'If you do well in domestic cricket you will get chances'
Sultan Rana, one of Pakistan's national selectors and brother of Shakoor Rana, former international umpire, played first-class cricket for 20 years without ever playing a Test. He played unofficial Tests, was in the squad several times and was even the 12th man for a Test. In this exclusive interview with Wisden Cricinfo, he clears up several misconceptions about selection in Pakistan.
How difficult is it being a Pakistan selector?
It depends on how you work. I'm finding it very easy and very interesting. I know it's a thankless job, where you make more enemies than friends. If you want to work sincerely and honestly at this job, that is something you have to accept. The one thing worth mentioning is that team selection is about the only job around today that is honorary. If everyone is paid, then why not the selectors?
You were at the receiving end of some tough selection decisions yourself.
I played, unfortunately, in the era of Zaheer Abbas, Majid Khan and Mushtaq Mohammad. They had a very big say in that era. There were many players who missed out because there were so many big names in the team. I thought I was very unlucky not to play a Test.
How difficult is it to drop a player?
I feel very hurt when we drop somebody. I feel very bad for those players who perform exceptionally well in domestic cricket and can't get chances because we have about 20 players who have been with the team for the last two-three years. Frequent changes don't serve the larger purpose. When the team is winning and performing well it's not easy to break in.
Pakistan cricket is in a constant state of upheaval. Why is that?
Whoever runs the board should be given a tenure of three to five years. Only then can he prepare his team. He can then establish a set-up - coach, manager, selectors. There has to be continuity, and there has to be consistency. These two things must come into Pakistan cricket as soon as possible.
Pakistan cricket has always associated with strong personalities. Take Javed
Miandad, for example. Most coaches prefer to work in the background, but not
I have played a lot of cricket with Javed [Miandad], and he is one man who would like to be involved in every aspect of the game. I rate him as a big authority on cricket. You know, he's one of the greatest batsmen the world has ever seen. He has the capacity and the knowledge of the game, so he wants to share it wherever it is required. When you have a captain who is slightly low profile, like Inzi [Inzamam-ul-Haq], you need someone to take over. That is one reason why Javed is high profile.
What is the selectors' vision for the future? This is a transition phase for
Pakistan cricket - Wasim Akram has retired, Saeed Anwar has moved on, Waqar Younis
is out of the team.
It's quite clear that we need to have a team that can gel together and play together for a long time. This relates to your success and defeats. We were willing to consider Waqar, provided he played in the domestic circuit. He didn't play the domestic circuit and you have to draw the line somewhere. He did serve Pakistan cricket admirably and was one of the greatest bowlers the world has seen, but unless you show your willingness, play domestic cricket, and go through the proper channels, it's difficult for the selectors to pick you.
We picked up players who were heavy performers in the domestic circuit, Rana Naveed-ul-Hasan and Rao Iftikar Anjum are just two examples. For someone like Iftikar it was a big encouragement to rub shoulders [with the more famous players] after doing well in the domestic circuit. With Mohammad Sami, Shoaib Akhtar and Shabbir Ahmed in the side you have to be really exceptional to break into the side. Having said that, if you do well in domestic cricket you will get your chances. I didn't, and I won't let that happen today.
You say you have to draw the line somewhere, but isn't Pakistan famous for
picking up cricketers from the streets and blooding them? Wasim Akram, for example.
I think that was a rare happening. Wasim Akram was definitely an exception. I was in that camp also. My brother Shafqat Rana was a selector and he was approached by someone at practice, with a request to watch Akram. Akram came for that camp to bowl in the nets and stayed on for two months. Everybody was so impressed that he was picked for the side game against the visiting New Zealand team at Rawalpindi. He picked up seven wickets and that was the beginning of an era. There's nobody else I can think of like Akram. I played cricket for 20 years, my family has been involved in cricket for nearly five decades and there has been nobody picked up from the streets. I think that is a wrong image. People say Waqar [Younis] was picked up from the streets, but that's plain wrong. I played against him in first-class cricket, so he was already on the circuit.