Abdul Razzaq (Right) believes Pakistan has so far misused young talent © AFP
By Saj Sadiq
Abdul Razzaq has represented Pakistan on more than 300 occasions, scoring over 7,000 international runs and taking almost 400 wickets. The all-rounder last represented Pakistan in the T20 series between Pakistan and South Africa in November 2013, although his last one day international was in November 2011.
The 34-year-old has been a key member of Pakistan’s limited-overs teams since making his debut in 1996, being part of three ICC World Cup campaigns and three World T20 events. Razzaq has to date played 265 ODIs, scoring 5080 runs and has taken 269 wickets. Two of his three One-Day International (ODI) centuries came against the Proteas, including one of the great ODI innings which he played during the 2010 series in the UAE.
Razzaq has also played 46 Test matches for Pakistan and he has had his moments both with bat and ball, including a 184 record seventh-wicket stand with Kamran Akmal in 2005 at Mohali to save the Test. India were again the opposition when Kamran Akmal and Razzaq helped Pakistan reach a competitive total after being 39 for six in Karachi in 2006, a game Pakistan famously went on to win with Razzaq taking seven wickets and contributing a total of 135 runs.
Unable to find a place in the current Pakistan lineup due, Razzaq was left out of Pakistan’s 2014 Asia Cup and World T20 squads and is currently representing Hem Heath Cricket Club in England where he spoke to PakPassion.net about his experience of playing Club Cricket in England, Pakistan’s lacklustre performance at the World T20, his views on why Junaid Khan has not been used to his full potential, the issues caused by frequent change in Chairmen at PCB, as well as the possible return of Mohammad Aamer to international cricket
Excerpts from an interview:
PakPassion.net: How have you settled into club cricket here at Hem Heath in the North Staffordshire & South Cheshire League?
Abdul Razzaq: I think it’s going well. We’ve won a few games and also the weather has spoilt some matches but overall I think it’s going quite well. It takes a bit of time to settle into club cricket when you haven’t played at this level before but I think things have gone well so far and will get better as my fitness levels improve.
PP: It must feel rather strange though, playing in front of such small crowds when you’ve played in front of thousands of people at venues around the world?
AR: I think that’s all part of the experience of playing club cricket in the UK at small, picturesque grounds. Also I’m here to pass on my experience to my team mates and advise and help at every opportunity.
PP: What did you make of Pakistan’s disappointing display at the World T20 in Bangladesh?
AR: There was a distinct lack of planning for that tournament and one of the glaring mistakes was the misuse of Junaid Khan. In addition we had a twenty over specialist in Sharjeel Khan with the squad yet he remarkably never played a single match in that tournament. The Sharjeel omission was just one of several mistakes in terms of team selection. The approach of some members of the Pakistan squad was very poor and very disappointing. I also thought the captaincy of Mohammad Hafeez lacked innovation and lacked planning. Overall it was a very poor display from the Pakistan team.
PP: Can you elaborate on your suggestion that Junaid Khan was misused at the World T20?
AR: Regarding Junaid Khan I don’t think he was misused just at the World T20, he’s being misused on a regular basis by his captains. To get the best out of a player a captain must utilise him in the best way possible, use him in the way that the player feels comfortable with and in such a way that it benefits the team. That isn’t happening with Junaid as he’s yet to play for Pakistan under a captain who can get the best out of him. Junaid is a fabulous talent, he has the capability to be one of the world’s best bowlers and become a star, but only if he’s used properly and that is by ensuring that he is given the new ball on a regular basis. I would urge the captains he’s playing under to stop misusing him.
PP: Any other current Pakistani cricketer that you feel may have been misused recently?
AR: Wahab Riaz springs to mind. He’s a match-winner. A bowler with tremendous pace who has not had the support of the captains he’s played under and this has dented his confidence. This is the reason why so many of our fast bowlers are lacking confidence and not feeling at ease in international cricket, as they don’t know whether they will be in the side for the next match or sat at home watching the game on television. Our fast bowlers need the support of their captains, not doubts being created in their minds by those captains. Our fast bowlers need extended opportunities and they need to know that their captain is fully behind them and that is not happening at the moment.
PP: Do you think Sharjeel Khan should be given an extended opportunity to open the batting for Pakistan in the twenty over format?
AR: Absolutely. He’s a young man with an abundance of talent and ideally suited to twenty over cricket. Pakistan were overly negative at the top of the order in Bangladesh and Sharjeel could have provided the explosive starts that Pakistan needed. By not playing Sharjeel in the World T20, his career has gone backwards by two years. It was a glaring tactical mistake and a shocking decision not to play him. The conditions were ideal for him and I’m certain that had he been given a chance in Bangladesh he would have done very well.
PP: Were you surprised that Mohammad Hafeez threw in the towel when it came to the T20 captaincy?
AR: There’s just no continuity in the Pakistani cricketing set-up. Chairmen come and go, players come and go, captains come and go. The whole set-up sadly lacks any sort of continuity and stability. A captain should be someone who has the capability to lead the team well, not someone who just has a lot to say for himself. A captain should be able to get the best out of the players, he should be able to nurture and develop the young players in the team and utilise them well and Hafeez never did that.
PP: The point you make on nurturing young talent, do you not think that recent Pakistani captains have not nurtured young talent?
AR: Captaining your country is a fantastic opportunity but it comes with a lot of responsibility. It shouldn’t be a case of self promotion, rather it should be about helping young cricketers and ensuring the team improves under your leadership.The captains whoever they are should ensure they adopt an approach that gets the best out of the players and an approach that ensures there is stability and players are treated fairly and equally.
PP: The lack of stability you mentioned earlier, why do you think that is?
AR: Stability comes from the top. If your chairman is changing every week then how can there be any sort of stability. Pakistan cricket has always lacked good leadership at the highest level. We need a Chairman to take over who understands Pakistan cricket and who understands that players are a precious commodity and he ensures they are looked after and who ensures that everyone who has a role to perform such as the chief selector is performing their role and not interfering in other’s work. We need a Chairman who can be at the helm for two or three years and be allowed to do his work without outside interference. The constant changes in Chairmen undoubtedly affect the players, particularly the youngsters who will be wondering just what is going on at the top and how it will affect them. The players aren’t going to come out and talk about it but inside they will be as confused as the rest of us.
PP: What in your opinion makes a good coach?
AR: It’s all about ensuring the players have a vision and know what their role is out there on the field. Every player within the group needs to be clear about his role and what is expected of them. It’s not about qualifications and certificates or being a great player yourself, it’s about having the ability to utilise the players and being able to motivate the players to get the best out of them. The players have got to be comfortable around the coach and have faith in the ability of the coach and the coach should also be able to prepare the team well and have good strategies in practice sessions and I think this is where we have been lacking. The work away from the match scenario has to be based on quality and not quantity.
PP: Do you think Waqar Younis possesses the required skills to be a successful in his second stint as head coach of Pakistan?
AR: Waqar’s a big name, he’s a former world class bowler and that is motivation in itself for the Pakistan cricketers. Waqar needs to ensure there is a good atmosphere amongst the players in the group and that should be a primary objective for him. If he does that then the players will have faith in him and will perform. He will need to ensure that the work he does with the players gives them confidence and self-belief. If Waqar can get that belief in the squad and if he can have a good atmosphere around the squad then there is every chance he could be successful.
PP: As a professional cricketer what is your opinion on you potentially playing alongside or against Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt in future?
AR: They will have served their respective bans and the punishment they received. So with that regard I would not have any problem with the trio playing domestic cricket. Five years is a long time away from cricket and as that was the length of their ban then they are within their rights to play cricket again. They’ll obviously need to be watched and will need a lot of guidance to ensure they don’t give Pakistan cricket a bad name once again.
PP: What if for example Mohammad Amir returns to domestic cricket and performs very well. Do you think he should be selected to play for Pakistan again?
AR: He was an exceptional talent. A young man with a very bright future that he nearly threw away. He’s lost five years of his cricketing life and that for a young man like him is a long time. If he can prove that he’s good enough and fit enough for international cricket then I feel he should be allowed to play for Pakistan again and be welcomed back into international cricket when his ban ends. However it won’t be easy for Amir making a comeback after such a long time away from cricket and also there’s a lot of competition in Pakistan’s pace bowling department so it’s not like he will be an automatic pick.
(Saj Sadiq is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net, from where the above article has been reproduced. He can be followed on Twitter at @Saj_PakPassion)