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28th June 2010, 11:21
PP: Three domestic players who should be in the national team along with the players they should replace?

KU: I will name three domestic players aside from Umar Amin. The lads I feel should be in the team are Azeem Ghumman, Naved Yasin and Asad Ali.

Azeem Ghumman could be termed as an under- 19 player, but I will add him in this group because he deserves a mention. I think he has the potential to go on and become an excellent top order batsman for the national team. He has a composed head on his shoulders and is a leader as well. His fielding is top notch and that is always something to strongly consider when selecting players from domestic cricket. I thought he led the under 19 team admirably and deserves more attention. I am certain he will be selected one day. I would replace Azeem Ghumman with Imran Farhat from the current lot.

Naved Yasin is a unique one. I have not had the opportunity to see a lot of him. I saw him bat once in a match but that was for a concise moment. He has a compact technique, temperamentally he seems sound and he has been doing decently in the domestic circuit in Pakistan. The middle order for Pakistan is horribly feeble – sure there is some potential in Umar Akmal and Fawad Alam but there should be more depth. I feel Naved Yasin might be the answer. Asad Shafiq has been selected and it will be fascinating to see how he copes. If Asad falters [after a decent run of matches] then it would be appropriate to try out Naved. I would replace Shoaib Malik with him.

Asad Ali – is the bowler I want to see in the team. I thought he was outstanding on the flat roads during the domestic one day trophy we just had. He was nippy and was getting the ball to move around appreciably. I feel he has the potential to become a very good backup bowler for the team and along with Mohammad Irfan – he is a gifted prospect. I would replace whoever the fourth bowler is in the test squad this summer.

PP: Name one 'emerging' batsman, one fast/medium pace bowler, one spinner, one all rounder and one wicket keeper who you think can be very useful for Pakistan team in the years to come.

KU: Azeem Ghumman [emerging batsman] – I already explained why above.

Asad Ali [Pace bowler] – I already explained above.

Raza Hasan [Spinner] – I already explained in another question.

Anwar Ali [All rounder] – he burst onto the scene during that famous world cup victory against India at the under 19 level. The banana inswing was gripping to put it calmly and he seemed like a man who was unstoppable. Sadly, he has not been managed well and as usual with the majority of Pakistani players – he has stumbled somewhat. However, he is the prime all round prospect we have in my opinion. Hammad Azam has potential but I think Anwar Ali is slightly better at this point in time. It will be a close battle between those two.

Sarfraz Ahmed [Wicketkeeper] – wicketkeepers are presently an endangered species in the nation – some would say quality ones are extinct. Sarfraz Ahmed is not Rashid Latif but he could become respectable if worked on. I would say he is the best of the worst at the moment. Kamran Akmal is only in the team because of his batting prowess [if that’s what you want to call it] and the day he falters with the bat will be the day he begins getting dropped. Sarfraz will need serious lessons with a batting coach prior to coming back to national cricket though. He looked absolutely clueless against international level bowlers and that is what holds him back at this point in time.

PP: Your favourite Pakistani and Non-Pakistani cricketer?

KU: My favorite Pakistani cricketer at the moment is Umar Akmal. It is a close battle between the two exuberant youngsters – Aamer and Akmal but I would give the young batsman the edge. Like I stated previously, Pakistan cricket has come to a point where quality batsman are far and few between. So, the arrival of a bright batting prospect has everyone excited and I am one of those fans who is nervously expectant of Akmal becoming our next great. Heavy expectations for sure – but fans can be fanatical sometimes.

My favorite “Non-Pakistani” cricketer is Ricky Ponting. There is no other batsman in the world with such brute ability to pick apart the opposition and destroy them at will. He can attack, defend and pretty much do whatever he wishes with the bat in his magical hands. He tops all of his batting exploits with the numerous trophies he has as skipper. The man can do no wrong. He is a dazzling fielder as well to top things off – what can this man not do?!

PP: Your least favourite Pakistani and Non-Pakistani cricketer?

KU: I have infinite number of Pakistani players on my list that I simply do not like because of their controversial personalities. Picking one player is mighty tough because I equally despise most of them and wish they would be dropped forever. The player who is the worst of the worst is Shoaib Malik. He should be nowhere near the test team and I would even state that he should be nowhere near any team in any format at any level. This is putting aside all of his controversies – he simply does not warrant a spot in the team. Some could make a case for his spot in the T20 team but I would be fine with him not being there. He is a lucky cricketer who keeps getting selected for no rhyme or reason.

My least favorite “Non-Pakistani” cricketer is Stuart Broad. I cannot stand the guy’s attitude and the idiotic expressions he makes on the field of play. He is a huge whiner – the amount of times he cries about decisions the umpire has made is ridiculous and beyond reasonable. If Broad has his way he would whine about the umpire not giving LBW off a ball smashed for six. He comes across as a lad who feels that he can get away with anything and that he has every right to act like a baffling baboon. To be honest – he isn’t even that good to begin with.

PP: Your favourite Indian batsmen?

KU: India has been blessed with a plethora of quality batsman. Perfect techniques, exquisite stroke making and delightful mixture of defensive cricket and attacking prowess have marked their game. The upcoming batsmen are not that great but the older ones are of the highest quality. The “Fab Four” as they call them are the finest I have seen when in full flow. It is extremely tough to pick one amongst them.

Having to pick one though – how can one go wrong with the little master?! Sachin Tendulkar is the epitome of class batsman. I have never seen another batsman tear apart brilliant bowling attacks the way he has. The man has been an absolute thorn in our butts whenever we have had to encounter him in the middle. Even with legendary bowling attacks in our stable – we had difficulty getting him out.

The best quality about Sachin is not his on-field brilliance. It is his humble attitude off the field that leaves me in awe of the man. A man who is able to stay grounded even after such fanfare behind his each and every move deserves respect. I will not indulge in the “greatest ever batsman” debate but he is surely up there and that is a certainty no one can deny not even the most ardent critic.

PP: What is your most cherished memory of cricket? Please mention one involving Pak cricket and one from any other team...eh!

KU: I have had many memories from cricket that I will cherish. The best at this point in time will have to be the T20 world cup victory. The idea of losing in 2007 in the finals and then coming back the next time around to win it is sensational. There have been numerous test match victories that I have been pleased with but this victory for some reason takes my vote.

I follow a lot of cricket as a purely neutral observer. I am not one of those individuals who will only watch when their own team plays. Therefore, I have seen many matches that have left me absolutely stunned. The two matches that really stick out are - the Ashes 2005 [all tests] and the Australia-SA ODI [highest chase]. The Ashes in 2005 were of the highest quality – it was an absolute ripper of an affair. Warne vs. Pieterson was going on in the middle as a side story – there were the likes of Mcgrath, Lee, Flintoff and Ponting playing. It was a clash of two brilliant sides and they churned out one of the greatest test series I have ever seen. The Australia-SA ODI was a great match – I was stunned when Australia made such a towering score but the way Gibbs batted in the 2nd innings was just something out of this world.

PP: When was the first and last time you actually saw a cricket match in a stadium live...eh?

KU: Why Eh? Why not B? .

I can sadly state – I have never ever seen a cricket match in a stadium live. I have heard a lot of people say that the experience of watching cricket on TV is nothing compared to the atmosphere at a cricket stadium. I will certainly go watch a cricket match one day – I want to see England and Australia once in my life – I will make sure to revolve my trips in the future around Pakistan cricket tours of those nations.

[B]PP: Who do you think would have been the BEST captain for Pakistan team, but never got a chance to lead the side?

KU: This is a question that takes a lot of contemplating. Not because there have been a plethora of candidates – in fact its because almost every single player has been captain for the team in the past and definitely in the present setup.

Mudassar Nazar would be the player who I felt could have led the team beautifully. He was a player who was not gifted with supreme natural talent yet he did wonderfully well in terms of performing. I did not get to see him play of course because I was yet to be born – however he has been stated as being a great character. I think he would have done well as a leader. Mohsin Khan would have been an interesting one as well.

PP: What would you have done if you were in Younis Khan after Sri Lanka and New Zealand (UAE) series?

KU: One can say many things sitting on the sidelines. I cannot make an appropriate statement without knowing the actual facts/situations he had to encounter while on those tours. If they were acting as stated – I would have probably done the same as him.

The team was dismantling at the seams – I was a poster who felt Younus was in the wrong initially. I felt he was being a “wuss” by walking out but after seeing the recent developments [inquiry/bans/u-turns/oaths] – I back his decision wholeheartedly. He was dealing with a bunch of morons – who if asked to take an IQ test would see the results come back negative. It was an atrocious situation and I think he acted appropriately. The best part of his reaction was the fact he didn’t fall into the petty”media wars” trap that many players get in trouble with.

PP: In your opinion, how can Pakistan improve its Test and ODI ranking?

KU: The introduction of players based on skill and aptitude. The team could be turned on its head even at this point in time, if the PCB conducted itself professionally. The selectors need to start selecting players who have potential to actually succeed.

“Senioritis” needs to be thrown out the window. Seniors have taken us nowhere. Yes, a few seniors are required [still based on merit] that can gel the unit and lead them to success. However, the selectors need to have an open mind and so does the public – don’t look at the player’s name look at his performances.

There are obviously other problems that hinder the team. The constant batting collapses suggesting poor psychological state of mind and the atrocious attempts at fielding. These are items of concern but they can be corrected in due time with the correct personnel. All of these thoughts are utopian in nature. They will take a long time to implement – if ever.

PP: What are your assumptions on Pakistan and Indian cricket team after five years from now?

KU: The Pakistan team will improve. The growth of youngsters like Mohammad Aamer/Umar Akmal/Fawad Alam will see the rise of the nation’s cricket. However, the way these blokes are handled and managed by others [coaches, captains. administrators] will go a long way in the way their careers turn out.

A lot is dependent on the other players who crack into this team. In five years time, Pakistan will not be blessed with a test batsman like Younus Khan. They will have to find his replacement and I do not see one yet. Umar Akmal is more of a two down batsman rather than one down, in my opinion of course. Umar Amin has potential and it will be interesting to see how he develops and matures.

Indian cricket will falter – I am not saying this with any bias. The truth is there for everyone to see. Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman will have retired in five years time. The team will have no middle order experience and will almost be exactly where the present Pakistani team is.

Their rise/fall will be entirely dependent on the performances of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. If those two batsmen can show poise and intelligence in the middle – India might still be respectable. The fall from #1 in test cricket is imminent though – retirements are part and parcel of the game. India’s backup does not seem good enough to reach those lofty standards set by the “Fab four”.

PP: Who would you want to lead Pakistan in all three format? In addition, if you had to select it from Younis Khan and Shahid Afrid then who would it be and why?

KU: Younis Khan. I did not find anything wrong with him when he was skipper. The whole banning saga was unfortunate management by the PCB. I have always liked him because he plays with everything he has and that is something that should be appreciated.

He is a tad reactive at times in terms of his emotions. This is a problem that stops people from naming him as the best candidate. Although, Pakistan at this point in time has no one better for test cricket. Shahid Afridi has been named captain but I do not see him doing well.

Shahid Afridi is a great limited overs leader and deserves that role in my opinion. Test cricket might be too much for him. The fact that he has not played test cricket/first class cricket for such a long time does not support his case either.

PP: If you were the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, would you rather put priority in fixing the national team and the troubles it is going through right now or would you rather put priority in improving cricket from the grassroot level?

KU: Why not both?

If I am the chairman of the PCB – I need to be prepared and willing to correct the whole system. If I am not ready to improve the system at all levels then I should have never taken the job. Both facets of the system are vital to its success and picking only one to progress would be fruitless.

There is no point in choosing to only improve national cricket when you have no talent coming through the ranks. Equally, it is useless to improve the grassroots level when the national team is an absolute mess.

The chairman should have a plan going into the job. The best thing to do for the chairman is to fire all of those assigned to work under him in critical positions. The next batch who work under the chairman [myself] would have to be professionally qualified with a ton of experience in their specific job. It is easy to say and harder to do considering the political backgrounds of some of the employees. Although, that is the way forward if a chairman wants to succeed. Plus, this is how you can improve both aspects of the game – through responsible individuals working in each department.

PP: Suggest how can we remove Ijaz Butt from Pakistan Cricket Board?

KU: This is a tough one. The authority to eradicate him remains in the hands of one of the most corrupt individuals in Pakistan. Asif Ali Zardari will never remove him as long as Ijaz Butt remains faithful.

The most that can be done is protests and constant criticism of the chairman. These sorts of methods can lead to the elimination of the chairman because the president will feel pressure to do something.

Zardari’s position is plain – he wants nothing to do with the PCB and finds it as just another tool for raking in money [my personal opinion]. He does not want any problems from the cricketing aspect of things and if pressured will hire someone new. The problem is – will the next chairman be equally corrupt and incompetent? The way things usually turn out – yes, the next chairman will be shoddier.

PP: Future of Pakistan cricket? Do you believe we're just going through a lean patch or do you believe we're going through a tough time, a transition, and soon, with the proper leadership and players, we're going to start performing consistently well again?

KU: We are going through a tough phase in our cricket. This is not a lean patch – where we are simply losing matches even after giving our finest. The team is not capable of winning games and the personnel within the team is erroneous. There is too much focus on players that never were good enough to make the team.

Yes, appropriate leadership and players will propel the team, but we are miles away from that. Shahid Afridi has the intangibles to be a first-rate leader of men, the problem is with the players he has under him. There is no batting depth, the bowlers are youthful and growing and we all know about the keeping/fielding woes.

The future depends on the development of youth [Akmal, Aamer, Alam and Amin]. Like I stated previously – these players require support and if groomed in a proficient manner, they will lead the team to greater heights.

PP: Do you actually believe we're going to defeat Australia this summer? Do you believe we're going to defeat England this summer even?

KU: I always believe. Pakistan is a team full of surprises.

The team will undoubtedly have to get approximately everything perfect. Tactics will have to be precise and decisive and cricket will have to be played in a proactive manner. Captaining your first test series against Australia is always hard-hitting, but Afridi will have to step it up.

There are countless factors that will have to be considered. The fielding depth of the team will be imperative. The Aussies/English are masters of sneaking singles and picking gaps. Those gaps will have to be shut down; the fielding will have to be tightened from all angles. Younus Khan is going to help in the slips – secure pair of hands there are always helpful for fast bowlers and gives them self-confidence.

The brain tells me – a thumping is in the offing. Heart tells me – we will smash them to pieces. I like my heart better, much better.

PP: If Canada began playing more competitive cricket, who would you support in a Pakistan vs. Canada match?

KU: Pakistan.

The problem with cheering for Canada would be that it’s basically a South Asian XI. If I am going to be cheering for a bunch of Pakistanis – I might as well cheer for the better ones.

Canada always has my support when they are playing other nations. I am always following their scores when they play. I have seen some of those lads play in matches live when they play club cricket and they are quality players. Our team will get better as more immigrants arrive.

However, I will remain a supporter of Pakistan in cricket. Forever.

PP: After recent crisis in regards Mohammad Yousuf where does he rank in your eyes?

KU: He still ranks high. There were a lot of allegations thrown around. Yes, I had a different image of the man and I thought he was one of these nicest individuals around. In the end, it seems he is a regular human being and gets angry/frustrated.

I do not want to slam his character based on reports from various sources. I will always rate him highly as a cricketer. Although, I supported him as captain and I am willing to accept the fact that he was not cut out for the job and it ruined his career.

PP: How much time did it take to answer all of the questions? Which one took longest?

KU: I spent quite some time on these questions.

I do a lot of work on PakPassion. Writing articles, transcribing interviews and now moderating the forums. Amongst all of this work – I answered these questions. I must have spent around a couple of weeks. 3-4 hours of actual answering.

I have no clue which answer took the longest. Probably the one with the most writing.