?Unfair to call Pak a security hazard?
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?Unfair to call Pak a security hazard?

The charm comes through even on the phone and you quickly agree. It?s worth the delay when he finally speaks. Rameez Raja in this exclusive interview to Kadambari Murali.

india Updated: Mar 04, 2004 02:54 IST
Kadambari Murali
Kadambari Murali

The tour is on and Pakistan Cricket Board chief Rameez Raja is a tired man. “Can you call me tomorrow afternoon,” he asks, when finally tracked down on Friday evening. “I’ve worked non-stop and need the morning off on Saturday.” The charm comes through even on the phone and you quickly agree. It’s worth the delay when he finally speaks. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:

Do you resent the fact that Pakistan has been forced to shift venues in spite of the fact that you’ve made no such demands when you’ve toured India, despite incidents like pitch-digging?

Yes, I absolutely do. I’ve always maintained that India and Pakistan have the same advantages and disadvantages, be it infrastructure, grounds, anything. We have the same security issues, more or less the same problems. So, to label Pakistan as a security hazard is unfair.

Is there indignation over Karachi not hosting a Test?

A certain number of people are very upset but it’s not something we can do anything about. We had no choice. At the end of the day, it was a question of saving the tour and moving on. Hopefully, the next time India come here, they’ll be relaxed and we will be able to have a Test in Karachi.

The PCB will be making a lot of money from this tour. The security costs will be exorbitant. Would you contribute to expenses or will the government foot the the bill?

Well, there will be a huge security cover at three levels. Internal, city and government. While the government will handle most of it, we would be contributing, in addition to footing the bill for the internal security.

Will this tour bail your Board out of a financial mess?

Actually, we have been fairly well-placed money-wise for some time now. But yes of course, we would be making quite a bit from India’s coming here, much more than when SA and New Zealand toured last year.

Does the hoopla over venues mean that when Pakistan next tours India, you would be insisting that certain venues be avoided. A PCB official reminded us that the last major bomb blast in the region took place in Mumbai, not Karachi and that the last time Pakistan played in Kolkata, the match had to be finished in an empty stadium after crowd trouble.

The general perception of Pakistan outside is very unfortunate. If we want to make an issue of this (venues in India), we can. But we won’t. I myself being a sportsman and coming from a background that understands the complexities involved, want sport to be the winner. We will not indulge in mud-raking and making issues out of non-issues. You know and we know that there have been more problems for Pakistan teams when they have toured India than for Indian teams when they have toured Pakistan. We hope that this tour will put an end to this unfortunate perception of Pakistan once and for all.

Coming to cricket, do you think that this Indian team, given its performance in Australia, has the advantage despite Pakistan having home conditions?

In the ICC rankings, we’re ahead of India at No. 3. I think that speaks for itself. I respect the Indians, they’re very talented but so is Pakistan. I’ve been involved in Indo-Pak clashes and they’re all about facing up to mental pressure. How you cope makes the difference between winning and losing.

How difficult is it to head a system with a team that is reportedly beset by infighting?

Reports of infighting in this team are speculative. Our winning matches without the captain reflects that the team is clicking as a unit. Pakistan has been unfairly labelled a team involved in squabbles. You would recognise that in the past, having six or seven former captains in a team could create problems, simply because everyone is an expert. Obviously, each has his own opinion, some strong views at times that might differ from, and not go down fairly well with the team management.

First Published: Feb 22, 2004 01:53 IST