Those guys, who recommended and selected Trent Woodhill as the batting coach should be taken to task: Mudassar Nazar

Mudassar Nazar (above) feels it’s not right to have ignored the likes of Inzamam-ul-Haq and Zaheer Abbas for Pakistan batting coach job © Getty Images

By Amir Husain

Mudassar Nazar played 76 Tests and 122 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) for Pakistan between 1976 and 1989, scoring almost 7,000 runs and taking 175 wickets.

An accumulator of runs, his best performances came at home, where he scored eight of his 10 Test centuries, half of which were scored against India. Providing stability at the top of the batting order, Nazar averaged 54 in matches won by Pakistan. It emphasised his importance to the side during that time, which included more illustrious contemporaries such as the likes of Mohsin Khan, Javed Miandad and Zaheer Abbas.

Mudassar has continued his association with cricket after retirement. He was appointed coach of Kenya in 2005, where he was also Director of Cricket. Later, he went on to become Director of Game Development in Pakistan, where he introduced twelve Regional Academies as well as the National Academy. He is currently the Head Coach at the  ICC Global Cricket Academy, specialising in batting and development programmes.

In an exclusive conversation with PakPassion.net, Mudassar spoke about the progress of Dav Whatmore as coach, the role of Mohammad Hafeez and the need of a batting coach for Pakistan.

Excerpts from an interview:

PakPassion.net (PP): What are your thoughts on Umar Akmal playing as a wicketkeeper-batsman in ODIs and T20 Internationals?

Mudassar Nazar (MN): Well firstly I didn’t see too much wrong with his keeping. The most difficult part of the job is keeping against spin bowlers and he looked as good as both his brothers or any of the other guys who have stepped in over the last 10 years. Ever since the departure of Moin and Rashid, we have been struggling for a keeper. We keep forgetting that Kamran Akmal is a batsman-wicketkeeper, not a wicketkeeper-batsman, so nothing changes with the youngest of the three Akmal brothers coming in. In one-day cricket, that’s what you need. You need batting in the middle order. We have too many players who take their time and they don’t get on with the game whereas Umar Akmal has that ability to rush things in the middle of the innings, with some big hits and rotation of strike and good running between the wickets. So you need the energy there and I don’t think that is a bad thing.

In Tests however, he needs to prove himself as a batsman once again. He had a great start, but he has lost out in the middle. And on top of that, keeping for a couple of days on the trot is something he has never done so that’s a different thing altogether. But in one-day cricket and in T20Is, I don’t mind him keeping for Pakistan.

PP: Moving on to something that’s receiving a lot of attention from the fans — Misbah-ul-Haq. As a captain and as a batsman, do you feel Misbah is the person who can lead Pakistan going into the 2015 World Cup? What are your views on that?

MN: Certainly not for 2015. It’s quite a long, long way away even though Misbah has kept himself quite fit. It is an issue with the current Pakistan batting lineup – it suits Misbah and the way he bats. Whether we are 50/0 or 50/5 — normally what it is these days, Misbah always plays the same way. He would always leave it up to the last few overs to up the tempo. At the moment, that’s suitable for Pakistan. However, if you find two good openers and a good No 3 and if the three come off and you’re 150 for 1 in 25 overs. If Misbah comes in then you will lose all that initiative.

At the moment, because you’re 30 for two or 30 for three, he drops an anchor and it’s suitable for him and  the team as well. That’s the need of the team at the moment. In the long run, would it be? When you go into a one-day game, you go in with the intention of scoring 300+ to put the game away from the opposition. That’s not the case when he comes in to bat. At the moment, it is all about survival. To win the World Cup, you need to do a bit more than that. You need to dominate right from the first ball. We have had a few hot heads in this team over the last 10 years. Misbah is very calm and his influence has been fantastic over this team. He has done very well for Pakistan and fitted in really well. If that is the need of the hour, that is fine. But, I don’t think you can win a World Cup like that.

PP: That is interesting that you mentioned a stable opening partnership and a good number three. At the moment, we have got Nasir Jamshed, Ahmed Shehzad, and Mohammad Hafeez as the top three with Hafeez coming under a lot of stress here and not doing too well. Although, he bats at that spot, he seems to be played in the team as a bowler alone. What are your views on that?

MN: We have to determine what he is. I look at Abdul Razzaq and Pakistan lost him because they never could find a role for him. In the three or four years of his career when he played for Pakistan, he was neither a batsmen nor a bowler. He’s not a batsman if he’s batting at No 9 and he’s certainly not a bowler if he’s not bowling in the first five. If you don’t come in as a fast bowler, you don’t bowl in the first three and you are rarely needed to bowl the last few, which was not his strength because he always bowled length balls and not yorkers — then what is your role? He lost his way because the captain had no confidence in him although, at one time he was the world’s best all-rounder in one-day cricket, but they lost him because they couldn’t find define his identity.

Hafeez, by default we are sending him at number three. He’s not our best batsman. Your best batsmen goes in at No 3. Your best batsmen is very good technically and also gets on with the game. Hafeez gets on with the game, but technically he’s not that well equipped. Ever since he has lost his opening spot, he’s been struggling at number three. He is not the answer. He is not a Younis Khan or a Mohammad Yousuf. He is a very good player, but he is not as good as those two guys. Why are we shifting him to play at No 3? I think they dropped a clanger in the Champions Trophy by axing Younis Khan.

Until the Champions Trophy, Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq  were the only two batsmen in the Pakistan team who could play in tough conditions as they did in South Africa where the conditions were similar. In England, you were always going to find tough conditions. You always want your technically the best equipped batsmen to go to England in the 50-overs format because it is a very long game, especially if you lose a couple of early wickets.

Younis was thrown out although, I admit he hasn’t done all that great in one-day cricket in the recent past, but in England, it is a case of horses for courses — you needed to bring him for the Champions Trophy. I was afraid they were going to drop him  and that it would have had dire consequences. That is exactly what happened. Hafeez couldn’t replace Younis  for the Champions Trophy. He could replace him in the West Indies or some other place where the ball doesn’t deviate much and the batsmen aren’t challenged a lot. Certainly in England, we needed Younis. As for Hafeez, he has to prove himself.  He has had bad times at the top and Pakistan need to rectify that. Currently, he only gets in because of his bowling.  However, an all-rounder should get into the team by virtue of either bowling or batting; that is the definition of a decent and proper all-rounder. Does Hafeez fall into that category? At the moment, he is in between. He has been around for well over 10 years, so it’s about time he took responsibility and scored runs at the top consistently at No 1 or No 3.

Those guys, who recommended and selected Trent Woodhill as the batting coach should be taken to task: Mudassar Nazar

Trent Woodhill has not played First-Class cricket, and before joining the Pakistan team as batting coach, he was the associate coach of New Zealand © Getty Images

PP: There’s another issue of the batting coach, that’s being talked about. Would Inzamam-ul-Haq be your choice? Who else would you choose?

MN: Why not Inzamam? If he is going to put his heart and soul into the job, then why not? I’m all for it, depending on if Inzi can give his time to Pakistan cricket. To be honest, those guys, who recommended and selected the Australian guy [Trent Woodhill] as the batting coach should be taken to task. If people like Zaheer Abbas and Inzamam apply for the job, as Pakistan’s batting coach, then they should have thought about that. How can you compare Woodhill with these guys? It’s beyond me!

He is gone now. It was good for his CV. It was quick, and he is gone. I can’t fathom or comprehend who made that decision. It was a terrible one. Obviously this team needs a batting coach. If the team has got a bowling coach and when there is a very formidable bowling line-up  then there is all the more reason that we should have a batting coach. The batting has been struggling for the past four to six years.

PP: In terms of a scorecard, how would you rate Dav Whatmore right now? What do you see as his future with Pakistan cricket? Would you expect the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to extend his contract and tenure?

MN: We started off really well but the team’s fortunes have taken a turn for the worse and obviously the coach lives by the its performance. The team’s performance hasn’t been that great, but you can’t lay the blame solely on Dav Whatmore.

First of all, managing the Pakistan team is difficult. On top of that, the Pakistan cricket team is playing away from home. You have a tough situation, which many coaches around the world would find very difficult. He is an experienced coach. Whether Pakistan should or shouldn’t renew his contract is moot but looking at the history of the PCB, I don’t think that they will renew it. It’s never been done in the past. If the team’s faith is good and he is useful for the team, then by all means. I don’t buy that only Pakistanis should coach the Pakistan cricket team. All of our cricketers play all over the world with other teams and organizations as well as take part in county cricket and league cricket. Its fine for our former players to go and do that, but when somebody else comes into our yard, we all criticise. I don’t think that’s right.

PP: Many thanks for your time.

MN: Thank you!

(Amir Husain is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net)