ODI Debutant
Feb 19, 2005
Tell us something about yourself....

I am 35 and after having spent a large chunk of my life in London, am working as a Management Consultant in Lahore.

Why the obsession with Shoaib and does Farhad wish he was Shoaib (in another life)?

I don’t think obsession is the right word to use. Shoaib is my favorite player though and the basic reason I defend him so readily is that I believe he is misunderstood and is scapegoated although being clearly and consistently a front-line performer for his country. And whether I would like to come back as Shoaib in another life……Yes, why not?

You have been following the game for a long time. How do you compare the current Pakistani team with those in the past?

The first Pakistan team I followed was the ’78 one which rolled over India with ease. It had players collectively more accomplished than the ones you see in the team these days. But the best team we have had in terms of fighting spirit and achievements has been the one which Imran built in his leadership. Following that team’s fortunes was a privilege as it fought tooth and nail and had that unerring never-say-die attitude. Imran’s energy and charisma flowed throughout that team. The current team is indeed a strong one if we play all the available superstars and play with team spirit. Of course Inzamam cannot emulate Imran with regards to leadership and strategic direction, but he knows what tools and strategies to apply as he has a solid precedent.

You have interviewed Aaqib Javed and also met Shoaib Akhtar. Who did you find easier to mingle/talk to openly? And a comparison on how u found the two as people/personalities.

They both have different personalities. Aaqib’s is an affable and genteel personality, and he has been a friend so I’ve never had problems talking to him openly. Shoaib on the other hand, comes across as a reserved yet gentle one in the Imran Khan mould. But I have seen he is great company when amongst his mates and with the other team members. One thing has always struck me, and that is the gulf in what many perceive Shoaib as generally and how nice and genuinely decent human he come across when you meet him and see him interacting with others. I’ve seen him being extra courteous with fans especially those very young…he has time for them. One episode sticks to mind. After a match in Canterbury for Lashings in ’03, as he was about to drive off in his S320 Mercedes, a middle-aged Pakistan fan rushed to his car, carrying a small child. Shoaib stopped the car immediately in the parking area, got hold of the toddler, pulled him inside and seated him besides in the passenger’s seat. The kid was too small to know what was going on, but his father was very chuffed as he took a few snaps. Marvellous gesture by Shoaib. When I hear of him doing charity work and going out to help others, it does not surprise me. I believe he is the most misunderstood person in the team. Is a showman, yes, but a great person and performer.

If you were captain of Pakistan, how would you motivate Shoaib Akhtar and how would you handle him ?

Definitely not by dropping him and by giving negative statements about him! I’ll stick to Imran Khan school of man-management. I will understand his weaknesses yet appreciate his immense contribution to the team. Will talk to him ensuring I win his confidence and show trust in his judgement. Will nurture the talent rather than subdue it with force. It is demanding but not excessively so as after all he is one of the premier performers for the team too. And I will never foist my opinion as to how he should bowl i.e. curtail the run-up etc. – give a suggestion but leave it to the bowler himself to decide who knows his bowling more than anybody else does. All in all, show him the respect that he deserves and motivate him thus to even greater heights. I would also ensure he does not hesitate in consulting me when he needs some guidance, and for that firstly I would strive to capture his confidence in me.

Where, in your opinion, does the gap lie between a team such as Australia and our current team, or even our teams from the recent past? If you had the authority, how would you go about bridging that gap?

Firstly, the team under Imran. It had fewer mega-stars than the current Aus team but could easily have given the Australians of today a run for their money. They even stood up fiercely against the Windies team then which in my opinion, is the best team of cricket history. Where that Pak team lacked in man-to-man superiority, they made up with sheer insuperable fighting instincts. The players were ready to do anything the skipper wanted them to. The skipper led by example and never backed off any challenge.

Currently Australia naturally is a rather strong outfit. We lack to an extent mainly in professionalism too.

To bridge the gap, we have to strengthen our domestic structure to make it more competitive. Things are moving in the right direction though. The re-structuring of teams to an extent into regional basis is a good start as that engenders a lot of interest and enthusiasm amongst the players and the fans.

Secondly, we need to have consistency in team selection - constant chopping and changing creates a tempo based on ad hoc set-up which makes it very hard for the team to gel and for the younger players especially to play to their potential, or even for a coherent strategy to evolve.

I will also have pitches like the ones they used to have in Sialkot in mid ‘80s – grassy strips tremendous for fast and pace bowling – and make the team batsmen get their act together on those kinds of pitches too before proceeding to tour outside the Sub-Continent. Such a pitch should be laid in at least one of the main cricket centres of the country for domestic games too. The bowlers they would have to face would be quite competitive and we have the pool necessary to make this an excellent way forward.

Who will you have in your ODI team? Shoaib Akhtar or Bret Lee ?

Shoaib Akhtar. I wonder what Lee can do in a team like Pak where fielding lets down the bowlers a lot and where he won’t have the luxury of bowling with the comfort of own batsmen having scored plenty nearly every time he goes out to bowl.

Imran Khan or Shoaib Akhtar - which one would you pick? this is just as a bowler

Definitely, Imran Khan. No question about it. He is one of the most complete fast bowlers of all-time – had it all….devastating command on inswing, outswing, leg-cutter, bouncer, yorker, reverse swing, use of new ball , match temperament, pride in playing for the nation, fitness, talent, intelligence, and drive to excel and dominate etc.. - any match situation on any pitch – he was a consummate artist and master of the brilliant art. One of the best-ever overs I have seen in all the years following the game is when Imran bowled a double-wicket maiden in the Semi-Final of WC’87 against Aus – that was the 49th over of the innings and the ball was doing magic baffling the batsmen no ends.

Your favourite Indian player?

Yuvraj Singh is one of the few Indian players I admire. His off-drives are as beautiful as those of any other top batsman in the world. Has such grace and poise when he is playing. Due to Ganguly, Yuvraj has lost quite a few of his peak years now. Batting has rather waned but then he can hardly be blamed for that disaster – this is a natural consequence of being messed around by the selectors.

If you had to pick one out of the two for your team from the following - who would you pick and why?

Wasim or Waqar ?

Wasim. For longevity as a world-class strike bowler and for his unparalleled variety. Wasim could have become a genuine all-rounder had he concentrated a bit more on his batting. He had all the strokes.

Ambrose or McGrath

McGrath – for unerring accuracy and hunger for wickets.

Waqar or Donald

Waqar – for sheer destructive ability. At his peak, he was simply as close to unplayable as one can get.

W&W or Amby&Walsh

The Two Ws – for their ability to strike with force on any kind of surface.

Imran or Sobers

Imran – for being the most complete cricketer ever. Sobers was an all-time great batsman, a great slip fielder and an average mediocre bowler; whereas Imran was an all-time great bowler, Test-standard batsman, and an all-time great skipper. Imran thus excelled in all the three major disciplines of the game – truly a unique and staggering phenomenon.

Miandad or Gavaskar (tests)

Miandad – I’ve followed his career very closely and have seen how big a fighter he was. Gavaskar unfortunately played for himself on many occasions although being a class act in his own right.

Warne or Murali

Shane Warne – To me, he is the greatest spinner ever. I’ve never been comfortable with Murali’s action. I know he has cleared the Bio-mechanical Test but the Test for spinners is nowhere as reliable as it is for fast bowlers. There is too much left in the domain of the ICC co-ordinator who has to make the vital call whether the deliveries are as effective and identical to, as those the bowler bowls in real match situations.

Out of all the batsmen in int'l cricket who would you to pick to bat for your life?

Javed Miandad. Rahul Dravid, a close second.

Do you think you are a tad biased when it comes to talking about Indian players?

Everyone would have some bias when it comes to judging cricketers. I am no exception. But those cricketers I will never admire who have shown time and again that statistics mean more to them than team needs. Even a few Paks like Zaheer Abbas fall into that category.

What do you look for when watching a young batsman? What are the qualities that make you feel he is one for the future (or not)?

Three things I focus on when judging young batsmen – how solid is their defence technique, big-match temperament, and how they square up against the better bowlers. For a young batsman, in my opinion, having a sound defence is more important to possess than having attacking instincts, as the latter can be worked upon, but the former rash style presents a difficult proposition to rectify. I just do not like flashy batsmen especially at the opening position – a reason I have not a lot of hope attached to likes of Farhat and Yasir. And that’s where I think Butt, Taufeeq, Hasan and Bazid are better prospects.

What steps would you like to see implemented to make domestic cricket in Pakistan more competitive and capable of producing finished articles?

We need more turf pitches throughout the country as our youngsters mainly are used to cemented pitches early on which hardly gives you much practice when facing the moving ball.

Domestic cricket should be based fully on regional basis.

Sponsorship of the game has to be enhanced.

We need to have more academies like the one Rashid Latif is running, and there should be participation of national team members therein every now and then.

I would think opinions especially strong ones are based and backed on a number of factors. It seems your opinions on a couple of topics have (very) significantly changed since the Aaqib interview. Did he provide significant proof (that we don't know) that made you change your opinions? Or is Aaqib's personal opinion important enough for you to change the stance you've taken for a while now? Would that suggest that your original opinion(s) weren't fully thought out?

I have reported on practically everything discussed with Aaqib during the drawn-out interview. There have been a couple of areas where his understanding and closer insight has made me change my mind – the primary one being estimation of Inzamam as a major figure in the Pakistan team. His leadership skills too – when Aaqib told me Inzi commands lot of respect amongst the rank and file, you cannot help not be impressed by that feature. Now, the fact is I still assert that Inzamam has his weaknesses, not the least being his inability to integrate Shoaib in the team, but I do also realise that the former has a couple or so years left in him to serve us and it’s unfair to be looking at one aspect and using that to berate him overall as skipper. He deserves better having been an unflinching servant to the nation. Previously I was hammering on that single negative aspect, which I now believe was not that pre-dominant a factor to be the basis of a fair overall evaluation of Inzamam the skipper.

Regarding some of my reasoning not well-thought out, I have got to say this indeed holds true when it comes to my earlier opinion on Inzamam as a player of fast bowling. Indeed I was too harsh and after doing better analysis, especially of a few of his knocks against Donald etc, it has become clear that Inzi is not an ordinary player of fiercely fast bowling at all, no matter what some misguided Tendulkar fans may want you to believe in.

What do you think of PakPassion and where would you like to see this discussion board (i.e. your vision)?

We are heading in the right direction. It is astonishing as much as it is a credit to the impeccable work being done behind the scenes by the Mods that here we are half-way into the first year and already we have an ever-growing membership which has swelled to nearly a thousand! I believe there is considerable pool of very insightful and intelligent cricket fans in Pakistan which needs to be tapped.

I would also like to see some association with PCB if it can be achieved on whatever level. It is a tough ask but not an impossible one. Most of all, we all need to be honest in our opinions and stay responsible in our judgement calls on Pak players.

What do u think of woman cricket players?

Depends on which one are you talking about .;)

If given the opportunity would u assist in their development in any way?

Ha! Of course. I am available for any such venture. Actually, it would be a right pleasure J

Is it accurate to say that you might have a different online persona than real life?

No. I am as patriotic and enthusiastic about Pak and the team as I may come across to some. Like MIG, I also come from a family which prides itself as being part of this wonderful nation. Significant numbers in my ancestry were migrants from Indian Punjab and have given our share of sacrifices in the creation of Pakistan. Thus my strong attachment to the country should not surprise anyone.

Are you an extremist and if so, what do you ascribe that to?

Regarding following the game and supporting own players, yes I am. Having said that, I do not get depressed for long when the team is doing bad. Would like to imagine I am an optimist and a die-hard Pak supporter, come what may. Following the career of a colossus like Imran in my formative years as a Pakistan team supporter has instilled in me great pride and high hopes of the nation’s players.

What do you think is missing in your life and in the make up of your personality? things that you would want to acquire?

I feel quite fulfilled and happy with what Allah s.w.t. has given me.

Why do you think that most Pakistanis on a collective level feel so good after kicking India's [backside], specially when they would normally get along fine with them on an individual level?

Well, we are used to it, aren’t we! I think a lot of it stems as a natural reaction to the hatred and bitterness which you see in many of their fans be it on some inconsequential cricket forums of theirs or in the stadium stands. Our players are superior to theirs overall which naturally translates into the kind of margin lead we have over them all these decades. I believe we would have sunk them proper had they not run away from playing cricket with us from’99 to ’04. May have been good for them actually as Ganguly won’t have been their captain now, and they won’t have been saddled with him any longer. Anyway, the current mess suits them fine.

Is it fair to say that you are merely the voice of the people ?

It’s for others to judge.

Which cricketer was your main role model and why?

Imran Khan. For his no-nonsense attitude and remarkable aura. Leading from the front, commanding authority from those under his leadership and sheer hard work to excel, and an unflinching belief in Allah s.w.t. most of all – these attributes mark him out as the perfect role model to look up to. He has his weaknesses too but then he is human after all.

Should what a player does off the field matter as long as he is producing the goods on it?

Look. Even Imran Khan was once known to be and photographed at Ascot in the company of some English elite beauties a day or two prior to a Test match. I believe it is pathetic to be targeting a player’s personal life as long as he is delivering on the field. What I find ironic is that many Pak fans that do those themselves are into partying and womanising yet put on the façade of holier-than-thou attitude when it comes to pronouncing their judgements about players’ personalities and private affairs.

The crux is – Only God can judge.

Many of the current Pakistani players, specially batsmen seem to play a test match as if they are playing ODIs.

Lack of interest for test match cricket in Pakistan seems to play a big part in this.

This is a problem not just with our players but also with those of other countries too. SA is an exception. The abundance of ODI cricket has a lot to do with this failing of many a modern-day batsman.

It gets accentuated in our case as our batsmen especially the younger ones are not gaining a lot of international Test cricket exposure. This has to be rectified, and it was good to see Shahryar Khan demanding a full Series next time WI tour our shores.

About Sachin Tendulkar... the man boasts of an extremely high average in both forms of the game despite having a "poor form" in the past few years (at least for someone of his standards). For more than a decade he's played stylishly and also has a very healthy Strike rate in both ODI's and Tests. Surely a man who has scored so many runs at such an immense rate could not have done much wrong? Then why the harsh criticism? Is it perhaps just a case of rubbing it in to the Indian cricket fans? (ICF specifically even)?

Well, a long question, so fair only to give a detailed answer here to clarify a few home facts. For initial thoughts, he is not really near to Brian Lara – not in ‘90s or even now more so. That’s what I find rather amusing- the readiness of his fans to talk about his tons and average when it’s apparent that he plays for his average and not for the need of the occasion! Despite playing largely on featherbeds and dust-bowls, having been in the company of class batsmen, Tendulkar’s average even is nearly identical to Lara’s if you take out the excess matches he has played against non-minnows as compared to Lara.

I’ve never said he is not a great player but to say he is the best, is simply not true. Now the fact is the number of Indian fans is more than double the number of fans of the rest of the cricket-playing nations put together, so it should not surprise how much exaggeration and nonsense has been talked from Indians about Tendulkar supposedly being only second to Bradman. Those who have seen Viv would know Tendulkar is a kid compared to Richards when facing fast bowlers of some effectiveness. McGrath has tormented Tendulkar silly in many of the crux matches, best and most memorable ones being the WC ’99 and ’03 encounters, but still Indians have this belief that Sachin is effective against fast bowlers. Another major fact is that there is only one (yes, merely one) world-class bowler who Tendulkar has dominated overall, and that is Warne. Apart from that, he has not been able to overall be on top of any other world-class performer.

Agreed that on occasions I have been overly-harsh on him, but that was in response to the overly-harsh criticism of Lara and Inzamam by a few. That was to balance things as they were.

But overall, no matter what you average and how many runs you score, if indeed you time after time are seen to be serving yourself mainly, you are a liability in terms of flailing team spirit and a pathetic role model for youngsters aspiring to play for their nation at the highest level. The fact that even many Indians are now screaming about the selfish tendencies and blatant disregard for the national team’s interest by the man from Mumbai speaks volumes in justifying why so many treat him as nothing extra-special any longer. He is a plodder and accumulator now, a far cry to the attacking batsman he used to be.

What is your view on the argument of including bits and pieces players in the team? Are all three of our Razzak, Afridi, and Malik able to fit in our test team over specialists?

Until the time we can boast of having consistent and rock-solid batsmen occupying the entire top five slots, we will always be in need of batting all-rounders more than is necessary.

Horses for courses. Afridi is an exception and should be in both the Test and ODI team regardless of whom we are playing and where.

Razzak is an essential member of the Test team I reckon until we can find another genuine all-rounder apart from Afridi or a specialist batsman who can start turning his arm over effectively too.

Malik should not have a place in the Test team until his bowling is sorted out, and then he would compete with Razzak.

Afridi has to be preferred over the other two not least for the sheer energy he adds to the team. We cannot have a place for all three in the Test team currently.

So what do you think should be done to promote test match cricket in Pakistan?

Well, the team has to get consistent and start winning some Test Series for starters! Moreover, by keeping stalwarts like Shoaib who are real crowd-pullers out of the team, you aren’t doing much by way of promoting Test cricket amongst the masses.

PCB should provide better facilities in the General stands too and needs to bring down the ticket prices.

Also where do you think cricket in Pakistan is heading? Is the future bright?

Yes, overall we are heading in the right direction. There are a few things to fine-tune especially when it comes to Inzamam’s strategies and approach, but I’m satisfied largely with him being at helm of affairs. We need consistency in team selection and give players like Butt an extended run in the team.

The working of NCA is exemplary. The future is bright indeed.

When on song, who do you think is (or has been) the most destructive bowler in int'l cricket?

Hard to separate the two….Imran Khan of ’82 and Waqar of ’91. Both were a force of nature.

Where do you live? If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? Why?

Lahore. And that’s where I have always wanted to settle down in. In the words of Wasim,”Once a Lahori, always a Lahori.” ;)