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In the second part of the interview, Pakistan's captain talks about the side's prospects in the Champions Trophy, the legacy he wants to leave behind, winning the World Twenty20, and cricket's formats
September 24, 2009
Read part one of the interview here
There are a number of youngsters in the team currently. Around the world, including Pakistan, younger players who taste success suddenly find themselves succumbing to all kinds of distractions and temptations. It has happened in Pakistan a lot recently. How do you make sure they do not go that way?
I always speak to these youngsters and try to draw them a picture. I say, "Do everything you want, but make a career for yourself first." I didn't do anything, if you take out the first seven-eight years, I remember, in 2005-06 if a girl called my hotel room, I would answer and say I wasn't there, pretending to be someone else. My focus was always on making my career. Where I've come from only I know how difficult it has been. God has given me an opportunity to make something of myself and I cannot waste that. Whether he is Fawad Alam, Mohammad Aamer or Umar Akmal, he has to first see where he has come from, what his parents, his family are, and if he does stray, what impact it will have on them. I always paint this picture. One tournament or series is nothing. Unless you have 4000-5000 runs or 150-odd wickets, you have done nothing.
Here we get excited immediately. Sohail Tanvir comes along and he becomes the new Wasim Akram. I even said about Aamer, "For god's sake, don't call him Wasim Akram." When I came in and scored some runs at No. 3, someone asked me, "You must be the new Ijaz Ahmed, or Inzamam?' I said, please don't put that pressure on me. Inzi and Ijaz I said are massive names. How can anyone become Ijaz, Wasim or Inzi after two games? People don't give you time, but they should. It'll take four-five years, tours to other countries and performances to decide how good guys like Aamer and Alam and Akmal really are.
Looking back to the World Twenty20 briefly, it's been a few months since you won that. Has the significance of what the team achieved sunk in yet?
You know, even now when I go around meeting people, they congratulate me and that sort of drives it home a little, how much it meant. During the whole tournament we were constantly talking about how much we needed to win that tournament, how good it would be for Pakistan if we won it. We didn't know it, I guess, but in a way we were motivating ourselves - that Pakistan is in a bad way and we needed to do something. I kept saying it to the press that we, of all countries, needed to win it the most. I found out later, given the situation in parts of the country while we were there, just how amazing the whole thing was. It carries a lot of worth for us, a lot of worth, to know that people were so happy about it.
At what stage did you honestly feel you were in with a chance?
After we beat Holland, and the manner in which we beat them, I got an inkling that something could be done. Before the New Zealand win, I could sense that we were building up some momentum and it would be difficult to stop it. We won the toss in a couple of games, which helped, like against South Africa, and we knew if we scored 150 we could defend it. In the final we won and we batted second. Nasser Hussain even asked about the decision, and I said, "It is because we felt like it." And it worked.
Pakistan is in a tough group in the Champions Trophy. Are you confident?
I can feel something, I just have this feeling that we might beat one of India or Australia. I feel, it is my own feeling only, that we can change some history here. The way we have prepared for it, the way we worked in Lahore and here now, I feel positive. People are coming to us, like Shafqat Rana, and being surprised at how much we are working, how much we are training.
|"Against Australia, if you need 25 off 10 balls, with eight wickets down, if Younis Khan can somehow play 10 out of those 10 balls with the tail, then maybe the 25 can be chased. This is the kind of pressure you need to handle"|
This year's tournament is more open. The teams are more evenly matched. Also after Twenty20, the same quality is not there. It has become easier to hit bowlers. Guys like [Brett] Lee, [Mitchell] Johnson, [Umar] Gul, have been hit around, and such strange shots too - over your own head and stuff. Everyone is happy.
That team will win, those players will do well, who can handle pressure at crunch moments. Against Australia, if you need 25 off 10 balls, with eight wickets down, if Younis Khan can somehow play 10 out of those 10 balls with the tail, then maybe the 25 can be chased. This is the kind of pressure you need to handle. Or a catch comes to you at a crucial fielding position off Ponting's or Sachin's bat, and you take it, a difficult catch, then you can win. That is the kind of pressure to handle. India and Australia against us will be big pressure matches - you lose and you are likely gone. It is very open for everyone. In this format, you are either straight up or out. Usually you get a few matches to play, but here it is not the case. It is very open, but my own feeling is that Pakistan might just do something.
There is a lot of talk about ODI cricket today. People talk about changing it or scrapping it. What are your thoughts on the format?
We have already changed cricket so much, with Twenty20, super sixes in ODI tournaments, Powerplays in ODIs. If we make so many changes then will it stay the same game? It's very easy now in a sense. You can decide and pick whether you want to play ODI, Test or Twenty20 cricket. You can get satisfaction from each format, so why the need to change so much?
Some changes, like umpiring referrals, they make sense. That works across the board, and is a good thing. But if you break up an ODI match into four innings, into little pieces, then you are changing the whole thing, it isn't cricket anymore. It's like playing American football or something, where you are taking time-outs and some such.
I think we need to promote Test cricket in its own sense, ODI in its own sense and Twenty20 in its own sense. You cannot try and make Tests like Twenty20s or ODIs like Tests. They are separate formats. Promote them equally and separately and appreciate them.
Day-night Tests is not a bad idea because more people can come in, the weather may be better. Why not play Tests indoors? These are good ideas. When it gets so hot here and in India or the Middle East, why not play at night? Changing the format itself is like changing the sport.
If you want to play only fun cricket, play Twenty20. You cannot have one guy taking all the fun from all formats. You can't get married and have six girlfriends as well, because you will get stuck somewhere. I wanted to play Tests and ODIs, and I left Twenty20 and there is nothing wrong with that. Ponting has also left it now. I don't mind people choosing formats over the other, but why do you want to change the formats I am playing? Don't change cricket, keep the charm of each format. Cut down on the ODIs if there are too many.
Twenty20s - how do you see the rise of this format and the money it has brought into the game?
In this sense, when I see youngsters today, whoever is preparing, they don't ever say, "I am about to go and run five laps of the ground, or go for half an hour to the gym." They say, "We only have to play a three-hour Twenty20 match; we only have to hit shots in that." Every youngster is thinking this right now: it's only a three-hour match, so you don't need to train so much. You just need to hit the ball hard, win a match and take winnings. This is like life - everyone is going for the shortcut. But the shortcut will not always work in life; sometimes you need to work hard for things.
You have an example here, with the ICL. [Mohammad] Yousuf went to the ICL, [Abdul] Razzaq went, Imran Nazir, [Imran] Farhat, Rana [Naved-ul-Hasan], [Mohammad] Sami. This happened in front of us and if you still don't open your eyes to the danger then when will you? Look at England and Kolpak. Why did the Marshall brothers go there? Jacques Rudolph is there also. I met him and asked him why he left South Africa. He told me they don't pick him and so on, and I thought it strange, because that is the fun, that is the challenge, to prove yourself if you think you are a good player. You stay in that environment and prove yourself. You come to England and whatever money you are getting, however many runs you score, the satisfaction of playing Tests for your country you cannot beat. Knowing in that situation that everyone is against you and scoring runs in that environment and proving people wrong, there is nothing to compare with that feeling.
See, in life you are constantly proving yourself, aren't you? Either you feel you are strong or you aren't. You can run away from challenges. I could've left or not taken the captaincy this time, knowing many things would happen - which are happening. But this time I thought, "No, I am going to go into this storm, go right to the edge and see how long I can stand there. I could've run away again. It was very easy."
Sometimes, at the start, people who got kicked out would come back as captain. I was offered the vice-captaincy in 2002 by Tauqir Zia, and I said no. He said, "Are you mad? You can be a vice-captain, a senior." But there were so many seniors around who thought they deserved it more, how would they feel if I went above them suddenly? When [Shoaib] Malik came there were many problems, guys fought openly with him, and see what problems he had, the poor guy. I said, "Let me play and perform and don't make me a vice-captain. We have many senior guys, appoint them, and I cannot be with them around as it would be a problem." After that I was in and out of the team for two years.
|"If you want to play only fun cricket, play Twenty20. You can't get married and have six girlfriends as well, because you will get stuck somewhere"|
What is your take on coaches in cricket?
Coaches are mostly good for youngsters. In the senior team there should be helpers who are also coaches, like Bob Woolmer was. He was a coach but he helped out with everything - in bowling, in life, in stretching, in luggage, in everything. This is not football, where you need to have that kind of coach. Here in cricket it is in individual game in a team game. When bowler bowls to batsman, this is an individual contest, and what will the coach do there? Coaches should be like Bob, who listened to everyone and counselled everyone, with 16 guys around who were all giving their own opinion.
How long do you give yourself in the game?
It depends on fitness only. I don't want to hang around when my reflexes are gone and people are trying to kick me out. I just want that they let me know that this is our plan and you don't fit into it, so that I can leave with some dignity. I don't want to be kicked out. This depends on my fitness. I will be 34 in a month or so. After that, god willing, if I am fit and the performance is there, I can keep playing. I don't have to leave at 36 or 37, I might play on till 40 if I am doing well. Maybe even 50, if I am fit and performing. It will depend also on what the team's planning and thinking is, of course.
Would you like to stay involved in the game after you retire?
I reckon I could get into management - player management or something - after the game. My future lies somewhere within it.
How would you like to be remembered as a captain?
I want, when I leave, people to remember me as an honest guy who left something behind, not someone who took something away with him. Many guys take many things away with them when they leave. Since I've become captain, Saeed Ajmal has stood up, Mohammad Aamer has stood up, Umar Akmal is about to stand up. I want to make Shoaib Malik stand up as he is still a young player. I want Kamran Akmal to stand up. Both are very good players already, but I want them to become the top players of their times. Like Imran [Khan] left the team in 1992, with Ijaz, Salim Malik, the two Ws - that team between 1992 and 1999 World Cup final dominated. Okay they lost some games but they won 60% of their games. My wish, when I leave, is that these guys stand up and become greats, that I am bid farewell lovingly and with dignity and that people remember that when I left, I left behind some bowlers, some batsmen, and a team that can stand for itself - like Steve Waugh did, or Imran Khan did. This guy, after 20 years, did something for us.
Read part one of the interview here
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