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Former Pakistan cricketr Ijaz Ahmed (striped T-shirt) is seen with Pakistan Ambassador to Qatar Mohammad Sarfraz A Khanzada (sixth left), Shahid Iqbal Chaudhry (seventh right), President of Doha-based Pakistan Cricket Academy (PCA), and other officials at Pakistan Education Centre (PEC) playgrounds in Doha yesterday. Ijaz, a veteran of 60 Tests, later met with the players of the academy.PICTURES: ABDUL BASIT
BY RIZWAN REHMAT
DOHA: Struggling Pakistan do not have the luxury to field separate teams in Tests, One-Day Internationals and T20s due to an apparent lack of quality players at the domestic level, former batsman Ijaz Ahmed said yesterday.
Pakistan, who were whitewashed by hosts South Africa in the three-match series last month, is captained by 38-year-old Misbah-Ul-Haq in Tests and ODIs whereas Mohammed Hafeez leads the side in the T20s.
Ijaz, who played 60 Tests from 1987 to 2001, said: “We don’t have a large pool of players to choose our teams. I don’t think we can have three separate teams.”
The 44-year-old, who was part of the World Cup winning side in 1992, added: “We have to rely on the players we have at the moment. You could make 2-3 changes in the squad but if you think you could make different teams for Tests, ODIs and T20s, then I would say that’s a little tough to do.”
Not one for the purists because of his awkward batting stance, Ijaz hammered 12 Test centuries including six against the mighty Aussies in the 90s.
Ijaz pinned the blame on the struggling batsmen for letting the team down in the 3-0 crushing defeat at the hands of hosts South Africa last month.
“If you (the batsman) minimise your attacking shots, you would be better off on the bouncy pitches (in South Africa),” Ijaz said.
“I scored three centuries against Australia (in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth) so I know that a batsman has to leave the ball outside the off-stump and one must not drive. If we restrict ourselves to a few attacking shots then that’s good (on the bouncy pitches in South Africa and Australia),” he added.
Excerpts from an interview with the former Pakistan player:
Question: Don’t you feel that Pakistan ought to have separate teams in Tests, ODIs and T20s?
Answer: Actually we don’t have a large pool of players to choose our teams. I don’t think we can have three separate teams. This is possible in South Africa, England and Australia whereas this is a tough proposition when you consider the bench strength in Pakistan. Pakistan’s domestic set-up is not as competitive as the English county scene or the set-up in Australia. We have to rely on the players we have at the moment. You could make 2-3 changes in the squad but if you think you could make different teams for Tests, ODIs and T20s, then I would say that’s a little tough to do. We don’t have a large pool of players. We have to put in so much of effort to find one or two good players. So if you sit down to think to have separate teams, then I would say it is not possible at the moment.
Question: Are you surprised the way Pakistan capitulated in the Test series, losing 3-0 to the hosts?
Answer: Pakistan always seem to have a problem adjusting to the bouncy pitches when they tour South Africa and Australia. This is not something new for the team. Pakistan did not get enough opportunity to acclimatise to the playing conditions prior to the Test series. There wasn’t much time available for the players to go there and get used to the conditions. Soon after the Indian trip (late December-early January), Pakistan players got busy with Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final at home that kept them busy for 5-6 days. And following that, they went to South Africa. Although the players got some days in South Africa (prior to the Test series) but it is for the coaches to help the players get the right kind of practice. Pakistan should have spent at least 10-15 days in South Africa prior to playing the first Test (against South Africa). That would helped them get used to the bouncy tracks. I personally believe that Pakistan coaches should have taken note how the team was dismissed in the first Test. Most of the Pakistan batsmen got dismissed either caught behind or in the slips cordon. I think Pakistan players should have realised they have to know how to leave the ball outside the off-stump. If you minimise your attacking shots, you would be better off on the bouncy pitches. I scored three centuries against Australia (in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth) so I know that a batsman has to leave the ball outside the off-stump and one must not drive. If we restrict ourselves to a few attacking shots then that’s good (on the bouncy pitches in South Africa and Australia).
Question: Do you think it is right to blame the foreign coaches for the defeats Pakistan has had to suffer in recent times?
Answer: There’s a very simple mantra that we need to keep in mind - when a team wins, the credit goes to the players, when a team loses, the blame goes to the coach. So every coach should accept that. Every coach should be positive about this important matter. That’s how coaches can improve their results with different teams.
Question: Are you happy with coach Dav Whatmore’s results with the Pakistan side?
Answer: If you look at his past, you will see he helped Sri Lanka win the 1996 World Cup. Then he managed teams in Asia - with Bangladesh and then he had stints in the IPL. He’s an experienced hand. And that’s why he was approached by Pakistan for the coaching job. I personally feel he needs to understand the psyche of the Pakistan team, of the players and the set-up that we have. He probably needs to understand our culture.
Question: Don’t you feel Pakistan’s ODI captaincy should be handed to someone who will be there at the 2015 World Cup? The consensus is that Misbah-Ul-Haq may not be there in two years’ time.
Answer: Yes, of course. In fact I would go on to say that some of the players are on the wrong side of the 30s. We should look at this long and hard. If you care to have a look, 80 percent of the players have crossed 30. We can’t change all those players but we have to phase out some of the names so that the newcomers get used to their roles in the teams they play in. If you see Ahmed Shehzad played a good game against South Africa (in the T20). Now he has gone back since he is not part of the ODI team. We need to keep the players with the side. If you retain these players for a longer period of time, then they will know their roles well.
Question: Do you think you could have made it big if IPL was there in your time?
Answer: Yes (smiles). It is not only me but most players of my time feel that way. They like this format of the game. Most of the players of my time were great stroke-makers. Unfortunately we did not have T20 then. But if you look at it closely, we played real cricket. During our time, playing domestic cricket was a challenge and appearing in Test matches was a greater challenge. Now the standard of cricket overall has slackened. Now you don’t get to see that kind of cricket which we used to play. Now the pitches are overused because there’s cricket everywhere. When you play on overused pitches, the game becomes slow. THE PENINSULA