Chishty Mujahid is a legendary figure in Pakistan’s cricket journalism and broadcasting circuit.
By Amir Husain
Chishty Mujahid is widely regarded as the grand old voice of Pakistani cricket, a legendary figure in the country’s cricket journalism and broadcasting circuit. His name has become synonymous with Pakistan cricket’s most famous triumphs. He was born in 1944 in New Delhi and after completing his law at the prestigious Selwyn College, Cambridge, Chishty at the age of 23, decided to take up Radio commentary on a part time basis.
Chishty moved to Television commentary on Pakistan Television (PTV) in 1970 and has continued to commentate in country and around the world. He has also commentated for and appeared on Doordarshan, Rupavahini, Worldtel, Sony, South African Broadcasting Corporation, BBC (Urdu), Hum FM (U.A.E.) and writes on cricket for all the major newspapers in Pakistan.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Chishty who covered Pakistan’s recent tour of Zimbabwe, provided a detailed insight on Pakistan’s performance and also suggested changes that could be implemented with an eye on the upcoming series against South Africa.
Excerpts from an interview:
PakPassion.net (PP): In a nutshell, what do you think went wrong for Pakistan in Zimbabwe, particularly in the Test matches?
Chishty Mujahid (CM): I don’t think there was anything wrong with the Pakistan team per se. As you will recall, they lost the first ODI against Zimbabwe which must have been a shock after they had completely demolished the West Indies recently in a similar format. Fact is that we have always underrated Zimbabwe — that is one thing that we should have guarded against. They were even more underrated because of the Indian onslaught just about a month before we reached there, although one should note that India didn’t play a Test match in that series.
Additionally, Zimbabwe are having their own problems in cricket, not only today but they have had them for a few years. They also went into self-exile, self–suspension from Test matches for two or three years just to regroup, restructure, re-formulate. Then they have had a funding problem as well. They’ve also lost some very good players; Kyle Jarvis who I did not have the honour of seeing and also Sean Williams withdrew. Then there were threats that the entire team might withdraw due to a contractual dispute. Thankfully, in the end it all worked out.
Zimbabwe has a young side and it also has a bit of experience, they have a blend of youth and experience. They haven’t got players with 80 Test matches or 4000-5000 runs, but they have got some very good players who have played against Pakistan with distinction including Brendon Taylor, Hamilton Masakadza, Vusi Sibanda and a few others such as Prosper Utseya and Tinashe Panyangara. They have all played against Pakistan as recently as 2011 — They were beaten but at the same time they got a bit of experience.
For Pakistan, there were no problems with their off-the-field dealings, that I can tell you. They were a well behaved side, a very popular team and they went about their way with purpose. This tour has been absolutely squeaky clean, although at times some eyebrows must have been raised somewhere but I think it’s absolute rubbish. There was an ACSU man present there all the time and the Pakistanis behaved well, they behaved gracefully and graciously.
PP: Were Zimbabwe a better side or is it the fact that Pakistan played poorly?
CM: As you know that after having lost the first ODI, Pakistan came back very strongly. If you analyse the first Test match, the first three and a half days belonged to Zimbabwe, so that should have been the signal that they are no pushovers, you can’t walk all over them and playing against them is not a walk in the park. In the second innings they collapsed in about two and a half hours for about 120 runs which can be attributed to sheer inexperience and of course the brilliance of Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman, and also the leadership of Misbah-ul-Haq.
Then they regrouped after two days and came back strongly. The pitch wasn’t the best of tracks that I have seen in Test cricket at Harare, because it had cracks on the first day and it was an unknown commodity because it was the first time that an international match was being played on it. So neither side knew what it was like although the Zimbabweans had the advantage as they may have played franchise cricket, as they call it, on this track. The other choice of ground was Bulawayo but we couldn’t go to Bulawayo due to logistical problems — read financial problems. If it was going to cost Zimbabwe $50,000-60,000 then it’s better to play in Harare and get on with the commitment and not spend that much money and go further into the red as they already are.
Taylor won the toss and batted. This was questioned by the experts because the pitch was unknown and it also could help the seamers in the first couple of hours because of the overnight moisture and juice, but he batted because he very intelligently did not want to face the ignominy of having to bat last against the likes of Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman and the Pakistani pace bowlers. So he took a logical decision and it proved right in the end, although their first wicket fell pretty cheaply .
The other thing which is very easy to forget over five days is the role of the tail of the Zimbabweans. Numbers eight, nine, ten and eleven contributed 86 runs to the total and the last wicket pair yielded 44 runs. Those were crucial and those were the difference in the end and you have to give them credit. Then, of course, Pakistan batted badly.
Pakistan’s opening has always been a problem and continues to have problems. It wasn’t a problem with the pair, it was one half of the pair. Khurram Manzoor got a half-century in each innings of the 2nd Test. He’s probably the first Pakistani in Test cricket this year to score a half-century in each innings. The previous highest was Imran Farhat’s 43 against South Africa at Centurion, so you at least had one opener performing well. But Mohammad Hafeez failed again with the bat.
Then the two youngsters — I call them youngsters because they’re less than 30 (27 and 28) — Azhar and Asad both failed with the veterans Younis and Misbah as your mainstays. By the way, I don’t really know why we are talking about their ages like a broken record. If you see Pakistan’s innings in the first Test match, there was Misbah at 39 years old, Younis Khan at 36, Saeed Ajmal 35 going on to 36, Abdur Rehman 34 going on 35. These are your four main architects of the victory. There is no such thing as old or young in Test cricket, or any cricket. It’s just fitness. These two players, Misbah and Younis, are two of the fittest cricketers in the country, in the lineup, and probably in the entire international circuit. The problem was the batting. That is where it went wrong. The bowling is alright and the pace bowlers did well.
In the case of Ajmal in the second Test, it would appear that probably the Zimbabweans had done a lot of homework on him. Remember, Grant Flower is their batting coach and they must have got some strategy against Ajmal. Playing forward, playing off the pitch, trying to play from the palm in the air and in the end it worked. They batted well and the Pakistanis of course couldn’t cope up.
The young pace battery of the Zimbabweans which comprises Tendai Chatara, Brian Vitori and Panyangara stuck to the basics — line and length, outside the off-stump, fourth, fifth and sixth stump — and in the end the batsmen did play and make a mistake.
The Zimbabweans didn’t field as they usually field, but they improved in the second Test match when compared to the first. Pakistan’s problem, as I said earlier was their batting. That is where it went wrong. The Zimbabweans of course had a point to prove and they did. So what’s the hue and cry about? I don’t see any reason for that. What we should say is simply “Well done Zimbabwe and commiserations Pakistan”. All said and done, it is a simple fact that Zimbabwe played well and I went and congratulated the head of Zimbabwean cricket, Peter Chingoka, on his team’s fine display.
Alright, so let’s go back to the drawing board. Let’s find out what the problem is and ask “Where is our talent?” Who were the people who were left out of this team? You see, you’re having your own problems. You have a board which is under some sort of litigation at the moment. So, I won’t comment on it because the matter is sub judice. I might come under the problem of contempt of court which I don’t want to, but I think we have our own problems.
PP: Exactly what problems are you alluding to? To the layman, it appears that Pakistan just did not have the skills to play a minnow?!
CM: For starters, we don’t have a chief selector. The man who was nominated for chief selector became the manager of the Pakistan side and he proved to be a very good one. He was a relaxed manager, the Pakistan camp was relaxed but at the same time there was no indiscipline. The “curfew” or whatever you call it was strictly imposed in the sense that the players themselves imposed it upon them. Not once did the assistant manager, Shahid Aslam, say who is late or who is not late. I didn’t hear of it and the management did well and the players behaved extremely well. So, again, I don’t know what all the hue and cry is about?
Anyway in terms of problems, tell me, who’s your next captain? Have you groomed your future captain? Because I don’t see it. Hafeez is a very brilliant T20 captain and player. He’s also a very good ODI player. Is he a Test player? Is he a Test captain yet? Shahid Afridi ran away from Test matches when he gave up the captaincy. Younis Khan doesn’t want to be the captain.
You see, either take the tough decision like the South Africans did about a decade or dozen years ago. You put in a 21-year-old and say alright here we go, and that’s what Graeme Smith was and he has captained the South African side for 100 matches or more very successfully. Do we have anybody like Smith? We don’t have anyone. Do we have someone like Virat Kohli? Maybe we have. I don’t know.
I think Misbah is a very fine captain. If he’s not flamboyant, it doesn’t mean he does not have the control on his side. He’s one of the few captains in international cricket in any side, from Australia to Zimbabwe, whose performance as captain has shown a marked improvement than when playing as an ordinary player. Whereas in other cases if you make a player a captain, his performances go down. One such example is Ian Botham and the others are Sachin Tendulkar and Tillakaratne Dilshan. So Misbah has improved and his captaincy has done him good.
PP: So what is that one missing ingredient that will make us world class?
CM: I think we need to overhaul our batting. We need to have more mental toughness. Your bowling is alright and your fielding is improving, although it is not where it should be. I think your fast bowlers are fine. You’ve got Junaid Khan, Rahat Ali, Ehsan Adil and Mohammad Irfan — although he is a delicate commodity who should be used with care due to his height and physique etc. You have a very fine up and coming all-rounder called Anwar Ali. Now train him and give him confidence. Keep Manzoor and don’t keep dropping people.
I would have been very upset if Manzoor was dropped for the second Test after failing in the first because that’s not done. Then you have the case of Shafiq. There was a question mark on his inclusion and people wondered if he should have been dropped and Faisal Iqbal played instead. So the idea was to play Faisal for one game and then drop him for the next game. Now, you didn’t play him in Pallekele (during the Sri Lanka series in 2012) where you could have played him but instead you played someone called Mohammad Ayub Dogar. In theory, you could have played Iqbal there and then see how he progressed but that wasn’t the case. What’s the point of carrying people with you and then dropping them after a short stint and not giving them confidence?
I’m not quite sure how many opening pairs Pakistan has had in the past 10 years? Let me give you a statistic, in 1995, Mohammad Akram your bowling coach, was Test cricketer number 135 for Pakistan. He was only 18 years old then. So, from 1952 to 1995 — 135 Test players played for Pakistan. Alright, you will come up with the argument that in that period Pakistan didn’t play as many Test matches as it has done since 1996 to 2013, but now the number of Test cricketers is 213. So, from 1952 to 1995 is 135, and then in the next 18 years, it’s almost same. So if you give so many Test caps then give them the chances as well. If they do not succeed once they are selected and given a decent run, then I think they should go and set up a samosa shop or something like that and not play cricket ever again!
My point is simply this — be fair, upright and transparent — and once again, get a batting coach. You have got a bowling coach. You have got a fielding coach, your head coach, your assistant coach or assistant manager whoever it is, your analyst and your Doctor, Dr Riaz, who has been there for a very long time. Alright, you have got these but where is your batting coach? Your weakest link is your batting and you have Inzamam-ul-Haq at your disposal, who did a fine job when he was brought in for a very short time as a batting consultant. Call him if you want to. However, you also have the case of someone whom I had never heard of before — a certain Mr. Trent Woodhill, who you called for just 15 days — only for 15 days! Let’s not play games, let’s get down to some serious work and we get a batting consultant and he should be — with the greatest respect to foreigners — home grown. That is where communication skills come in. Our players don’t understand English that well and communication is extremely important for any relationship to develop. Otherwise, the job will only be half-done.
Then, you get your house in order. You get your constitution in place, you get your elections, your organisation, your organisation chart, your job descriptions, your key tasks, your reporting relationships. You can have 900 or 9,000 people employed at the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), but please have some work for those 9,000 people. If you have work for only 150 people and you’re employing 900, then there is something wrong somewhere.
In terms of the administrative structure of the PCB, you have a Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Subhan Ahmed, who is a very fine official. I can tell you, he’s been my colleague and he’s very good. Where is the Chief Executive Officer? I don’t know what’s wrong. If I remember right, the PCB’s constitution has a Chief Executive Officer, not a Chief Operating Officer.
Then you have a Director General. What does he do? Who does he report to and who reports to him? You bring in a Chairman who has his hands tied and his wings clipped. Somebody should get all that in order, although we don’t have much time as the South Africa series kicks off on October 14.
PP: Looking ahead at this South Africa series, who among the current lot would you like to see retained and who should be replaced?
CM: I would not go into axing people like that, but I would like to see batsmen like Manzoor and bowlers like Rehman, Ajmal, and Junaid in the team. If you really wish to do so, you can tinker around with your pace bowling department by swapping one or two. I don’t think we should do away with Azhar Ali and Shafiq at the moment, however I would like to see the likes of Sohaib Maqsood come in. What little I saw of him was very impressive and not only should he play T20 and ODIs but should also be considered for Test matches. Let Maqsood and Umar Amin play all the three formats. In my view, he is an excellent player and should be developed and nurtured — he is going places if you really look after him.
And then young Haris Sohail who hasn’t really clicked that much. Also the likes of Babar Azam and Azeem Ghumman.
PP: But that’s a problem right there isn’t it? You pick these players and they become passengers on the tour. You see them on the screen sitting idly.
CM: That’s alright — it gives them international exposure. It’s a good experience education-wise. If you wish to blood them in, this allows them to get used to the atmosphere. This is not a bad experience for someone like Shan Masood who I met at Harare Airport recently. He said that he had gained a lot. Now, it’s quite possible that he was being diplomatic about it and let me tell you, he is a pleasant young man who is well educated. He may well have been feeling a little disappointed as he almost had a chance – if you could have dropped Hafeez then he would have made a debut for Pakistan but he couldn’t. I haven’t seen very much of Shan Masood or how he compares with the other opening batsmen we have. We have quite a lot of them. But have they done enough? Manzoor has four or five 50s with a highest score of 93, but why did we drop him at that time? We shouldn’t have dropped him at that time. If he had continued, then maybe he would have developed.
Imran Farhat could be considered but to me that would be a backward step. I don’t want to take a reverse gear. Let’s go forward. Let’s develop three or four seaming all-rounders. Hammad Azam is one who can be someone like Abdul Razzaq or Azhar Mahmood. Why is he in and out of the team? I’m not sure how he did with the Under-23s and sure Pakistan lost in the Final, but not everybody can finish on top all the time. Let’s give everybody a chance and experiment a little. However, more importantly, we must ask ourselves some questions such as do we have replacements? Do we have a Captain? Do we have a vice-captain? Look, I don’t have an agenda or any family bias and to me any player who plays well that day is my favourite.