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HindustanTimes Thu,28 Aug 2014
'Larger issue is peace, not who wins'
Kadambari Murali, PTI
Lahore, August 03, 2004
First Published: 00:00 IST(30/7/2004)
Last Updated: 23:39 IST(3/8/2004)

How is the Miandad of today different from the one who aped Kiran More by jumping up and down in front of the stumps after being irritated by his constant appealing?
Times have changed. In our days, so many things would happen, we would react instinctively. There were no referees sitting and waiting to penalise you as soon as you crossed the line, no ICC panels. It's tougher now. For this and many reasons, I tell everyone to forget what's past, bury it. I tell my boys to think carefully on and off the field. In this series especially, the larger issue is peace, not who wins.

If that is so, what's behind the mindgames? You were reported to have said there's an Irfan Pathan in every gully in Pakistan.

I never made those remarks. In fact, I'm publicly denying I ever said anything about Pathan like that. I would never say anything like that about a youngster. I, myself, have been young and I respect cricketers too much to say the kind of things I've 'reportedly' said. And not now.

Can you elaborate... ?
Just now, winning or losing is not important. The relationship between the countries is. Friendship, easing of tension is important, more cricket will also reduce pressure on players form both sides. We are playing for our bigger political future but we have to constantly remember that cricket will not begin and end with this series.

On the field, you obviously expect more than a 100 per cent and demand complete obedience. Isn't that strange coming from someone who did as he pleased as a player?
In our times, there was no coach really. These days, cricket is different. Obviously I'll pass on my experience of over 30 years. You can't do much when they're out there in the middle but you can guide them as much as possible. I try to send messages, I know they keep looking at me to see what to do. Other coaches, I don't think they do this. I'm happy with the way things have worked out.

So you don't demand that they follow your line?
No, but I expect them to listen. I believe everyone should listen, it's essential and part of strategy. I have always of course, told players they should speak up in team meetings. We are after all a team, and anyone can make mistakes. But while I'm in charge, I want my way of thinking to be followed. I've made it clear that when you're on the field, your mind has got to be on cricket, fully focused. There can be no thinking about anything else.

Is this lack of 'obedience' that led to senior players being sacked after the World Cup?
It wasn't like that. Some of the players who left had played under me before when there were some misunderstandings and I left. They brought me back. When something goes wrong, you feel hurt. I was hurt and I left. Look, I don't want to go back to exactly what happened. I've been with the team a while now. I came and left, then came and left again and have now been given a responsibility again.

Have you asked for more authority in this tenure?
Not like that. But I'm very clear that if I don't enjoy something, I'll just leave. I have lots to do in life other than cricket.

In this current set-up, with an emphasis on merit, why did you bring back Saqlain and Afridi?
Afridi had some good performances in domestic cricket. He is someone who can be very useful in one-dayers. He is a good sixth bowler, a very good fielder and a good bat. Saqlain is good too.

Was Saqlain brought back because of his record against India?
I believe that if someone is good, he's good against anybody. Class and experience invariably shows. Anyway, it was not my decision alone, it was also dependent on the selectors. They finally picked the team.

What is your mantra for the players?
If you don't have cricketing sense then you shouldn't be playing the game. One mistake and you're gone. I always used to read the bowlers, the wickets, the fielders. As long as your mind works, you'll stay alive. It was as simple as that for me. Thanks to the Almighty, all along, I played with my mind.

And strategy?
Make strategies inside you. Strength is what you do on the day. Not what you did on some day in the past. That's past. Cricket can be simple, easy or difficult, it's all down to how you perform. When you're in form, it's easy. Ask a player who's struggling and he'll tell you that cricket is a tough game.

Imran came down to advise the team. How are things between the two of you now?
Imran and I have no problem with each other now. In the past, there have been misunderstandings with various players, various controversies. But now, we ex-players meet up every now and then, discuss various things. There are no hard feelings anymore. We are all clear on that.


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