Usman Qadir declares intent to play for Australia
He wants to emulate his father Abdul Qadir by playing international cricket. Not for Pakistan, the land of his birth, but for Australia
Though legspinners are famously furtive about revealing their intentions, there is no such secrecy about Usman Qadir's desire to emulate his father Abdul Qadir by playing international cricket. Not for Pakistan, the land of his birth, but for Australia, the country he has found increasingly receptive to his maturing repertoire of legbreaks, googlies and topspinners.
On Wednesday, Usman made his state debut for Western Australia, and made an instant impression by fooling Cameron White in his very first over before going on to returning the notable figures of 3 for 50 in Warriors' thumping of Victoria at the Junction Oval. It was fitting that Qadir perform so well in Melbourne, given that two decades ago it was for the city's Carlton Cricket Club that Abdul Qadir claimed a record-equalling 76 wickets in club cricket, beginning a relationship with Australia that has led to his son's WA sojourn.
Having seen the pathway opened up by another legspinner of Pakistani origin - Fawad Ahmed in 2013 - Usman has identified his qualification for a distinguished talent visa and its attendant fast-tracking of Australian citizenship as means by which to be able to play for his adopted country in time for the 2020 World Twenty20 tournament, hosted by Australia. His application would need to be sponsored by Cricket Australia, and his performances would need to have demonstrated exceptional skill that will be of material benefit to Australian cricket.
"When I saw Fawad, the government changed the law for him, I am going to apply for a distinguished talent visa and before that I've got permanent residency and hopefully I will get citizenship as well in two years' time," he said. "My goal is to play for Australia in the 2020 World Twenty20. Hopefully, definitely [I will be eligible]."
It's been six years since Usman, 25, first loomed as a possible Australian representative. Having played for Pakistan at the 2012 Under-19s World Cup in northern Australia, he was encouraged by then South Australia coach Darren Berry to play club cricket for Adelaide, where he performed well and seemed on course to graduate to higher honours.
"All the credit goes to him because he's a great guy, he supported me as well, but at that time they said you can get the nationality next year and you can get the contract as well, and that's when I said to my dad," Usman said after the game. "But that time I was very small, I couldn't have a mature mind, so my dad said 'you have to come back and play for Pakistan', so that's why I flew back to Pakistan.
"I got named in the Pakistan team and my father was the chief selector at that time and he took my name off because he said 'everybody is going to say to me that your son is not performing well', but at that time I got the hat-trick and got seven wickets, and the chairman put my name in the team and he said, 'no, everybody is going to say that you take your son in the team'.
"After that I quit cricket for one-and-a-half-years, and I keep telling him I don't want to play for Pakistan, I want to go to play in Australia and make my future. He kept telling me, 'no, you have to play for Pakistan' but last year he said to me 'if you want to go you are grown up, you can do whatever you want to do, I'm with you and I'll support you'."
So it was that two years ago, Usman returned to Australia with the intent to build a new cricket career. At the time, his father suggested that it was fair enough to make the move, having exhausted his options in Pakistan. "I, as a father and a former cricketer, have lost trust in our system to give a fair chance to our players to prove themselves," Abdul Qadir said in 2016. "I don't want to see my other son to go down and suffer due to this system which doesn't respect their legends.
"I never went to any selector on behalf of my son and never will. My other sons were also capable enough to represent Pakistan but they didn't grow, but Usman is very much capable and I know he has potential for top-level cricket. I have allowed Usman to decide about his future. I did hold him back from migrating to Australia in 2013, and asked him to stay in Pakistan. But now after him being ignored for more than three years, I don't think it's fair for me to stop him anymore."
Last summer he played for Hawkesbury in Sydney club cricket, scooping 36 wickets in a mere six matches and catching the attention of WA's then coach Justin Langer in a net session. Langer, of course, is now Australia coach, so it is the commission of his successor Adam Voges to manage Usman's path. For now, that includes 50-over matches and a Big Bash League contract with the Perth Scorchers; a Sheffield Shield call-up looms next.
"There is politics, they're making their own decisions, they have likes and dislikes and that's why I don't like that," Usman said of his experience in Pakistan. "If I'm performing well you can see, and I did not get any chances to play good cricket. I said to myself that I didn't want to play in Pakistan anymore, so I moved here.
"If I'm performing well, hopefully they give me an opportunity to play four days (Sheffield Shield) as well. I'm living at the moment in Sydney, hopefully I'm going to move to Perth to play in club cricket and performing well there hopefully they give me a chance to perform in four days as well."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig