"Aug 18, 2023 05:10 PM IST "

Usman Qadir opens up about pressure and scrutiny due to friendship with Babar Azam

Formerly a more regular fixture in Pakistan's T20I squad, Usman Qadir found himself relegated due to a string of inconsistent performances in 2022. As competition intensified and Shadab Khan ascended to the role of vice-captain, avenues for Usman's return appeared increasingly restricted. Notably, the legacy of his father, the iconic Abdul Qadir, cast a shadow as fans periodically scrutinized his selection. There were also fan allegations suggesting Usman's close proximity to Babar Azam, the team's captain, may have influenced his inclusion.

Nearly a year since his last competitive appearance for Pakistan, Usman Qadir has candidly acknowledged the influence of his friendship with Babar. The 30-year-old bowler believes that the perception of favoritism imposed unwarranted pressure on him, as well as Babar, when it came to the former's selection. The duo shares a close friendship since their U15 days for the Pakistan team, and Usman stated that it was actually the side's former skipper Misbah-ul-Haq – and not Babar – who brought him into the team.

“My relations with Babar have been there ever since the U15 days. Yes, I came into the team when Babar became captain, but that doesn't mean Babar brought me into the team. Misbah bhai brought me in the team. I bowled to him and I think I impressed him,” Usman told Cricket Pakistan in an interview.

"Babar was made the captain that time. And you know, when you are just made the captain, you are not given your team straightaway. The chief selector picks the team. Why would Babar bring me? It's not Babar's team, it's the Pakistan team. If friendship was the reason for my call-up, I should've never been away from the side, I should've played 50-60 games for Pakistan now.

“Okay, suppose Babar had indeed brought me because I was his friend. But I've to do the performances, right? Babar can't hold my hand and make me perform out there,” said the bowler.

‘It caused me more harm’

In a chilling revelation, Usman stated that Babar's friendship brought him more harm than good.

“Babar's friendship caused me more harm than benefit. I faced the pressure, even Babar had the pressure on whether I would perform. People talk about friendships. Imam is closer to Babar than me, but Imam is performing. Still, people criticise him and call him names. If you're criticising your own players this way, what would other nations think?” said Usman.

Imam-ul-Haq had faced immense criticism during his early days in international cricket because of his family relations with legendary former captain Inzamam.