Usman Qadir has had a topsy-turvy career thus far, switching allegiances from Pakistan to Australia and back again, but he’s now close to playing in an ICC tournament he’s had an eye on for quite some time.
“My goal is to play for Australia in the 2020 World Twenty20. Hopefully, definitely [I will be eligible].”
Usman Qadir, son of former Pakistan leg-spinner, Abdul Qadir, made this emphatic statement in 2018 not long after making his debut for Western Australia. It wasn’t a totally unrealistic goal either considering that he had time before him.
Yet things have changed quite quickly. Now just months away from the the 2021 T20 World Cup – with the 2020 one having been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic – Usman looks set to be a part of Pakistan’s set-up for the tournament: eleven T20I appearances since his debut last November have resulted in 18 wickets at an average of just 15.22.
The stars aligned perfectly for Usman to make a return to Pakistan cricket, a few years after he’d given up on it. In 2012, he played in the under-19 World Cup for Pakistan but not long after he was playing club cricket in Adelaide and on the radar of South Australia.
His father, the legendary Abdul, urged him to hold on to the dream of representing Pakistan, but let Usman pursue opportunities elsewhere after he struggled for chances in domestic cricket. “There is politics, they’re making their own decisions, they have likes and dislikes and that’s why I don’t like that,” he said in 2018 of the cricketing system in Pakistan. Usman subsequently returned to Australia, impressing in Sydney club cricket before make his Sheffield Shield and Big Bash debuts in late 2018 for Western Australia and Perth Scorchers. But under a year later, Usman received his maiden international call-up for Pakistan – for a tour of Australia – after playing for Central Punjab in the domestic T20 competition.
His call-up coinicided with Pakistan’s search for an attacking wrist-spinner in the shorter formats, and followed just over a month after his father Abdul had passed away.
“I was desperate to play international cricket for a long time. That was my central goal,” Usman told the PCB website. “It was my dad’s dream to see me play for Pakistan one day. I can’t be as good as my father but I’ve worked on what he taught me. I didn’t know how to bowl the slider, and I still don’t know how to bowl the googly like he did, but I’m trying to master it. I have a bit of experience of bowling leg spin to Australian batsmen, and should I get the chance, I’d love to prove my worth.”
While he didn’t play in Australia, a debut arrived after the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and Usman has taken his opportunities. With a bowling action that shares similarities with Imran Tahir, he is a genuine wicket-taking option in the middle overs.
With Shadab Khan having struggled with the ball recently – the all-rounder has averaged nearly 40 with the ball in T20Is since the start of the 2019 tour of Australia – the case for Usman to be regarded as Pakistan’s No.1 T20I wrist-spinner grows stronger.
As the T20 World Cup he mentioned three years back gets closer, what’s certain is Usman will be around to play it – not for Australia but for the country of his birth. Whether he goes on to emulate his father’s achievements is a different question altogether, but there’s no doubting that now is the time for Usman and Pakistan to finally break off the love-hate cycle and embrace each other.
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