"I should have played more international cricket" : Aizaz Cheema


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  1. #1
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    "I should have played more international cricket" : Aizaz Cheema

    Aizaz Cheema was in the limelight in 2012 after his iconic performance in the final over of the Asia Cup where he successfully defended 8 runs against Bangladesh to give Pakistan victory by 2 runs. In total, Cheema played 26 times for his country, taking 51 wickets before he was effectively sidelined from the national side in 2012. His most telling contributions, however, came during his First-Class career which began in 2001 and ended in 2019, where he took 572 wickets at an average of exactly 20 which included 38 five-wicket hauls in an innings and 11 ten-wicket hauls in a match.

    In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Cheema spoke about the highs and lows of his career, the disappointment of not having represented Pakistan since 2012, his views on the recent reforms by PCB to domestic cricket, his mentor role with Central Punjab and his aspirations to take on a role as a coach in the future.





    PakPassion.net: What would you class as the highlights of your career so far?

    Aizaz Cheema:
    Without a doubt, the high points of my career have revolved around playing for Pakistan. My Test debut was against Zimbabwe in 2011 where I took 8 wickets which also happened to be the second-best debut figures for Pakistan, then in my debut ODI series against the same team, I took 8 wickets in 3 matches which, from what I understand, was the 2nd best debut in that format after Waqar Younis and Abdul Razzaq. Then my role in the famous two-run Asia Cup victory against Bangladesh in 2012, where I took 3 wickets in the final and bowled a brilliant last over was another memorable performance for me. I was also Man of the Match on three occasions in international games and also took 51 international wickets for my country which was a real honour for me and something I look back at with immense pride. When we speak of my performances in Twenty20 cricket, then it’s also important to mention my crucial role for Quetta Gladiators against Peshawar Zalmi in the first edition of the PSL where I defended 8 runs in the final over of the play-off. I was also part of the team of the tournament in the Champions League which was played in India in 2014/15 where I took 11 wickets in 6 games.


    PakPassion.net: Any low points or moments that you regret?

    Aizaz Cheema:
    I have always given my hundred percent, so I see no reason to feel bad about any aspect of my cricket. You can always have days in cricket when your performances are not the best, but I have always felt satisfied with my game. But, as a professional cricketer, one needs to take the highs with the lows and continue to work hard and that is how it’s been for me. Of course, being dropped from the Pakistan side after my contribution in the Asia Cup victory and also after performing so well in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophies during the last and current season was also a cause of disappointment for me, but I did not give up and have continued performing to the best of my abilities.


    PakPassion.net: You represented Pakistan 26 times but surely you would have preferred to have played more for your country?

    Aizaz Cheema:
    Yes, this was pretty disappointing for me as I felt that I should have played more international cricket. Since last representing Pakistan in 2012, I have continued to play domestic cricket and put in good performances, and I am currently the top wicket-taker in T20 cricket in Pakistan with 121 wickets to my name. What I am really pleased about is that I have kept myself in high spirits and my performances have been excellent since the time I was dropped from the Pakistan side. Recently, I was part of the Central Punjab team that won the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and whilst I have retired from four-day cricket, I am still very much available for Limited-overs matches and am looking forward, if selected, to appearing for Central Punjab in the National One-Day tournament that will be played after the PSL.


    PakPassion.net: Do you feel hard done by, for not being selected again for Pakistan since 2012?

    Aizaz Cheema:
    What has happened is now in the past and there is no point delving into that. I have a clear conscience regarding the effort I put in and I am happy with myself in that regard. The performances I put in for Pakistan and also in domestic cricket are proof of my hard work and for that, I am grateful to the Almighty.


    PakPassion.net: Have the changes in the domestic system resulted in a better standard of cricket in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy?

    Aizaz Cheema:
    There is no doubt in my mind that the standard and quality of cricket has improved this year. The PCB has formed these provincial sides with players who have performed well in the past three years or so, which automatically raises the standard of cricket that is played in the tournament. On top of that, each player who has signed a contract with their domestic side has to appear for a fitness test every 2 months which puts a huge emphasis on fitness which wasn’t there before.


    PakPassion.net: What changes in the domestic system are needed to make it even more effective?

    Aizaz Cheema:
    I will advise anyone who is trying to judge the effectiveness of this change to our domestic system to allow 1-2 years as it can take that long to fix any issues that come about. Obviously, in any new system, there will be areas that will need further improvement and I am sure the PCB will look into making these changes for the next season. So, for example, I would expect the PCB to allow for the participation of more players and also improve the financial well-being of all players in the domestic system. I am hoping that PCB will make changes that will result in more players getting to play cricket and that the quality of the game in our country will keep on improving.


    PakPassion.net: Do you feel that Pakistan cricket would have been in a better place if these reforms had been made, say 15 years ago?

    Aizaz Cheema:
    There was very little focus on fitness in domestic cricket in the past which has now changed due to PCB’s reforms. In the current system, all cricketers regardless of playing Grade 1 or Grade 2 cricket need to appear for fitness tests every two months, where their stamina and strength is also checked. I believe we would have been seeing the benefits in Pakistan cricket if this sort of discipline had been put into place, say 15 years ago. But, as they say, it’s never too late for a good thing to be done. One hopes that this emphasis on fitness will continue to be a feature of our domestic cricket, resulting in good results in the future.


    PakPassion.net: Do you think your habit of ‘speaking your mind’ hurt your chances when it came to representing Pakistan?

    Aizaz Cheema:
    I believe the only time I spoke out was during a ceremony where I was named the best T20 bowler in Pakistan in 2014. At that point, I asked the selectors to pick me as I was skilled and fit enough for the job. This was due to the fact that despite performing so well and being recognized as the best T20 bowler, I was still not able to find a place in the Pakistan side. I have no regrets about saying that and nor did PCB find it offensive enough to issue me a show-cause notice, and I am sure most people agreed that I was simply speaking what was in my heart and nothing more.


    PakPassion.net: Tell us a bit about the mentor role that you have been asked to do this season?

    Aizaz Cheema:
    Being asked to take a mentor role by the PCB this season was a great honour for me. Whilst an official designation of a mentor was given to me this season, the fact is that due to my experience, I have been performing this role for the last 3-4 seasons for Lahore and PIA. Regardless of whether a formal role is given to me, it has been my aim to help and mentor all young fast-bowlers who have played or practiced with me. I am quite happy to share my experience with these bowlers on and off the field and this season especially, I got a lot of positive feedback for performing this role and I really enjoyed it. I am also taking coaching courses and if needed and asked to do, will be ready to work with the PCB in a similar role.


    PakPassion.net: On that topic, can you tell us about your plans as regards to coaching?

    Aizaz Cheema:
    In 2005, I completed ECB’s Level 2 Coaching qualification in England. Last year, I had the opportunity to complete PCB’s Level 2 Coaching qualification as well and now my plan is to complete the Level 3 qualification. The idea then is to look for opportunities at the club level in Pakistan or England so as to build a strong coaching profile for me, and if possible apply for any coaching opportunities at the PCB as well.


    PakPassion.net: What’s your opinion on the current standards of fast-bowling in Pakistan?

    Aizaz Cheema:
    I am really excited about the standards of fast-bowling in our country. What is very pleasing is to see this new group of young pacers such as Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Khan Shinwari, Haris Rauf and Mohammad Hasnain who are all capable of hitting speeds between 140KpH to 145KpH. The ability to bowl at a fast pace under any conditions is crucial in today’s game and with Waqar Younis as their coach, I am convinced that we will progress a lot faster in this aspect of the game.


    PakPassion.net: The emergence of such young bowling talent must fill you with optimism for the future of Pakistan Test cricket?

    Aizaz Cheema:
    I believe that we have lacked greatly in the area of fast-bowling, especially if you look back at our progress in Test cricket in the past 5-6 years. On top of that, the retirement of Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz from Test cricket has added another dimension to our problems. However, I am very encouraged by the emergence of these new young fast-bowlers as pace is very important in our sub-continental conditions and having good speed also helps bowlers extract reverse-swing as well. So, all these fast-bowlers have the right ingredients to make them effective in international cricket and one hopes that they will continue to improve under the guidance of Waqar Younis and help Pakistan win more games in the future.


    PakPassion.net: Which young pacers in domestic cricket have caught your eye, who you feel can represent Pakistan in the future?

    Aizaz Cheema:
    There are plenty of very talented fast-bowlers in domestic cricket who have impressed me, but I would like to specifically mention Ahmed Bashir from Lahore who was with Central Punjab side in Grade 1 this year and Mohammad Imran Randhawa who has played for Southern Punjab in their second XI but used to play for SNGPL before. Imran is a hard-working all-rounder who I feel is a great prospect for Pakistan. Apart from these two, we have Zia-ul-Haq, a left-armer who can swing the ball really well and Akif Javed, who performed well recently, played for Balochistan. So, we have a lot of excellent pacers ready to play top-level cricket. As we know, there is tough competition for the role of pace bowlers in the national side and the ability to bowl 140KpH does help in that. All in all, the future of fast-bowling in Pakistan is very bright.
    Last edited by MenInG; 28th January 2020 at 22:16.


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  2. #2
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    Was brought into the Pak side too late as he said he should have played a lot earlier than he did, especially when he was quicker because by the time he came in to the side he was mid 80's.

    The highlight for him for sure will always be that Asia Cup final where he defended 8 in the final over.

  3. #3
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    Maybe, but by the time PCB quit on him, he was definitely not good enough to be picked again for national duties.

    Will always be remembered for that final Asia Cup over.

  4. #4
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    Seems like a very likeable guy with a positive attitude towards life in general and no bitterness about any past injustices...with him having such a long career, having completed some basic level coaching courses and being such a nice and humble guy; I think he can be an asset if attached to the Pak U19 program!

    Even at this advanced stage in his careeer, he still kept himself fit and always bowled his heart out. I think PCB cannot go wrong in employing such a hard working and experienced player in their future plans.

  5. #5
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    Same applies to one Sohail Khan. They perform well then are dropped for the next match for no reason. We never have a settled side.


    PP's own self proclaimed sharpshooter and defender of Islam and Pakistan.

  6. #6
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    Aizaz was a beast bowler in domestic, he brought into international cricket bit late, our system has changed now, Haris Rauf is the example. Nowdays their are player development programs PSL franchise cricket around the world NCA. Aizaz was very unlucky in that regard and at that time period Pak had plenty of fast bowlers options.

  7. #7
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    A hard-working and honest trier and a bowler who always gave his all.

    Speak to his team-mates and they will say this guy would give his everything for the team.

    Could he have played more for Pakistan? Yes I think he could have, but they brought him into international cricket way too late.



  8. #8
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    One of those players who have been consistent performer at domestic level, but did not succeed much at international level. He was too short to have a successful international career as fast bowler, neither he had pace of Mohammad Sami, but was a skillful bowler nevertheless.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Monsee View Post
    Seems like a very likeable guy with a positive attitude towards life in general and no bitterness about any past injustices...with him having such a long career, having completed some basic level coaching courses and being such a nice and humble guy; I think he can be an asset if attached to the Pak U19 program!

    Even at this advanced stage in his careeer, he still kept himself fit and always bowled his heart out. I think PCB cannot go wrong in employing such a hard working and experienced player in their future plans.
    Agree, cricketers like him, who had long and successful domestic career could be very useful in coaching young domestic talent, at under 19 level.

  10. #10
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    41 years old today.

    I always felt he was one of those honest triers who probably could have done well with some support (read sifarish) to further his career.


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  11. #11
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    Very good interview. Looks like a very humble fellow.

    I have always liked zia ul haq(the bowler) , but his performances have not been that good.


    It is either a heartache or a headache ..Argh relationships.

  12. #12
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    Never found him too impressive in international cricket.

    Never made a consistent impact.


    Bangladeshi Guy

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by sweep_shot View Post
    Never found him too impressive in international cricket.

    Never made a consistent impact.
    By the time he played, he was way past his best and even then he was OK. Some very good bowlers have talked about PK missing a very talented bowler.

  14. #14
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    Got his chance very late. Inzamam could had atleast played him instead of Rao or Rana Naveed.

    He was lucky to play those 25 matches, because if i remember correctly he was selected for the west indies series originally. He was injured and dropped. But thankfully he got selected for Zimbabwe series

    At the end he played some games and even past his prime he was good enough. He was better than the over rated Junaid Khan

    Will always remember when Pakistan needed to defend 9 runs and Misbah trusted him with the last over. The guy didnt disappoint.


    Pompei is an example of Liberalism gone mad- Technics1210

    And we thought it was plate tectonics

  15. #15
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    Another victim of the post-2007 World Cup chaos. Should've got his chance at least 3-4 years before he did.

  16. #16
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    That last over against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup final is the highlight of his career.

  17. #17
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    He should have played international cricket much earlier.

    He was ready by 2007/08 or so when we were playing guys like Rana, Rauf and Sohail Tanvir in Tests lmao

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slog View Post
    He should have played international cricket much earlier.

    He was ready by 2007/08 or so when we were playing guys like Rana, Rauf and Sohail Tanvir in Tests lmao
    Rauf himself should have played in 2003 when he was good.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bewal Express View Post
    Rauf himself should have played in 2003 when he was good.
    i have heard alot of taref about abdur Rauf. People used to say that he had good swing and was probably the next waseem akram.

    Domestic Cricketers used to praise him alot


    Pompei is an example of Liberalism gone mad- Technics1210

    And we thought it was plate tectonics

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Major View Post
    i have heard alot of taref about abdur Rauf. People used to say that he had good swing and was probably the next waseem akram.

    Domestic Cricketers used to praise him alot
    By the time they picked him, he was an 80mph trundler but at his peak he was around 85mph, and a good bowler. I posted on Bob Woolmers website before the Indian tour in 2004 and asked him why he was ignored, he said the guys they picked Rana, Sami etc were better,i disagreed with him.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bewal Express View Post
    By the time they picked him, he was an 80mph trundler but at his peak he was around 85mph, and a good bowler. I posted on Bob Woolmers website before the Indian tour in 2004 and asked him why he was ignored, he said the guys they picked Rana, Sami etc were better,i disagreed with him.
    Do you believe he was half as good as akram?

    Because what i heard from fc players was that he could make the ball move till the sixth stump


    Pompei is an example of Liberalism gone mad- Technics1210

    And we thought it was plate tectonics

  22. #22
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    He should talk to Misbah who always been very keen to give chances to youngsters like him.

  23. #23
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    He would have taken 200 ODI and 150 test wickets with an under 30 average and decent SR.

    But he was never given a chance during his best years

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Major View Post
    Do you believe he was half as good as akram?

    Because what i heard from fc players was that he could make the ball move till the sixth stump
    I wouldn't go that far but from what I saw he would have been a good test bowler. It's a shame that we will always discuss at what could have been.

  25. #25
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    42 years old today!

    51 wickets in international cricket
    827 wickets in domestic cricket

    He bowled a sensational final over to win Pakistan the Asia Cup 2012.


    For the latest updates on Cricket, follow @PakPassion on Twitter

  26. #26
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    Wahab Riaz “ i should have played more”

    Cheema “i should have played more”

    Asad Shafiq “i played far too much”

    The story of Pakistan cricket.

  27. #27
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    As with all these guys, we miss the boat when they are hot and give them a sympathy selection 3 or 4 yrs later when they are on the way down. Sometimes others are just better and sometimes the selectors keep picking the same guy to justify their own selection

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