May Issue 2014
Interview: Rashid Latif
Very few former players watch Pakistan cricket like a hawk as Rashid Latif does. The former Test captain has remained actively involved in cricket at various levels.
He has acted as coach and mentor, both at home and abroad, and is known for his no-nonsense criticism. In addition, he also acts as an unofficial yet effective match-fixing watchdog, a role that he has been performing in his individual capacity since acting as a whistleblower in the match-fixing scandal of the 1990s.
Recently, Latif turned down the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) offer to take over as national chief selector. Among the various reasons for declining the coveted position was his suspicion that the PCB was willing to work with “tainted former players.”
As a former captain, are you satisfied with the state of Pakistan cricket?
Not at all. Barring the 3-0 whitewash against England (in UAE) in 2012, the national team has not had a major success since the World Twenty20 triumph back in 2009.
What are the various factors that you think are contributing towards the declining standard of Pakistan cricket?
There are so many factors, and inconsistency at the top is the major one. We have seen four chairmen and six to seven captains in the past five or six years. The problem is that whoever takes over brings new ideas, but Pakistan cricket is pushed back to square one. The other factor is the lack of competitiveness in our domestic cricket where quality is compromised over quantity.
Do you think that the way cricket is run in Pakistan should change?
Absolutely. Government interference should be stopped first of all. A duly democratic constitution should be drafted to give equal rights to all regions and departments. After regional elections, the chairman should also be elected. Merit is the answer to all of Pakistan cricket’s problems. The chairman should focus on his job and the captain should perform his duty.
How can transparent elections guarantee that the right person will be chosen for the job of PCB chief?
It cannot be guaranteed, but that is how systems work in other cricket-playing countries. I believe that it would be an appropriate way.
Do â€Žyou agree that there should be a more equitable distribution of power in the PCB so that the chairman is not all-powerful?
Yes, and the reason for this imbalance is that the PCB chief is not answerable. There is no accountability. He [the PCB chairman] gets elected with the help of his handpicked people. A proper system will hold him accountable and the electoral college — departments and regions — will be able to question him. Otherwise, we should have a chairman who is paid so that we can ensure accountability.
Does corruption, in the form of match-fixing, still remain a major threat to Pakistan cricket?
This threat is not limited to Pakistan. Every country is equally worried about this menace.
Pakistan is supposed to be a talent-rich country when it comes to cricket. Why, then, are we not producing world-class players today?
One of the reasons is that rapid changes in the Pakistan cricket setup don’t allow a policy to have a decent run. It’s the same case with the selection mechanism, where we have not been patient enough to let players develop. Exceptional talent is fine, but the majority of players can’t become Wasim Akram or Sachin Tendulkar overnight. One has to identify the talent and then groom it with decent opportunities. Rectifying the flaws is equally essential.
You recently declined an offer to take over as Pakistan’s chief selector. Why?
I could not work under anyone except the chairman, but I sensed a lot of interference already even before talking over, which is why I decided to part ways.
Pakistan tends to look abroad when hiring coaches and trainers. Do you agree with this approach?
The Pakistani environment is different from most other countries. Here, foreign coaches aren’t suitable. The players feel comfortable with local coaches for so many reasons, but qualification is what I think is important. Coaches need to be familiar with modern techniques and man-management skills.
There are a lot of vested interests in Pakistan cricket at all levels. How can they can be rooted out?
I strongly believe that implementing merit from the very top will solve every such issue that is dogging Pakistan cricket.
Najam Sethi is currently talking about reviving Pakistan cricket. Do you think he will succeed?
Everything can be done with proper planning and, most importantly, proper execution. I’m not doubting Najam Sethi’s intentions, but the task ahead of him isn’t easy. Personally, I believe that he should compile a merit-based constitution to start with and then go for other targets.
The way things are moving do you think Pakistan will be able to maintain its status as a top-flight cricket team in the years to come?
Again, I would say everything is possible but only after putting in place a mechanism to first identify the problem and then rectify it. For example, why hasn’t Pakistan won a Test series in Australia? The batsmen fail to adapt to the conditions there, which means that our foundation is weak and that needs to be fixed.
With less than a year to go in the World Cup, do you think Pakistan will be able to raise a team strong enough to win the title?
There is a lot of cricket to be played in between, which is a good opportunity for Pakistan to experiment. It has been observed that on tough foreign tours, the Pakistan team get used to the conditions late, hence they should go to Australia a bit early, in order to acclimatise themselves with the conditions before the start of the World Cup.â€Ž
This article was originally published in Newsline’s May 2014 issue.
The writer is ranked among the battle-hardened journalists covering sports. As sports editor for The News, he covers sporting action extensively in Pakistan and abroad.