June Issue 2015

By | People | Q & A | Sports | Published 4 years ago

There is a reason why Zaheer Abbas was dubbed the Asian Bradman. Not only was his elegant batting a rare treat in an era where stodgy occupation of the crease was the norm, the sheer weight of runs he scored for Pakistan in the troublesome number three position made him one of the predominant batsmen of his era. His 274 against England in Edgbaston is still talked of in awe. His wristy wielding of the willow will never be forgotten. Given Zaheer’s success and all-encompassing knowledge of the game, there may be no more astute commentator on what ails cricket in the country today. Recently nominated for the post of President ICC, Zaheer Abbas shares his thoughts with Newsline.

Our limited-overs teams are much worse than our Test team. How much has being kept out of the IPL affected us?

The IPL is no doubt good for the Indians, because their team’s performance has been very good since the IPL started. But other countries are also playing for the IPL and they aren’t playing so well. No doubt it’s a good chance for youngsters to show their worth, but overall, it’s only the standard of Indian cricket which has come up.

Pakistan’s performance in the World Cup was pathetic — really pathetic. Everyone went on about two dropped catches. How can they think we would have beaten Australia even if we took the catches? The only day in the World Cup you can say Pakistanis were truly smiling, is when we beat South Africa.

You talk about Tests and how we’re better there, but that is only on slow wickets which suit us, like Dubai and Dhaka. Even then we only beat teams which are of a very low quality. Earlier, our standard used to be high. We may come up again, but it will take a very long time.

We are still reliant on Younus and Misbah, who are nearing the end of their careers. Why aren’t we producing new players?

I don’t want to criticise any player — and they have done well. But I’d like to see how they perform on English wickets. The standard of play has gone down all over the world — it’s not like when we used to play.

There’s an entire generation of players who has never got to play at home. Does that affect development? Will it affect support for cricket?

Of course if you can’t play at home and your fans can’t see you, it has an effect. I think we should be fighting our case. Zimbabwe is here now and we should be playing not just in Lahore, but in Islamabad and other cities. They should be playing in three cities at least.

Talking of Zimbabwe coming, does it help that a diplomat like Shaharyar Khan is chairman of the PCB? Maybe he can make a better case for countries touring here.

Well, he’s trying very hard and I wish him the best of luck. The renaissance of cricket at home is starting with Zimbabwe, and I am hoping Pakistan will be playing against India in December. If we do so, we will have done very well.

The PCB has been through a lot of instability with the courts constantly changing chairmen. How do you feel about that?

There have been fights before, with assorted chairmen fighting for their seats as if they had earned them because of their skill, rather than having had them bestowed upon them by a prime minister or president.

At this rate, soon even players will go to the courts and demand places for themselves on the team. And why are others coming in and running the board, when it should be former players? These guys have been running the board and have done nothing. Look at the state of our cricket!

Is there still an issue of players from one city being given preference over others?

No, I don’t believe in such things. I will just say that we should have played in Multan and Faisalabad where security isn’t such an issue.

Should we expect a resumption of ties with India?

First we should play them on neutral ground. Then whether they come here or not is up to the two governments.

Would you be supportive of Mohammed Amir coming back into the team when his ban ends?

That’s a very difficult question to answer. The problem is our memory is very short. If he comes back into the team and does well, we will all praise him. But there will always be a stain on him.

Is match fixing still a problem in cricket?

Yes it is and we have to be very, very careful.

Are there any young players you’ve seen recently who you have impressed you?

Yasir Shah is doing well, and you just have to let youngsters come into the team and play. If you’re going to lose with the seniors, it would be better if the youngsters took their place.

How about Azhar Ali’s captaincy?

His own performance was good, but in other areas he has a lot to learn.

This article was originally published in Newsline’s May 2015 issue.

Nadir Hassan is a Pakistan-based journalist and assistant editor at Newsline.