision.

I want to play for Pakistan and my heart is set on it. I’ve said to the guys in Australia to speak with my father about the matter. I’ve left the matter with my father, I’ve left the final decision in my father's hands. I’m happy to go with what my father advises me and I have a feeling that my father will want me to play for Pakistan. Pakistan has over the years produced some great leg spinners, but of late leg spin seems to be a type of bowling that is rarely seen in Pakistan these days. Can Usman Qadir be the next great leg spinner for Pakistan one day?

Usman Qadir: God willing. I feel that I’m improving as a cricketer and developing my skills. This stint in Australia is very useful for me and is another step forward. The next step is to go back to Pakistan and start performing well in domestic cricket. If I can perform well in domestic cricket then who knows what may happen, but the dream is to play at the highest level for a long time. : Thanks for your time Usman and best wishes for the future

Usman Qadir : My pleasure and thanks for the good wishes.