‘Non-achievers are sitting on TV shows as experts these days’
Abdur Rehman (left) and skipper Marcus Trescothick celebrate after the dismissal of Durham batsman Keaton Jennings during match between Somerset and Durham at The County Ground.

Although he debuted at the age of 26 in a One-Day International (ODI) game against the West Indies in 2006, the crowning moment of spinner Abdur Rehman’s career came in 2012 when he picked up six for 25 to help Pakistan to a crushing 72-run victory over England in Abu Dhabi. His bowling in that series which yielded nineteen wickets in three Test matches, was instrumental for a historic 3-0 Test whitewash that Pakistan inflicted on England.

Abdur Rehman’s career since those heady days in 2012 has failed to follow the expected upwards trajectory due to a variety of reasons. Whilst his Test career record reads an admirable 99 wickets off 22 matches, the thirty-five year old spinner currently finds himself sidelined for international duties by the selectors in favour of younger talent.

In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Rehman spoke on a variety of topics including his current stint with Somerset, memories of the 2012 Test victories against England, his hopes of making an international comeback and why he expects Saeed Ajmal to retain his world class stature despite changes in his bowling action.

Excerpts from an interview:

PakPassion.net (PP): How does it feel to be back at Somerset after a successful first spell there?

Abdur Rehman (AR): I’m delighted to be back here. Somerset is a great club, they made me feel very welcome last season and I’m honoured to have been asked to come back and play for them again this season.

PP: What are your goals and targets for this County season and also Somerset’s aims?

AR: As a team our collective goal is to win the County Championship and also to perform very well in the limited overs tournaments. You have to aim for the top and that’s the only way you will be successful. Individually I want to take as many wickets as possible for Somerset and to contribute as best as I can with the bat for them. It’s my responsibility to ensure that I am on top of my game throughout the season and to make sure that my level of performance does not dip throughout the season.

PP: The heavy defeat to Durham wasn’t on the agenda I guess?

AR: No, definitely not. It was a shock to be honest. I came into the match having not played a lot of cricket recently in Pakistan as the domestic season has finished and despite practising a lot, match practice is something totally different. Making a half century was pleasing, but the result wasn’t good. However I’m confident that it won’t take me long to find my rhythm and form and hopefully we can turn things around quickly after the opening defeat to Durham.

PP: Can you clarify which formats you have signed for this season. Is it just the one-day and the four- day competitions?

AR: I’ve signed for all of the formats. Obviously Somerset have also signed Sohail Tanvir, Corey Anderson and Chris Gayle, but if I’m needed for the 20-over format then I’ll be ready. I’m just glad that I don’t have to bowl to Chris Gayle and Corey Anderson and that they are on the same side as me.

PP: The whitewash against England in UAE where you were so prolific must seem like a long time ago and a distant memory?

AR: No, it’s still fresh in my mind. You don’t forget series and performances like that. The aim is to reach those levels again. I don’t feel that I am a worse bowler than I was back then in 2012 and what I need to do is to keep working hard on my fitness and ensure that my performances are of a very high standard, maintain those standards for Somerset and any other team that I represent and who knows, maybe there are still some good days ahead for me whilst playing for Pakistan.

PP: Having said that though, it must hurt that less than three years ago you were an integral part of a team which defeated the top ranked Test team, yet now you are nowhere near the Pakistan team in any format?

AR: Of course it’s disturbing and upsetting. My record is there for everyone to see and speaks for itself. If the selectors don’t feel that I am part of their plans then so be it, but I’ve not given up hope of a return to international cricket and my desire and hunger to play for my country has and always will remain strong. My focus and job is to perform, take wickets, score runs and leave the rest to the selectors.

PP: Do you think the selectors made a mistake by not taking an experienced spinner like yourself to the World Cup, especially after Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez were banned?

AR: I wouldn’t want to comment on who they should have and should not have selected. I guess the selectors know best and they have their reasons regarding who they picked and left out, but I know that it hurt me that I wasn’t taken to the World Cup after they were missing two senior spinners. It was very disappointing to be totally ignored like that but I don’t take it personally.

PP: With a new selection committee now in place, that must give you some hope of a comeback to international cricket?

AR: Yes, absolutely. Especially as one of the selectors now is Kabir Khan and he is very familiar with myself as he coached my department Habib Bank Limited. I performed very well with Kabir around and he knows what I am capable of. I performed consistently for Habib Bank and Kabir knows this, but let’s see what happens as there is a lot of competition for places.

PP: Would it not be an easier option for you to now just concentrate on playing domestic cricket around the world and give up on playing for Pakistan?

AR: I’m not 40 or 45 yet! I’m not quite ready for the scrapheap just yet. I feel that I have a lot of cricket in me, both international and domestic cricket and I strongly believe that despite not playing much international cricket of late I can launch a comeback. The passion to play for Pakistan is still there and I’m hopeful that it’s something that can still happen.

PP: How difficult is it going to be for Saeed Ajmal to bowl with a new action, given that he’s bowled with the same action for so long?

AR: Obviously it’s going to take some time for him to adjust having been comfortable with the bowling action that he has grown up with. But he’s worked hard and has been so determined to ensure that he can return to cricket. My prayers are with him and I’m sure he will succeed. He’s got to be patient as it will take a few matches for him to regain his rhythm and confidence but he is a world class bowler and people shouldn’t write him off after just one match against Bangladesh. I’m sure he will be back to the level he was prior to his ban.

PP: How does Pakistan First-Class cricket compare with English First-Class cricket?

AR: There’s a huge difference. The level of professionalism in English County cricket is much higher and also the facilities here in England are much better. But there is a unique pleasure of playing cricket in Pakistan and long may we continue to produce world class cricketers. We have always produced gifted cricketers, players who have a natural God-given ability and I am sure that despite some problems and issues in Pakistan cricket, we will continue to produce players of a very high calibre.

PP: In your own words, can you clarify what happened when you bowled three consecutive beamers against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup and were subsequently removed from the bowling attack by the umpires?

AR: The ball kept on slipping out of my hand. I had lots of sun block on my hands and I did my best to wipe it off, but it didn’t work. At the time I apologised to everyone but some former players just would not let it go and kept on making accusations against me. To say I bowled those three beamers deliberately was ridiculous. There is no way that I would have jeopardised my career like that. It was shocking for me and once again I apologise to the fans and everyone else that it happened.

PP: Speaking of former players criticising current players. It’s getting a bit out of hand isn’t it?

AR:Of course it is. But then that is what they do, they go on television and if a player is not to their liking they will criticise him over the most trivial things. It’s quite sad really. But they’ve not even spared the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Imran Khan. Those people who have never achieved anything when it comes to cricket are sitting on television panel claiming to be experts these days. At the end of the day they are tarnishing their own reputations and they need to realise this.

PP: Discipline and attitude seem to be the buzz words at the moment in Pakistan cricket. Do you think the new regime is right in tightening up on discipline?

AR: Definitely. The players are ambassadors for Pakistan and if they cannot get their attitude right then they don’t deserve to be wearing the green cap of Pakistan. The team management and coaching staff are there to advise and guide the players, but if the players aren’t prepared to listen to that advice and guidance then in my opinion they should be dropped. What the coaching staff is telling the players is for their betterment not because they are their enemies. The players need to listen and take on board constructive criticism instead of ignoring it.

PP: Do you think Waqar Younis can turn Pakistan into a successful team in all formats?

AR: I think he can. He’s played all over the world, knows conditions very well and has also coached at the IPL. I’m certain he has the ability to make Pakistan a force in all formats but we have to be patient and give him time, which is something we lack at times as we want instant results.

PP: From a player’s perspective, how important is it for the PCB to commence the Pakistan Super League (PSL)?

AR: It’s vital for the development of Pakistani cricketers to play in a tournament such as the Pakistan Super League. It will help in the psyche of young Pakistani cricketers and will give them a chance to play against and with some of the best players in the world. The fact is that this tournament cannot come round soon enough. Wherever such tournaments are being played around the world, the development of the players has increased rapidly and I am certain that when the PSL starts, you will see a marked improvement in the standard of Pakistani cricketers for the limited overs formats.

PP: There’s a possibility that Zimbabwe may be touring Pakistan next month. This news must be heartening for Pakistan’s cricketers, fans and followers of Pakistan cricket?

AR: It would be brilliant. I really hope the tour goes ahead as it would be a huge boost to the cricket-loving people of Pakistan who have been starved of international cricket. I hope it kick-starts the return of international cricket in Pakistan and leads to more international teams touring Pakistan. This will undoubtedly be great news to everyone who has been waiting eagerly for the return of international teams to Pakistan.

(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. The above article first appeared in PakPassion.net)