KARACHI: Former Pakistan captain and renowned cricket commentator Ramiz Raja, in an exclusive interview at Dawn News sports program Replay, said Babar Azam is a world class player and even can do better than Virat Kohli but he needs a conducive atmosphere to express himself, both as player and captain.
“There is no doubt about Babar Azam’s ability, he is a world class player,” said Ramiz. “When people ask me about comparison between Babar Azam with likes of Virat Kohli and Steve Smith I would say he can do even better than Kohli but he needs a conducive atmosphere and the freedom to express himself more as a player and as captain.”
Ramiz said he has no issue with seniors players like Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik but is more concerned about the selectors who selected them and want to try seniors again and again rather than opting for young blood, especially in the T20 format.
“T20 is a format for young guns and I don’t know why we have been insisting on selecting the tried and tested seniors in the recent times,” asked Ramiz. “We have many youngsters who can play very well in the limited overs formats and can cement their places in T20 & ODI teams and the must be given a fair chance to showcase their talent.
Ramiz emphasised that Misbah-ul-Haq needs to have a clear dimension from the Pakistan Cricket Board to build future teams of Pakistan in all the three formats. “I don’t know about PCB’s thinking about Misbah’s role, but I feel that instead of playing safe all the time for the fear of losing, both PCB and Misbah should focus on the future and chances must be given to youngsters in white ball cricket and that’s the only way we can build teams for the future.”
Ramiz also reiterated his stance on tainted players and regretted that Pakistan, by bringing back such players to the national team, have shown that “we haven’t learn from the past.”
“I have always maintained zero tolerance for the tainted players,” he said. “In the past we compromised our dignity and principles to bring back tainted players on te pretest that they are very talented,” said Ramiz in an obvious reference to Mohammad Amir. “But it is very unfair to repeatedly select tainted players in the national team. That spoils the team spirit as well as our image as a nation.”
“It is also a concern if we are not able to find replacements of these tainted players and they are allowed to make a comeback after all their misdeeds. There is once again talks of redrafting Sharjeel Khan into the team which is not right and can damage Pakistan Cricket,” he said.
Commenting on Pakistan’s domestic cricket, Ramiz said PCB needs to have a consistent policy and should support regional system.
“Pakistan’s domestic cricket needs a consistent and long term plan. I believe Pakistan Cricket need a region based system and should focus more on quality rather than quantity. I know there is now talk of return of departmental teams in domestic cricket again after just one season and it may shows that all changes made in the last season were without any proper plan or thinking. But i feel the regional cricket system will help Pakistan to produce quality cricketers.”
When asked about the recent episode of Umar Akmal that occurred at the beginning of PSL V, Ramiz expressed his disappointment. “In Umar Akmal we really missed a quality player. He is a very talented but never fulfilled his talent. And now again he is in the news for the wrong reasons and he should be punished for the mistakes he made,” said Ramiz.
To another question, Ramiz praised Indian cricket for its turnaround in the last 10 years.
“I am really impressed with the approach of Indian Cricket in the last ten years,” he said. “With passion and planning they were able to produce good results and good players. They always had the best of batsmen but with the recently acquired passionate approach and the focus they even produced some very good fast bowlers. I witnessed myself during an Indian tour that how they prepared good Test and First Class players by asking the youngsters to play forward and work on proper defense and that helped the players to build a good foundation,” observed Ramiz.
About Michael Clarke’s recent statement Ramiz believed Australia didn’t have enough fire power in the last series to sledge Indians and dominate them strongly.
“Clarke’s statement can be right or wrong but I will reply in cricketing parlance as I believe Australia doesn’t have the firepower to sledge India in the last series. Also, I see Australia now changing their approach to play cricket in a bit of a decent way after the ball tampering row that involved icons likes of Steve Smith and David Warner.”
Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2020