Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif should not be allowed to resume their careers: Tanvir Ahmed
Salman Butt (left), Mohammad Asif (centre) and Mohammad Aamer © Getty Images

Tanvir Ahmed arrived on the international scene when he was pulled from relative obscurity to represent Pakistan in the Test series against South Africa in 2010. He surprised many by taking a remarkable six wickets in the first innings of his Test debut, including the prize scalps of the then South African captain Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla. He went on to play four Tests, two One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and one Twenty20 International (T20I) with limited success until he was sidelined in favour of newer talent.

In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, 36-year-old Tanvir spoke about the recent announcement to hold the inaugural edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Doha and expressed his views on the reintegration of the spot-fixing trio into Pakistan cricket.

PakPassion.net (PP): How do you feel about the decision by the PCB to hold the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Doha?

Tanvir Ahmed (TA): First of all I am very happy that this tournament is taking place as this is important for the players and fans alike. This is great news for our players as we will have some overseas players coming to play as well. The participation by overseas players will not only raise the quality of the games but will also help our local players in learning from some big names in international cricket and also give these players exposure to the limelight as well.

I suppose there are good reasons for having this in Doha as opposed to somewhere more familiar such as Dubai. I am not sure about the popularity of cricket or the number of people who will come to see such games in Doha although the bigger decision would have been to hold this tournament away from Pakistan.

PP: Do you feel that the tournament should have been held in Pakistan?

TA: There is no doubt in my mind that most desirable place for this tournament would have been Pakistan. We would have had high quality entertainment on our home soil where the public could see overseas and local players at our home grounds. At the moment these stadiums wear a deserted look as if no one watches cricket in Pakistan. The main thing is that when games from this tournament are televised and people around the world see how fun-loving and peaceful we are, that will completely change the perception that some people have of Pakistan as being a dangerous or inhospitable place. However, the decision has been taken to hold it in Doha and it needs our support.

PP: Can the Pakistan Super League come close to matching the standards set by other international leagues such as the IPL?

TA: I don’t think the PSL, at least initially, will be able to match the quality of something like the IPL. The reason is simply that IPL has a huge financial backing where wealthy franchise owners have bought teams, which in turn results in highly lucrative returns for the players as well. Due to this point it has been able to attract the top players around the world, some of whom are considered legends in their own countries and consequently, the standard of play is of a high quality.

We obviously cannot reach that level immediately but we have to make a start somewhere. The current state of our game and facilities is such that it will take some time to reach the heights that the IPL enjoys but as I said, there has to be a beginning and that will happen when we kick-off the inaugural edition of the PSL in Doha in February of next year.

PP: With so much money involved and the popularity of the T20 format, do you feel that there is a real danger of ‘fixing’ around these games?

TA: It is very difficult to say whether this will happen or not. But what we do know is that unlike before, corruption in cricket is a well known danger and as you also know, some players have been caught and punished for this reason also. Given that this type of corruption exists in cricket, it will be up to the authorities to step in and take a hard line towards such threats. They will need to come down hard on anyone who even hints at flouting rules or looks to do anything incorrect. There should be zero-tolerance and we need to make sure that this tournament is protected from the evil of corruption. Having said that, I do doubt if there is any power on earth that can stop people who have the intention to indulge in corrupt practices. All major sports in the world are afflicted by this problem so it is not easy to stop this match or spot fixing. All that can be done is to provide enough deterrent for crooked individuals to think twice about it.

PP: The spot-fixing trio will be free to play cricket at the domestic and international levels from 2nd September. Will you be happy to see them back in the Pakistan team?

TA: I am very clear on this and will repeat what I have said before. Under no circumstances should these three players be allowed to resume their careers. Anyone who has defamed Pakistan in such a manner cannot be allowed to walk back as if this was a simple thing. If we are not strict with these players then someone else will also do it thinking that they will also get away with it. To reiterate, someone who had no regard for his country and indulged in spot-fixing without a second thought should not be allowed near a cricket field, let alone wear the colours of the country! The fact is that even though the ICC slapped a ban on these players, the PCB really did not take impose any such sanctions which I find very odd.

PP: What sort of reaction from fellow players can the three players expect whenever they start playing cricket again?

TA: To start with, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif have been stopped by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) from resuming their domestic career and it appears that it will take a good 7-8 months before they can play in any form of domestic cricket. Mohammad Aamer already started to play Grade-II cricket and is all set to play domestic cricket in the upcoming season. A lot of people say that Mohammad Aamer was young and naive when he made a mistake in 2010. I would say that he wasn’t that simple and he knew what he was doing so let’s not treat him any different from Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif. They were all equally culpable in their crime of destroying the name of Pakistan by their actions.

There are four or five Pakistan players who have clearly expressed their refusal to play alongside these three. If that is the case in the national team, then why does anyone think that the domestic players will simply welcome them with open arms? We should not forget that it is the domestic level which forms the basis for the national team so the opinion of domestic players must be taken into account when deciding on allowing these three players back into the fold.

PP: To many observers of the game, Pakistan’s fast bowling fortunes are at an all-time low. Do you agree with that assessment?

TA: In my view, the fast-bowlers of today seem to lack the work ethic that made previous generation of fast-bowlers so great. They don’t seem to have the ability to learn despite enormous resources being spent on their training and coaching. I will go one step further and say the fast-bowlers of today are simply incapable of learning new techniques and therein lies the problem.

Another major issue, and this has been mentioned a few times by a lot of people, is the difference in the make and quality of the cricket balls used for domestic and international cricket. The Kookaburra ball used at the international level needs a lot of hard work in order to reverse swing the ball. The technique required to swing the new ball is an art in itself as the seam is different on these balls. Our domestic fast-bowlers are lacking in this experience and it shows at the international level.

About ten to fifteen years ago, when a new bowler appeared on the scene at the domestic level, he was mentored by seniors who themselves had experience of playing at the international level. The young bowler was thus able to learn a lot from the seniors but sadly this is not happening today. Also the coaches in the various academies and clubs are clueless about how to guide the youngsters. There is very little coaching done at the junior level or the off-season with the result that fast-bowlers are being coached in the senior team which is laughable.

(Amir Husain is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net. The above article is reproduced with permission from Pakpassion.net)