August 13, 2016

'Once Misbah or Younis go, we will be struggling for role models'

Waqar Younis talks about being part of the team during the Oval forfeiture and the spot-fixing scandal, and why Pakistan isn't producing world-class batsmen
12

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Watch and read part one of the interview here

When you gave up the game, was there a sense of relief at that time, and did you think you would stay involved with cricket in this capacity? How did the idea of coaching germinate in your mind?
I always wanted to stay around the game - this is all I know. When I left cricket, I went away for a year and then I started coming back into the media side and I did commentary. I did a bit of coaching, but more media [work].

Then I felt that I can make things better in Pakistan cricket. In 2009, I put in my application for the [coach's position]. I did a couple of courses and I got the job. And I enjoyed every bit of it.

Before that, you were bowling coach with Bob Woolmer. There's the famous incident at The Oval where your team was accused of tampering with the ball. Can you think back to those memories?
Yeah, I thought the whole episode was pretty ugly and it was unnecessary of the umpire [to penalise us]. We, the team and the captain, felt that it shouldn't have happened.

More than the five-run penalty, it was the allegation that was ugly. The entire team sat down - Inzamam-ul-Haq was the captain - and decided, this is not fair.

And you were okay with that? You thought the team should have not played?
Look, my view didn't really matter in those days. Bob Woolmer, Shaharyar Khan was there, and then there were a lot of other people there. My say wasn't that important.

This was not new to you. Pakistan went to England in '92, won a series famously and got accused of tampering with the ball. Is it that the skill of reverse swing is not understood?
I think this art is not really understood. There are some who have understood - [Lasith] Malinga, Darren Gough, there are lot of others who have done it. [Mohammed] Shami, the youngster from India, has understood. I think people don't realise that it's not only the shape of the ball or the condition of the ball. It has a lot to do with your action and the speed with which you bowl. I feel it's still not really being utilised. If you look around at the fast bowlers, there are many conventional fast bowlers with a very easy action. It needs a certain kind of action to be more and more effective and more useful.

"We are all focusing on Dubai cricket or on the team travelling and away. We will not produce cricketers until we take care of our academies, our first-class cricket"

Is that something that comes from the bylanes of Pakistan? How did you learn?
More fast bowlers from the subcontinent have come from Pakistan - that's why probably you relate this to Pakistan. But it's a subcontinent thing, because we play on very, very dry and slow and dusty pitches, where the ball gets scuffed up very quickly. When I was in the Under-19 team, I used to know how to reverse. It is something you learn when you play on those sort of surfaces.

At Lord's in 2010, when the no-ball incident happened, you had a conversation with Mohammad Amir about the actual delivery.
When it happened, we were in a very good situation. That was the first morning of the Test match and England were five down. I sort of asked him, "What the hell was that?" There were couple of no-balls, and not small no-balls, they were huge no-balls.

Because he was not someone who had a history of bowling no-balls.
Yeah, that was more surprising for me. In the court, they asked me the same question you're asking, and I asked him the same question.

Salman Butt, of course, jumped in and he said: I told him to do it because Jonathan Trott was coming down the track, and I said, just bang in a couple short, don't worry about the no-ball. This is the answer I got from the captain and the bowler, and I bought it, you know. If a captain tells you that this is a tactic, you will say, yeah okay, fair enough. They were five down for 50-odd runs - happy days.

When the news breaks, as coach and as someone who has gone through this in the past yourself, was there a sick feeling in your stomach that there is something terribly wrong here, or was your first instinct, "No, this can't be true. I trust my boy"? It was sickening not only to me, but to the entire unit. Yawar Saeed, the manager, was very upset. We all were very upset. We couldn't really play the next day. At one stage, I thought: do I really want to carry on with this whole thing? Then I went back and spoke to my family and I couldn't really leave the team at the time. It's not their fault. It's maybe one or two who have done it, but the rest don't deserve all this. If I leave now it's going to get worse. Then Misbah took over and we did extremely well after that.

"Amir's a very talented kid. He could have achieved what even I didn't or even Wasim didn't achieve" © Getty Images

This young gifted bowler coming through the great legacy of you guys and all the fast bowlers who have preceded you - did you feel cheated by him?
I think more than him, it was Salman Butt. I was really let down by him because he was the captain. The little one, Amir, was very, very down. Why I feel for him is because he was only 17 or 18 - very young and from a very poor background. He was just a kid. More than him, I was upset with Salman Butt.

When Amir's sentence was over and he was free to play for Pakistan again, you had returned as coach and you were in his corner. A lot of people in the outside wondered that here was Waqar, betrayed as coach by this boy. Players said they would not attend camps, former cricketers said he should not be playing cricket. Why were you willing to give him another chance under your watch?
We make mistakes and we get punished and then we move on. He's a very talented kid. He could have achieved what even I didn't or even Wasim [Akram] didn't achieve. He suffered a lot for five years.

And my religion also says that if someone has done something and has been punished, he deserves a chance. Salman Butt deserves a chance, Mohammad Asif deserves a chance. They have been through all the punishment they deserve.

Can you talk us through the time when Amir's rehabilitation started and he was invited to a camp. A couple of players said, we will not attend this camp because we are not comfortable.
Azhar Ali and Mohammad Hafeez were the two who wanted him not to be in the team. We had a lot of meetings, trying to convince Hafeez and Azhar. Not only me but even the top authorities of the board came to talk to them. We had a couple of days of difficulty, but yeah, Azhar and Hafeez accepted him and he went on to the New Zealand tour.

Has he been accepted back fully into the set-up? Is he comfortable?
I think so. I think people are happy with his performance, with his attitude. Attitude is the key for me when you are a top cricketer, and his attitude toward the game is 100%. I have left the job, so I don't know what's going to happen next, but in the time I spent with the team, he's been accepted. I feel that Salman Butt will also be accepted.

"Reverse swing is a subcontinent thing, because we play on very, very dry and slow and dusty pitches, where the ball gets scuffed up very quickly"

Now your second stint as Pakistan coach is also over. There have been difficulties again. The view from the outside is that Pakistani cricketers are averse to some of the things in the modern game, like data analytics. There's also been talk that you yourself are not very big on things of this kind. Has Pakistan cricket, in some ways, not kept up with the way the game has progressed?
I think we have. I think we have done well with the analysis side of the team. But you have to understand that we are a team who are very natural. For example, take Yasir Shah. If you try to coach him too much or try to give him too much information, it's going to get lost. We have analysis, we try to give all the necessary information, and we have done it over the years. We have done extremely well in Test matches, if you look back in the last two years. So the information definitely is being passed.

I always feel that a certain amount of information needs to be passed and the rest is your natural skill. In our days there was no information. We used to go with natural instinct. I feel cricketers need a certain amount of information definitely, but then it comes down to the individual.

There has been virtually no international cricket in Pakistan since 2009. How has that affected players?
I think two things have affected Pakistan cricket in the last seven to eight years. One, of course, is cricket not being played in Pakistan. That's a huge problem. Youngsters don't see their heroes or their top players playing in their own grounds. And on top of that, I think we have forgotten first-class cricket - we play overseas all the time, even our home series are played in Dubai - and we have forgotten where the cricketers come through.

In our time, there were a lot of cricketers who were as good as we were but couldn't get the opportunity. Nowadays it's hard to replace any cricketer because we don't have anyone coming through. Our academies have been shut for the last seven-eight years. There is no real work going on in the academies. We have about five academies in Pakistan that are half-done or three-quarters completed and it's been shut down because there is no eye on it. We are all focusing on Dubai cricket or on the team travelling and away. We will not produce cricketers until we take care of our academies, our first-class cricket.

Our first-class cricket has been expanded a lot. There are so many teams playing first-class cricket. I have given my opinion to reduce teams, to look after those academies, bring more people who are qualified, bring them from overseas. We need all of this to keep pace with the world.

"I think the board also needs a little bit of space from me because I've spoken out of hurt" © Associated Press

For the last ten or 15 years, since Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq, there hasn't been a great Pakistan batsman, whereas in the rest of the world it is the era of batting. You see higher averages, brilliant strokeplay.
We don't really have that much talent. As I said, there are so many cricketers playing first-class cricket. To get to first-class should be hard work.

People are not seeing Younis playing in Lahore or Karachi or Peshawar, so that interest among the younger players is going down. And nowadays cricket is changing, fitness is changing, the dieticians need to be there. There are a lot of things that need to be changed in Pakistan.

When you resigned as coach, you reported that some players needed to be sent back to domestic cricket - guys like Umar Akmal, Ahmed Shehzad. But can Pakistan actually afford not play these guys at the highest level? Would the international team stay competitive if players are sent back and not considered for international selection?
I think in 1999 or 1998, I was dropped from Pakistan team. I went back and played with the U-19 kids and built a team, which was called the REDCO, an Islamabad-based team. I built a team all around me with the U-19 kids. I played for them for a good half-season, gained my form, my attitude, my hunger towards the game, towards international cricket.

So when I said send these guys to first-class cricket, I felt they were not hungry enough. When you're losing, you need to bring younger blood. The guys who have performed at the domestic level, don't they deserve a go?

Now having worked so closely with so many Pakistan cricketers in the last few years, you see that there is actually a skill deficit. Is that your biggest concern - that there are a bunch of Pakistani cricketers emerging who will not be able to compete with the rest of the world?
It's a scary thought. Talent is there. There are a lot of unknown places with a lot of talent. We need to identify that and that identification will only come by sorting out our system.

When Mudassar Nazar was at the National Academy in Lahore, things were moving smoothly. We were producing cricketers who were being pushed into first-class cricket also and gaining a lot of experience from that. Nowadays there is no such thing.

Do you see now that beyond Misbah and Younis, there might be a deficit of role models who young cricketers can look up to?
You can say that. [In my report] I also asked for a cricket committee who should decide the cricketing matters. What is happening is that we have placed cricketing matters in a non-cricketer's hand, and by that we have struggled. Once Misbah goes or Younis goes, we will be struggling for the role models. Heads need to come together and start working on it. Who is your next captain and how long? Who's your next coach and what he brings to the table.

Do you see yourself ever returning to a role with the Pakistan team?
I think we both need to step away from each other. I think the board also needs a little bit of space from me because I've spoken out of hurt. I feel things need to change, because if they don't, we will be crying in maybe a couple of years' time. So maybe not right now. See how it goes in the next year or so and then decide. But I'm always around the game anyway.

When you're walking around the streets in Pakistan, do you still see the same passion and love and for the game. Do you see that core still being intact in Pakistan?
Yeah, it's there but it's dying. It's there because that's the only sport where the entire nation comes together. When Pakistan is playing India or any other bigger nation, you don't see cars on the road, you don't see people on the road, shops are closed and all of that. It's still there, but with no cricket in Pakistan and not producing what needs to be produced, it will die away.

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Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Cricinfouser on August 15, 2016, 15:06 GMT

    we know they will never retire. then whats the deal of creating such hypothetical issues.

  • fkhawaja on August 15, 2016, 11:18 GMT

    We should start preparing replacement for misbah and younis. Imad wasim . Haris Sohail. Babar azam . Rizwan . Fawad Alam. Maqsood. Iftikhar ahmed.All these players should be groomed in the academies and A tours and in the senior team.we should not waste time looking and trying too many players. We must drop hafeez and the other opener.

  • umairaslum on August 15, 2016, 7:51 GMT

    Waqar did a great thing while he was leaving as coach when he recommended akmal and shehzad to be left out. It improved the team attitude and team spirit to new peak. Still there are four big changes and working areas required. First of all, grooming of Babar Azam and Fawad Alam in test and one-day sides, then #2 the most important thing is to prepare wahab Riaz to get control of his wrist position and grip on the ball. I'm sure, had he been an English or Australian bowler, coaches would have corrected his major flaw of holding and delivering the ball. He can hardly bowl in swinger to right hand batsmen, and he just can't bowl the new ball. This is an unbelievable failure. #3, Then we have Sohaib Maqsood, who could have been a star but he is unable to play spin at all. He lost his confidence because he's figured out so early by international bowlers and captains. #4 Haris Sohail and Bilawal Bhatti could not be developed.

  • vicky3010 on August 14, 2016, 13:33 GMT

    Asad shafiq, sami aslam, azhar ali, sarfaraz.. these guys would have to take over....

  • Cricinfouser on August 14, 2016, 8:00 GMT

    Waqar Younis is probably the most wise fast bowler I have known to exist. I don't mean to say he's wise bowling-wise. He seems to be eloquent and it is probably not a mistake to state that he has a sound philosophy of life. He's also honest and candid.

  • Samirtt on August 14, 2016, 5:35 GMT

    Do not agree. When Misbah picked up the reins in England after Afridi, he came out of the shadows to become the greatest captain Pakistan produced. It is for the next torch bearer to create his legacy, and there is enough material in the team to create that.

  • Alexk400 on August 13, 2016, 20:14 GMT

    I think younis and misbah should play until they body gives up. There is no one there.

  •   Khurram S Chaudhry on August 13, 2016, 16:16 GMT

    Yes they may not have role models as some of guys are pretty new. But i think future will be safe. Azhar, Asad and Sarfraz have been regular in side and will take the burden when big 2 retire. Then guys like Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Fawad Alam are very good to fill the boots in middle order. With Rizwan or a matured umar akmal may also make a comeback. Only issue is opening. Sami impressed but too early . May be matured Ahmed Shehzad may come back as well. Just need proper chances for Sami, Haris, Babar and Fawad.

  • EX-EY on August 13, 2016, 9:20 GMT

    Major changes in the PCB are required. I see Pakistan Cricket glooming away in the hands of unrelated people who have other interest than betterment of Pakistan cricket. Though I haven't been a great fan of Waqar's Coaching but he was all correct in this interview. Also PCB needs to get rid of this inexperienced top management who basically know nothing about cricket. I envy seeing specialized cricketers on PCB's top positions who can be held responsible for the produce they are providing to cricket in Pakistan.

  • Ameen7866 on August 13, 2016, 8:35 GMT

    1.Well said by Waqar younis he try he is best to improve Pakistan cricket but players like Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal dont derserve to be in the team and somehow survive 6 years thats a shame.

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