“Pakistan cricket is Rock and Roll”

Renowned for excellent analytical insight and his sharp wit, former Lancashire and England cricketer, coach and current television commentator David Lloyd is also a keen observer of Pakistan cricket.In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Lloyd spoke on a variety of topics, including his impressions of playing against Imran Khan, his take on Wasim Akram and Younis Khan as modern greats of the game, fond memories of his visits to Pakistan, his views on Saeed Ajmal and why he feels that the likes of Mohammad Amir, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif should not be allowed back into the game.

Excerpts from an interview:

PakPassion (PP): Let’s start the interview with your memories of playing against Imran Khan. Any stories or anecdotes?

David Lloyd (DL): Right at the beginning, I remember him playing for the universities and when he went to Worcester he was nothing more than a military medium inswing bowler. And then when he got to Sussex he built himself up, got fit and supremely strong and started to bowl quickly. He was a gifted player, a wonderful player to play against and I’m talking about a golden era of cricket when you had Andy Roberts, Clive Lloyd, Barry Richards and some other great players. In that time there were some great players for you to play against and you wanted to play against the greats. Imran was a debonair cricketer, he was man about town and you’d see him in the middle pages of the newspapers, but he was a wonderful cricketer. He was one of the great all-rounders. You could put Richard Hadlee, Mike Proctor, Malcolm Marshall and Ian Botham in this group. These were great all-rounders and you could tell they were all competing with each other, but Imran was as good as any of them.

PP: Imran had a presence about him — an aura. He was one of the few cricketers in Pakistan who controlled the Pakistan Cricket Board and managed to get his troops to head in the same direction?
DL: Well, when Javed Miandad led the team you knew you were in a scrap as he was a street-fighter who cared passionately about his team and protected his players. Imran was that father-figure, bringing on the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and younger players. I know Wasim Akram really well and I know that all those players revered Imran Khan and they looked up to him. He was the figurehead of the team, captain of the team and in two words he was ‘The Leader’ and he’s still doing it now in politics.

PP: You mentioned Wasim Akram, who is still remembered fondly at Lancashire. What are your memories of Wasim particularly the early days and how he developed at Lancashire?

DL: Well, I was coach at Lancashire when he was here. How do you coach Wasim? You don’t! You make him comfortable. His nickname at Lancashire was “King”. In the dressing room, everyone knew him as “King” and he just answered to “King”, which was fabulous for him. Lancashire have had some great overseas players, Clive Lloyd, Farokh Engineer and Wasim Akram and all three of them still have houses in the area; they were adopted Lancastrians. The players really took to Akram and he got it, he knew what playing for Lancashire was all about. He was a fabulous cricketer. If you are picking a world eleven, you start with Wasim Akram who’s going to open the bowling. He’s a wonderful lad. He’s had tragedy in his life with the death of his wife and he’s found happiness again. He’s just a wonderful and fantastic bloke to have met. I marveled at the way he went about his business.

Let me tell you a funny story about him. In his house here [Lancashire], he had this man who did chores for him and helped him out in the house. He was only a little, slight chap and he rang up and said that Wasim wanted a net and we organised the net for him. Wasim came down with this man, the little frail guy and he stuck some pads on him and bowled at him. He was black and blue when he finished with him. This lad was the lad who did the washing and washed the cars and threw the ball back, but Wasim bowled at him for about an hour working on his skills such as the outswinger and bowling with an old ball!

You know what it’s like in club and county cricket with the bowlers saying we need some new balls, these balls are rubbish. Well, Akram would go for the oldest, scruffiest ball and work it, he worked the ball. Then he’d impart knowledge to Ian Austin; that was a good combination. They were inseparable and they are still on the phone to each other now, and then you also had the likes of Peter Martin and Glen Chapple and also with a bit of Mike Watkinson.

PP: Shoaib Akhtar, an enigma, some say. He underachieved in international cricket with a lot of injuries and some controversies. How do you remember Shoaib Akhtar?

DL: I’ve seen a recent interview with Brian Lara and he said he was an entertainer. Akhtar’s the same; he would see himself as an entertainer. He had the God-given talent to bowl fast and I mean fast. There’s only been 10 fast bowlers since the War. There’s been plenty of fast-medium or medium-fast bowlers who were fast for a little time but genuine pace gets people on the edge of their seats and this lad had it. He had genuine, natural pace.

I don’t know him that well, but I’d guess he’s enjoyed life. I saw him play for Worcester and he marked his run-up out — and that’s a long run-up. I don’t go that far for my holidays! He set off for four overs with this run-up and he ran out of steam and he then bowled his last two overs off about four paces. But I’ve seen him bowl some fast spells, really quick spells.

I’ve heard him commentate as well and I know a bit about commentating and I thought he’s going to explode here because Pakistan were playing poorly and he stood up out of his seat and he was saying that all of the team were letting Pakistan down and the whole nation was being let down by this cricket team. I wanted to tap him on the shoulder and say it’s only a cricket match, mate.

PP: Younis Khan has recently become the fifth Pakistani to play 100 Tests. He’s been a great ambassador for Pakistan cricket. Your thoughts on Younis?

DL: I think Younis Khan is a modern world-great. You talk about lots of world-class players like Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, AB de Villiers, Joe Root, Michael Clarke, but Younis Khan gets passed by a bit, but he’s right up there. He’s had a little go at County cricket as well. I don’t know him, but he looks to me to be a thoroughly nice man who just enjoys the game of cricket and he’s got great skill. I would put Younis Khan as a modern great. A couple of players back (in terms of generations) would be Inzamam, who was a big tubby sort of lad who didn’t like running. But crikey, could he bat! He was put in this life to bat; he wasn’t here for running!

To get back to Younis, he’s a modern great. We talk about great players, somehow Jaqcues Kallis doesn’t get a mention and he’s a great player. Younis Khan is in that bracket.

PP: There’s no middle ground with Pakistan fans when it comes to Misbah-ul-Haq, despite him doing a fantastic job since taking over as Pakistan captain at a difficult time. What are your thoughts on Misbah?

DL: He’s been a stabilising influence. He’s a good player who would be a father figure to players. He’s astute, he knows Pakistan and he knows there’s volatility and there will be something happening around the corner that might be untoward and he’s a calming influence. If he feels like it and the situation demands it, he can whack it. He has that nuggetty part of his play that means you have to prise him out. He sells his wicket very dearly; he will not give his wicket away. When he speaks, he speaks quietly and sensibly and you can tell that he can calm the volatile lads in the team down.

PP: We cannot do an interview about Pakistan cricket without talking about Shahid ‘Boom Boom’ Afridi. What’s going on inside his head when he’s batting?

DL: He wants to hit it from Karachi to Lahore. He thinks he has the strength to do it and he’s the only man who can do it. He is box-office. He was devastating in his pomp and his glory days. Don’t disregard his bowling, which is very difficult. Those leg-spinners that don’t turn which are similar to Anil Kumble, accurate, bowled at a good pace and without much flight with a nice little drifter that comes in at you, but his forte and his number one priority is hitting it hard.

He has the mentality like Brendon McCullum that I’m going to hit every ball for six. And if I can’t hit for six, I’ll hit it for five, and if I can’t hit it for five then I’ll hit it for four, and so on. There are some players who go in and defend, I’ll stop this and I might get a run. No, not Afridi. It’s that word again, I’m here to entertain and if I stay in for an hour I’ll win the game on my own. Forget the rest of them, I’ll win it. If he bats for an hour, particularly in a one-day game, he wins the game. So when you are playing against him, he’s the one that you want out in five overs. If he’s in after fifteen overs, we’ve got a problem.

PP: Where do you stand regarding the trio of Mohammad Amir, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif?

DL: I’m old-fashioned, getting on in years. I wouldn’t have them playing at all, it’s as simple as that. We had the same in English soccer in the early 1960s with three first division footballers; they never played again. They were at the height of their profession and I know that from what I say will create a reaction and people will say he was a young kid. No, not for me!

PP: What’s your reasoning behind you not wanting them to play cricket again? Do you think they let the game down, they let themselves down or let the fans down?

DL: They let the game of cricket down and the game of cricket will go on and I think as an example to everybody involved in that activity there is no coming back. The integrity of the game is at stake and they’ve let themselves down and you know the consequences. I do not buy this young boy, they know the consequences. I’ve just been brought up, this is right, that’s wrong and it’s as simple as that.

PP: What are your thoughts on the Pakistan versus England series later this year in UAE and also Saeed Ajmal’s return to cricket after his ban?

DL Well, Saeed Ajmal bowled brilliantly last time around and England had no answer, but since then he’s been deemed illegal, which I support. I’m also of the opinion that you can remedy an action. My own view is that once you remedy a bowling action they tend to come back not as potent, so I don’t think Ajmal will be the same force if he does play, which is unlikely. But I have absolutely no doubt that Pakistan will unearth somebody else and if I was in that Pakistan camp I’d say, find me a spinner to bowl at England.

PP: Yasir Shah could be that spinner. He already has more than 50 Test wickets in only 10 Tests?

DL: He will be a massive player because the pitches will be conducive to spin and if we are talking Test cricket then any Test match with a leg-spinner with runs on the board, sun beating down, the pitch gets dry and the spinner turns his arm over. Now it’s my turn. I think it’s great to see a leg-spinner and he will be a handful for England because they are notorious against spin if it’s quality. If it’s just ordinary, England will be alright but if it’s quality then it will be an examination. So I’m looking forward to going out there to UAE. The grounds are lovely, albeit miles from anywhere. But the cricket was excellent last time.

PP: And finally, Pakistan cricket can be labeled as brilliant, controversial, unpredictable chaos. How would you summarise Pakistan cricket?

DL: Exactly as you said and I think that’s the beauty of it, that it’s totally unpredictable and I marvel at the amount of players they bring through. You can understand why as it’s the major sport and cricket is everybody’s life; the young boy’s life and they play it out on spare land and they want to be Wasim Akram or Javed Miandad or Inzamam or Akmal and they aspire to be cricketers and there is that amount of cricket played in the country that the right selectors will find players and they always do. I marvel at these chaps who come in and look right at home as Test match players and they will have been playing club cricket or league cricket prior to that, but boy can they play.

The unpredictability of it all makes it very romantic and there’s never a dull moment. You would never get a Pakistan team that was formulated. If you look at England, there’s an accusation that it’s planned and formulated, but not Pakistan as with them it’s off the cuff. Pakistan cricket is Rock and Roll.


(Saj Sadiq is Senior Editor at PakPassion where the above article first appeared. He can be followed on Twitter at @Saj_PakPassion)



More from this writer:

‘I have learnt a lot from my past mistakes’

‘I think the ICC has clean bowled mystery spinners and put an end to them and their varieties’

‘These are exciting times for Australia’