KARACHI, Sept 21: Terming the national team’s ordinary showing in the recently-concluded series in Zimbabwe as a big setback for Pakistan cricket, former Test captain Rashid Latif on Saturday said all stakeholders were responsible for the humiliation the green-shirts suffered against Test cricket’s bottom-ranked side.
“The team’s below average performance against Zimbabwe, Test cricket’s lowest-ranked outfit, was quite shocking indeed. There’s no doubt that it has damaged Pakistan cricket a lot. On the contrary, I think Zimbabwe gained a lot in the series as they dominated Pakistan almost throughout the two-Test rubber whereas our team achieved nothing,” Rashid said in an exclusive interview to Dawn.
“All the stakeholders — the players, entire team management and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) — are equally responsible for this below-par display,” Rashid remarked when asked to comment on who was primarily responsible for Pakistan’s poor performance in Zimbabwe.
Replying to a question on players’ selection for the Zimbabwe series, the former wicket-keeper while giving his nod over the choice of players cited some flaws in the scheduling of the Test series.
“The selection of squad was okay as it included a number of promising young faces. As regards our Test loss in Harare, I reckon a few first-class games should have been organised in Pakistan for our players ahead of the tour. Or there should have been one or two practice matches for our Test side in Zimbabwe prior to the Tests to help our players get in the groove,” Rashid, one of the best wicket-keepers to have played the game, stated.
Responding to a query whether aggression — which has been the hallmark of Pakistan cricket in the past decades — has been missing from our batting of late, Rashid said the technical flaws were a major reason for batsmen’s failure rather than the approach.
“I think lack of aggression is not the main issue, rather it is the batsmen’s technical weakness that has let us down in recent matches. The declining level of our club cricket is also a major factor.”
Answering a query on for how long Misbah-ul-Haq should be continued as captain, Rashid said he could be retained as Test skipper. “Considering his impressive [captaincy] record and his individual batting in Tests, he can be retained as captain in the five-day game,” he said.
“However, considering our planning for the 2015 World Cup, I believe young Umar Amin can be groomed as ODI team leader.”
The former player also lamented the dwindling financial incentives being offered to contemporary players in domestic cricket and less number of Tests as a significant reasons for Pakistan cricket’s decline.
“Given there has been no international cricket in Pakistan since 2009 and we play less Tests compared to some of the other countries, our cricket authorities should put up Pakistan’s case emphatically when the Future Tests Programme (FTP) is set by the ICC. Furthermore, the PCB should seek ways for improving its bilateral relations with boards of major cricket-playing nations. And the government’s backing to the PCB in this regard can be decisive.”
Rashid, who played 37 Tests and 166 ODIs for his country, believes Pakistan despite their poor show against lowly-ranked Zimbabwe can do well in the forthcoming series against South Africa in the UAE, with a readjusted batting order.
“I think Azhar Ali can be tried as opener alongside Khurram Manzoor while veteran Younis Khan, who keeps the scoreboard moving, should come in at three,” said Rashid.
“Next should be Misbah-ul-Haq or Asad Shafiq and Umar Akmal. Moreover, we should go in the Tests with pacemen Mohammad Talha and Mohammad Irfan.
“While Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq and Umar Akmal can prove match-winners in the ODIs and Twenty20 games in the UAE, I think left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar can also come in handy in all the three formats.
Commenting on Pakistan’s spin strength, he added: “It is not necessary that South Africans fall in the same trap set by our spinners Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman against England last year. It will also depend on the type of pitches we play in the UAE.”
When his attention was drawn to the fact that overly defensive stance adopted by some of the Pakistani batsmen was putting lot of pressure on the team, Rashid said: “The issue should be looked into by the national coaching staff, including head coach Dav Whatmore, who I feel should be allowed to complete his tenure.”
Rashid was categorical in his views when asked about his response to any offer to work at a key post in the PCB.
“I am not the one who is part of the present system. In fact, my cricketing path and that of those who are part of our system are poles apart, and so there is no question of me accepting any role in the PCB.”
Despite the odds confronting Pakistan cricket, Rashid termed Pakistan’s future as bright but emphasised indigenous development of the game in the country was imperative.
“We must develop our own cricket according to our own requirements. We have tremendous cricketing talent much of which, unfortunately, remains untapped.
“We should organise Pakistan Super League for our home-grown players, even if foreign players refuse to play in Pakistan. This will attract young aspirants towards the game from across the country and will send a positive signal to the entire cricketing world,” Rashid concluded.