Good news for all PP fans, we managed to get the interview with Abdul Razzaq.
His agent Azhar Majeed arranged the whole thing telling Razzaq all about PP and was instrumental in getting us the interview. So a big thanks to Azhar who is a good friend of PP and who has promised us more exclusives in the future
I'd especially like to thank Abdul Razzaq who gave detailed and often surprisingly frank answers to your questions. Being a fan of Razzaq myself I ended up grilling him more than necessary over a few questions but Razzaq responded well. Also Razzaq would like to thank all his fans for supporting him, here's the interview...
PakPassion.net: How young were you when you got into cricket and who were your cricketing heroes whilst you were growing up?
Abdul Razzaq: I wasn't really into cricket as a young kid, I only became hooked as a result of the 1992 World Cup after watching Imran Khan and Wasim Akram playing. I found them both to be very exciting players because they could bowl fast and hit boundaries with equal ease, that's when I decided that I wanted to be an all-rounder too.
PakPassion.net: What non-Pakistani players did you like?
Abdul Razzaq: I was quite inspired when watching Allan Donald bowling, I especially loved his action.
PakPassion.net: You started playing for Pakistan at a very young age, what's the story behind your selection.
Abdul Razzaq: I started out as a member of the Pakistan youth teams. Former test cricketer Azhar Khan selected me for Pakistan u16's and later on Haroon Rashid selected me for the Pakistan u19 team where he was impressed with my performance and recommended me to Khalid Mahmood the PCB chief at that time. Khalid Mahmood then spoke to Wasim Akram telling him about me and I was selected in the 1999 World Cup squad.
PakPassion.net: What's the real story behind the press reports about you becoming sick from eating too much spinach?
Abdul Razzaq: You can't get sick from eating safe and healthy food, there's nothing wrong with eating spinach. What happened that time was that I got a bit of food poisoning and that made me sick, that's all there is to it. I don't know where this story about me eating so much spinach that I got sick came from.
PakPassion.net: What's your diet like these days? Do you prefer a majority meat or majority vegetarian diet?
Abdul Razzaq: I prefer meat dishes, my favourites are steak or chicken.
PakPassion.net: So who started the iPod craze in the Pakistan team?
Abdul Razzaq: The iPods? Saeed Anwar started that, it was something he enjoyed and others followed him. I like listening to songs as well but not as much as the others.
PakPassion.net: You've played with both Saeed Anwar and Inzamam Ul Haq, in your opinion who was the better batsman?
Abdul Razzaq: It's hard to compare the two as they were both very different types of batsman. Saeed Anwar was an aggressive opener who used to play the new ball very well and Inzamam used to come down the order against an older ball to stabilize or accelerate the innings. I'd say they were both equally good at their respective roles and it's hard to compare them head to head since they both played different roles in the team.
PakPassion.net: Waqar or Wasim? Who was better?
Abdul Razzaq: I can only speak for when I was playing with them both and at that time Wasim was the more effective bowler. Wasim had more variation and control plus he had the advantage of being a left hander. Opposition batsmen used to take their chances against Waqar and not Wasim.
PakPassion.net: What happened at Middlesex because after you left, their chairman said that you came across as a very lazy and unfit cricketer.
Abdul Razzaq: I don't think he said anything like that, I dont remember him mentioning anything like that to me whilst I was there.
PakPassion.net: It was in the news, I remember reading an article about it myself.
Abdul Razzaq: Well I had a two year contract with them and in the end I think I only played for around two months of each of those two years due to commitments with the Pakistan team. If this is true then perhaps Middlesex felt that I was saving my best for when I play for Pakistan and that's why they thought I wasn't putting a lot of effort in. I don't agree with that myself but it's the only thing I can think of to explain it if he really did say that.
PakPassion.net: Some of your Middlesex teammates believe that you were talented enough to have reversed test stats (batting average of 36 and bowling average of 28), why do you think you didn't achieve that?
Abdul Razzaq: It's all about how a player is utilised in a team and that's down to the captain, as you know captains are always being changed in Pakistani cricket and this adversely affects the game of us players. No two captains think alike and whilst one may like you and use you as an attacking option, the next captain may not like you and you may be reduced to a defensive option or perhaps not even get to play any Test matches. So I'd say it's down to the constant changing of captains and the way I've been utilised by those captains.
PakPassion.net: How would you describe yourself? As a bowler who can bat or as a batsman who can bowl?
Abdul Razzaq: I see myself as an all-rounder who can do both and I have been recognized as such too.
PakPassion.net: But which do you consider to be your strength? Bowling or batting?
Abdul Razzaq: It depends on the situation, sometimes I'm a better batsman than I'm a bowler and at other times I'm a better bowler than I'm a batsman. I think of myself as someone who can do well in both disciplines. On occasion I've been praised for my consistent bowling performances and at other times I've been praised for my consistent batting performances.
PakPassion.net: Is it true that you dont enjoy bowling and that Wasim Akram often had to force you to bowl?
Abdul Razzaq: No, nothing like that.
PakPassion.net: Between 1999 and 2002 you were constantly bowling at a speed of close to 90mph but these days your average speed is closer to 78-82mph, why has your speed dropped so much?
Abdul Razzaq: As I mentioned earlier it's about getting support from your captain and about your role within the team. Between 99-02 I was being utilised as a main strike bowler and so I was free to rush in and bowl aggressively because that was my role within the team, I didnt have to worry about being too economical because that's not expected from a strike bowler. That was under captains like Wasim Akram and Moin Khan, the captains that came after those two didnt utilise me properly.
PakPassion.net: So did these other captains specifically tell you to slow down your pace or was it your own decision?
Abdul Razzaq: Well look at it this way, if your team is 8 or 9 overs into an ODI innings and you feel that it's the perfect time for you to come on and put some real effort in but the captain chooses to not use you then wouldn't you get disheartened? Wouldn't you feel that your not being properly utilised?
PakPassion.net: You could get disheartened or on the other hand you could decide that you will try hard whenever the captain chooses to bowl you and by doing that your own performances would force the captain to take notice of you and utilise your skills in a better way...
Abdul Razzaq: ...no wait, listen. If you look at the way I've been utilised in the ICL then you will see what a different bowler I am when I'm opening the innings and and being used as a strike bowler...
PakPassion.net: ...but I saw the ICL and you were still only bowling at 78 mph even when you were opening the bowling...
Abdul Razzaq: ...you have to bowl to the situation, all the opening bowlers speeds were down in the ICL because it's 20/20. You have to look to the situation and decide whether or not to bowl slower or faster. Besides which a bowler reaches his peak at around 24 or 25 and then begins his decline around 30. After that your bowling only gets worse and not better, part of that process is that your speed will begin to go down as well. But as your speed goes down your skill level and control goes up, so whereas before you relied on pace to get wickets, you start to rely more on guile instead.
PakPassion.net: When you bat, you only seem to have two gears. You either bat in first gear or you bat in fifth gear, why dont you play each ball on it's merits?
Abdul Razzaq: I concede that in Test cricket my batting can be a bit like that but in ODIs I always play my natural game.
PakPassion.net: Down the order you do play more freely but when when you're promoted up the order you still tend to get stuck in block mode a lot of the time.
Abdul Razzaq: In the 1999 World Cup I was sent up the order and told to block everything but since then I havent played like that in ODI cricket.
PakPassion.net: That brings me on to the next question, did your role as a pinch blocker in your early ODI career negatively affect you as a batsman? Did blocking balls regardless of whether they were good balls or bad balls impair your judgement of what is a good or a bad ball?
Abdul Razzaq: No I dont agree with that. Besides if the captain tells you to block everything and you get out blocking then you will play the next game but if you ignore the captain and try to do what you want then even if you do well you probably wont play again! So it's best to do as the captain tells you for the interest of the team, to help him execute his game plan and to keep your place in the team.
PakPassion.net: Under Wasim Akram you were one of the best ODI bowlers in the world and probably the best all-rounder in the world. Why do you think you did so well under Wasim's captaincy and why havent you been able to replicate that form again?
Abdul Razzaq: There's only so much a player can do by himself, the captain's backing and his correct utilization of each players skills is also critical to a players success. Imagine if you've spent the whole day practising your batting and you've got yourself worked up to go out there the next day and bat, then when the next day comes you are slotted in at number 7 or 8 and you either dont get a chance to bat or you only face a dozen balls. How disheartened would you feel? Wouldnt it get you down mentally to know that you were fully fit and mentally ready but you didnt get a chance because you are batting too low in the order?
In the same way if you're confident about your bowling ability but you dont get a proper chance to show your skills then what can you do about it? Fast bowling in cricket is about the new ball, the best time to pick up wickets in an ODI match is within the first 15 overs. That's when the batsmen are unsettled, the ball is new and the batting team is willing to take risks off your bowling. The first 15 overs is when bowlers can either take a bad beating or pick up some crucial wickets, it's the best time to bowl. What's the use of introducing one of your most experienced bowlers between the 20th and 40th overs? That's the stage of the game where batsmen want to consolidate, score in singles and hold onto their wickets before they launch an onslaught at the end. They dont play big shots or take any risks at all during the middle overs, it's very easy to milk runs against a ball that is no longer new and on a pitch that has settled down. Like I said before it's all about how you utilise your players. If I come in to bat at 7 or 8 and I come on to bowl between the 20th and 40th overs then how can I reproduce the form I was in when I was batting higher up the order and being used as a strike bowler within the first 15 overs?
PakPassion.net: What do you think you should be your batting position in ODIs?
Abdul Razzaq: Whenever there was a new captain, I always recommended that I should bat at number 6 in ODI games.
PakPassion.net: You opened in ICL, would you consider opening for Pakistan?
Abdul Razzaq: I started my career batting at one down which means you often end up virtually opening if a wicket is lost within the first few overs. I will bat wherever the captain tells me to bat for the good of the team, that's the way I've always been. If the captain tells me to bat down at 7 or 8 whilst knowing I'm capable of batting higher up then I cant refuse his instructions. He's the captain and I'm there to execute his gameplan, if I dictate where I want to bat and keep making life difficult for the captain then I wouldn't last very long in the Pakistan team. I don't see why I can't open for Pakistan if that is what is required of me.
PakPassion.net: Do you still keep in touch with Wasim Akram and have you considered approaching Wasim or Waqar to help get your bowling back to it's 99-02 form?
Abdul Razzaq: Wasim is usually abroad on commentary assignments these days, so I dont bump into him often. I played with both of them for many years and they worked very closely with me during that time. They taught me a lot but I think at this stage in my career it's down to me.
PakPassion.net: But bowlers of their calibre can often see something you may be doing wrong that perhaps you are unable to see by yourself. There's nothing wrong with approaching players like them for advice, they would often go back to Imran for advice even after becoming successful bowlers.
Abdul Razzaq: Yes it is a good idea to go and see them if you are having problems
PakPassion.net: You're known for hitting huge sixes, which one do you think was your biggest?
Abdul Razzaq: I think the one I hit in Christchurch, New Zealand was probably the biggest one...
PakPassion.net: ...what about the one you hit onto the roof at Karachi?
Abdul Razzaq: Actually you're probably right that one at Karachi might have been bigger than the Christchurch one.
PakPassion.net: Who hits the bigger sixes, you or Afridi?
Abdul Razzaq: Afridi hits some good sixes too but the thing with Afridi is that he is always trying to hit the ball for six whereas I only go for sixes when the situation demands it. In cricket you cant just be hitting sixes all the time, you have to have to take into account what the team needs and the match situation.
PakPassion.net: During your 107* vs Zimbabwe, you and Afridi appeared to be having a six hitting challenge. First you'd hit a six then he'd hit one then you'd hit one. Was there a challenge going on?
Abdul Razzaq: At one stage during that match we were 36 for 4, so there was a lot of rebuilding work to be done in order to get the innings back on track. By the time Afridi came in we had 10 overs left with only 140 on the board so we had no choice but to try and score as many runs as we could in the last 10 overs. The reason we were both hitting out was down to the match situation and the need to get as many runs on the board as possible.
PakPassion.net: Do you think you could break Afridi's fastest every century record? You've come very close with your 89 off 40 balls vs New Zealand.
Abdul Razzaq: Well in that game I was on 90 off 42 balls...
(discussion on the exact number of deliveries, Razzaq thought it was 42 I insisted it was 40 as I'd looked it up before the interview)
Abdul Razzaq: ...ok so I was on 89 off 40 balls and within 2 sixes of the 2nd fastest ODI century ever, had I not got out when i did I would hold the record for the 2nd fastest century after Afridi.
PakPassion.net: What's the story behind your retirement, was it serious and the why did you sign up for the ICL?
Abdul Razzaq: By my making an announcement saying that I've retired, it doesnt mean that it's a permanent thing. It can also be seen as a message, it's not the same as me getting a letter from the government saying that I'm now retired and I can no longer play cricket. When the ICL offer came I hadn't been selected for the T20 World Cup and I didnt have a central contract. I needed to do something and so I signed up for the ICL.
PakPassion.net: Do you think it was the right decision to drop you, especially considering the fact that your form wasn't very good at that time.
Abdul Razzaq: Well at that time we had a new selection committee and a new chairman of selectors, they wanted to remove the players that represented the Inzamam era. The players Inzamam had selected and kept around him were being removed to make way for a new set of players.
PakPassion.net: But in your last 30 games you had a bowling average of 45 and a batting average of 28, dont you think that had something to do with you getting dropped?
Abdul Razzaq: That's easy to say but before dropping a player based on figures shouldnt the selectors at least look at how that player has been utilised? In those games I was batting down at number 8 or at number 7, how can I score runs consistently at a good average when I'm always coming in with only a dozen or so balls left to face? And the same with my bowling. In some of those games I didnt even bowl, in other games I bowled 5 or fewer overs and I was usually brought on to bowl after the 20th over or as 4th change. You can only perform as well as the opportunities you get, given the way I was utilised in those games is it surprising how I performed?
PakPassion.net: After seeing the success of the IPL do you regret joining the ICL? Especially since a player of your calibre would command a huge salary in a competition like the IPL.
Abdul Razzaq: The IPL came along afterwards. But I've got no regrets about signing for the ICL because I probably couldn't have played in the IPL even if I had wanted to. The IPL only selects those players that have been recommended by the domestic cricket boards. I hadn't signed a central contract and I had been dropped from the team so there's no guarantee that I'd have been able to play for the IPL anyway.
PakPassion.net: If you got an offer from the IPL tomorrow, would you consider it?
Abdul Razzaq: I've got a 3 year contract with the ICL that lasts up till 2011 so no that won't happen.
PakPassion.net: Till 2011? That's not good news, many PPers were hoping you would be selected for the 2009 T20 World Cup.
Abdul Razzaq: The ICL contract doesn't mean that I definitely cant play in the 2009 T20 WC, it could still happen.
PakPassion.net: But haven't the PCB banned all ICL contracted players from playing for the PCB or even in Pakistani domestic cricket, so how could it happen?
Abdul Razzaq: That's today, tomorrow is another day and anything could happen tomorrow. The ban on ICL players could be lifted worldwide or the PCB officials could be replaced and the new set of officials may decide to lift the ban. Just look at county cricket, initially we were banned but now that ban has been lifted and I'm playing for Surrey. So it's not impossible to think that I could be playing for the ICL and the PCB by this time next year.
PakPassion.net: The reason you're allowed to play country cricket in England is because of a court case during the Kerry Packer era brought by English players against the ECB where the court ruled that the ECB couldnt restrict a player from plying his trade. You, Sami, I Nazir, I Farhat and Hasan Raza are still young enough to play for Pakistan. Have you thought about getting together and taking the PCB to court over this ban and get a similar ruling against the PCB in Pakistan?
Abdul Razzaq: In England everyone is equal in the eyes of the law but in Pakistan that's not the case, in Pakistan you can't challenge the government or government bodies like the PCB. The courts belong to the government and so does the PCB, why would one overrule the other? This sort of thing couldnt be successful in Pakistan because such a ruling wouldn't be allowed to be made.
PakPassion.net: But surely that's the same thing in England, the ECB and the courts answer to the government here too.
Abdul Razzaq: That may be true but in England everyone has the same rights, even if you end up in a fight with Prince Charles's son you can expect a fair hearing and get the decision in your favour if you were in the right. But in Pakistan it's about who has more power and influence, you cant expect to get these sorts of decisions in your favour over there.
PakPassion.net: But what would you lose by trying, you're already banned. At least if you bring a case to court, there will be lots of publicity over it and no doubt the public sympathy would be with you and that could bring pressure on the govt to ensure a fair hearing or it may even result in a popularist decision from the court resulting in a lifting of the ban.
Abdul Razzaq: No that wouldn't happen, this policy is a worldwide one and not just restricted to Pakistan. You have to remember that it was due to pressure from the BCCI that this ban came about. The Asian Cricket Council and the ICC both know that currently India produces a lot of revenue for them, so whatever India decides they will do. I very much doubt that this ban will be lifted without either the BCCI's say so or a change of officials in the PCB.
PakPassion.net: Where did you learn to tuck away your left leg and hit the ball for six with a baseball style slog?
Abdul Razzaq: It just came naturally to me, it seemed to be an effective way of hitting the ball over the boundary and so I started doing it.
PakPassion.net: What advice would you have for any youngsters who want to copy that shot?
Abdul Razzaq: Actually after a couple of months I'll be holding a coaching camp in Pakistan for youngsters and one of the things that I'll show them will be how to use that technique to hit sixes.
PakPassion.net: So when do you think you'll get a chance to play for Pakistan again? How old are you now?
Abdul Razzaq: It's all about Kismat (destiny), if I'm meant to play for Pakistan again then I will and if I'm not then I wont. I'm 30 years old.
PakPassion.net: Well you're just entering your peak and you have about 5 or 6 years worth of International cricket left in you...
Abdul Razzaq: ...No I think probably more like 3 or 4 years.
PakPassion.net: Only 3 or 4 years? The reason I asked was because you were man of the series during the ICL and you're playing really well in county cricket too. Dont you think Pakistan are missing your all-round abilities and losing many games due to a lack of balance in the ODI team?
Abdul Razzaq: Well winning and losing is a fact of life, sometimes you win a lot and other times you lose a lot of games. I would like to come back but it's not in my hands to make that decision, if they feel that they could use me then it's up to them to recall me that's not something I can force them to do. But if there is a policy change on ICL players then Insha Allah that could pave the way for a comeback.
PakPassion.net: Do you think Shoaib Malik has been a good captain?
Abdul Razzaq: No I dont.
PakPassion.net: Who would've been a better choice?
Abdul Razzaq: I think he was given the captaincy too early, he may have made a good captain in the future but not right now. Or the other thing they could have done was to make Malik the captain but to keep the more experienced players around like India have done. That was they would be there to advise him and to support him and help him settle into the role.
PakPassion.net: Ok Razzaq bhai, thank you for taking the time out to chat to us and good luck in the future. Khuda hafiz
Abdul Razzaq: Khuda Hafiz.