Last Friday night, as I scrolled through my Twitter timeline I came across a dreadful tweet which ended with the hashtag #RIPAbdulQadir. I was gutted, to say the least. How’s that possible, I thought. I had met him just a few months ago and he had looked fighting fit.
Going to Lahore a few months earlier, there had been only one thing on my mind — interviewing the cricket legend Abdul Qadir. As I trod Infantry Road (Dharampura) to find his residence I kept on asking myself: is it really happening? The former Cricket Australia media manager and journalist Patrick Keane, recalling his visit to Qadir’s house in 1994, had tweeted: “He was an exceedingly gracious host to a star-struck journalist.” I can truly relate to what he said.
Abdul Qadir was affectionately called ‘Bau’ by his friends and colleagues. He always maintained his staunch views, yet he was soft and kind-hearted inside. I had gone there to talk about cricket, but Bau spoke his heart out about religion, the nation, his sons and, of course, cricket. I never thought that those ‘irrelevant’ diversions (for any sports editor) would come back to haunt me. I had still to write up that long interview.
Bau was most concerned for his country. He said “In Pakistan a weak and poor person only gets squashed. In the past 70 years we’ve been made fools. In our culture, truth has become a sin and lies have become truth.”
During our conversation, I had noticed that Sarfraz Nawaz and Sunil Gavaskar occupied a special place in his heart. He would often mention them. He also seemed perturbed about the treatment of a few players. “Players like Ahmed Shehzad, Sohail Khan, and Umar Akmal are being wasted. If Imran Khan and Mushtaq Mohammad could handle a ‘difficult’ character like Sarfraz Nawaz in the past, then why can’t cricket administrators do the same with these players?”
He was also bitter about the treatment meted out by the Pakistan Cricket Board. “They make stadium enclosures in the name of former players [like us] but pay peanuts to us [as pensions]. Look how much retired players in other countries get.”
On the other hand, religion had become an integral part of Bau’s life, which gave him some solace and a perspective on life. “My Rab [God] is my teacher,” he had said to me then. “We are but artificial heroes. The real heroes are the martyrs who sacrifice their lives for our country.”
Bau had also told me he wanted to write a book.
When I asked when he would do it, he had said: “Kabhi na kabhi to likhni parray gi [Well, I will have to pick up the pen someday].”
Sadly, Bau left before that day ever came.
Published in Dawn, EOS, September 15th, 2019