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PCB firmly behind Inzamam, Shoaib

Two of Pak's most famous but controversy-prone players received a huge boost, with the PCB chief backing their attitude to the hilt.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2006 16:11 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

Two of Pakistan's most famous but controversy-prone players— Inzamam-ul Haq and Shoaib Akhtar— on Saturday received a huge boost, with the cricket supremo of their country backing their conduct and attitude to the hilt.

Chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board Shaharyar Khan said Inzamam had been the "binding force" in an otherwise volatile dressing room and billed him to the lead the side in World Cup 2007.

Rating Inzamam better than some of the more legendary skippers that the country had seen, he said the burly batsman had brought the team to a level never reached before and the Board was not looking at any other alternative for the skipper's post till the World Cup.

In a wide-ranging and exclusive interview to PTI, the former diplomat also revealed PCB's change of heart towards speedster Shoaib Akhtar who he said had "turned a new leaf" and become a totally different bowler from the days when he was dismissed as an errant and precocious talent.

Also finding favour with the PCB chief was coach Bob Woolmer, who has been much-vilified in the wake of the 4-1 defeat to India in the recent one-day series.

Not one to mince words, Shaharyar dismissed suggestions to have India-Pakistan series named after one of the players from either side of the border as mere "gimmick", saying what was more important was the quality of cricket and not after whom the trophy was named.

Q: Do you think Inzamam will lead Pakistan in World Cup 2007?

A: Yes, I have personally no doubt about it. Now what has happened is that Inzamam has lost the series and in losing, he has taken a lot of criticism over his fitness, fielding and other things. He has taken a lot of flak. But I have no doubt that Inzamam is a superb captain.

He has brought the team to a level that has been unprecedented. We may have had some great cricketers in the past but we never had such a united team, there is no fraction, nothing.

And much of the credit for this must go to Inzamam. I think it would be extremely foolish to start thinking of alternatives when we have a man who has brought the team to this level.

Yes, you may lose a series here and there, but it does not mean that you will change the skipper midstream. Just after the series loss to India, we appointed him as captain for another 11 months.

Pakistan dressing rooms have been volatile. At the moment it is not. I often visit the changing room, the players are very calm and it is partly due to Inzamam's influence, which is very significant.

He is a low key and modest person. His example is followed by others. There is no insistence, but the players do sit down together and pray. Woolmer, who first felt that there was too much religious strain, now feels it is a good binding influence.

Q: How does the Board view Shoaib Akhtar and is his recent injury career-threatening?

A: We knew his injury was genuine. It has been recognised now that he has turned a new leaf as far as his attitude, training and discipline is concerned. It was very evident during the series against England.

Q. How does the PCB justify having a foreigner as a coach when you have so may great cricketers to choose from?

A. Good cricketers necessarily do not make good coaches. What we are looking at is the science of coaching which has moved forward, no one can deny the importance of video and specialised training, the manner in which a coach can raise the standard of the team.

The best coach is someone who can look at the video and point it out to the player where he is going wrong. Now Pakistanis coaches are getting degrees, Wasim Raja is a master coach for instance, so we may get to the time when he have our own coaches but for now we cannot deny the importance of having a foreign coach.

All the talk about communication gap between Woolmer and players is nonsense. Our players know enough English— they have been playing all over the world— to understand what the coach is saying. The language of cricket is very simple. All the criticism that has been levelled at Woolmer, it is not fair. One must look at the facts first.

Yes, we do emphasise a lot of continuity and stability. We also lost a series against Australia but losing does not mean that we throw out everybody. It is important to instil security and confidence among the players, it is a part of our policy. We reappointed Inzamam for 11 months immediately after the one-day series loss to India.

There is pressure when you lose, but this pressure is developed when you are losing consistently and by the manner of losing. If you go down without a fight, that is what creates pressure.

We have been fighting back even though we may have lost some matches. As for instance in Karachi one-dayer in 2004 when we made 350 odd while chasing and still lost, no one in the stadium was disappointed, they went back saying what a good show. But in the two Test matches that followed, we went down without a fight. Public appreciate and don't mind if we lose after showing some fight but they do mind if you don't fight at all.

Q: Does he nurture the idea to have some of the great batsmen from India come across and train their batsmen and vice versa?

A. I think it would be some kind of gimmick. We have nothing against players from India giving our players some tips. But basically it does not make much of an in-depth difference. I would rather have players meeting each other more often on the cricket field at all levels like Under 19 and under 15.

Q: Did he think the fizz was going out of India-Pakistan encounters given their frequent exchanges?

A: No, I don't think so. India-Pakistan matches are still full of fizz, it could be slightly different from 2004 when India visited us after a long time. Then no one knew how the country would receive India, even the Indian team did not know what kind of reception they would get.

Some of the wives of the cricketers were worried about the country being hostile. Suddenly when they came here, they got a warm reception, they got to know that we are a friendly country. So when it was proved exactly the reverse, everyone felt relaxed. Now we know India is welcome. We did not orchestrate anything.

The cricketing atmosphere is built around the teams. They are competitive on the field, you expect a little rivalry on the field but that is okay. Basically the teams are friendly. It is due to the teams behaving in a good, sporting manner that a good atmosphere is created.

Q: Was there a move to have a trophy named after former greats for India-Pakistan contests?

A: We have not come up with any names so far. There are trophies all over the world. Frankly, if you select a single player, however famous he may be, there would be some unnecessary controversy. We have come up with the name of Mohd Nissar for the match to be played between the domestic champions of the two countries. He was a great fast bowler of India who belonged to Lahore. In that way, there can be no debate on his choice.

As far as the seniors are concerned, we are looking at it but I think it is more of a gimmick. The cricketing aspect should be more important.

First Published: Feb 25, 2006 15:04 IST