LAHORE: In his very first media interaction as PCB chairman, Ramiz Raja sounded firm in his words for improving and steering Pakistan cricket out of its present crisis. He was vocal about developing the domestic game and players on solid footing for the country to eventually become a potent force at the international level.
“I am not looking at [the] three-year tenure. In fact, I have to start taking action right now. I need a team to execute my plans and you will see the change in the next six months,” Ramiz said while answering a question on how much time he would take to bring change in the system.
The 59-year-old former Pakistan captain was speaking during a new conference here at the National High Performance Centre soon after being unaninously elected unopposed as the 36th PCB chairman by a seven-member PCB Board of Governors here on Monday.
Ramiz served the PCB as its chief executive from 2003-04, represented Pakistan on the ICC chief executives’ committee and presently sits on the MCC World Cricket Committee. He is only the fourth former Pakistan international cricketer to head the PCB after Abdul Hafeez Kardar (1972-1977), Javed Burki (1994-1995) and Ijaz Butt (2008-2011).
“You will not see me on the backfoot. I hold a 40-year thought process, I am not that kind of a PCB chief who deflects the responsibility for failure on others. It is a challenge and I have the authority and I will do my best and time will tell whether I did wrong or right,” the Test cricketer-turned-commentator added.
“I have talked to the Pakistan players and I discussed with them the model of cricket based on playing fearless cricket. I want to turn the national side into an attractive squad in the world,” he said.
Ramiz emphasised improving Pakistan cricket — from club and school levels — and revamping the entire system which could bring the best talent from the domestic cricket to fearlessly compete at the international arena.
“Our main focus will be on developing domestic cricket and to bring up good-quality international cricketers. This is because if our club cricket does not come on the right track, our domestic cricket cannot improve and it is all linked to our team’s performances in international contests. If we are an unpredictable team there is a fault in our system,” the right-handed opener who played 57 Tests and 198 ODIs from 1984 to 1997, emphasised.
“Our plan is to make clubs self-sufficient in order to create their own model. People at the club level are our unsung heroes and we have to respect them as they are running our system. We will guide and engage them for Pakistan cricket as their connection with PCB’s coaches is important and in this regard we will clear all hurdles,” Ramiz, who was part of the Imran Khan-led team that won the 1992 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, remarked.
On whether he would follow the six-team first-class model which was introduced by the PCB by its patron-in-chief Imran Khan during the era of previous chairman Ehsan Mani, Ramiz said he came to know that even the team of Balochistan did not comprise its homegrown talent noting around 50 per cent of their players had been taken from other provinces.
“I am planning to set up High Performance Centres (HPCs) in Balochistan and the interior Sindh as they have the talent but need a system to groom them.”
While saying that the role of departmental cricket, which had been abolished by Mani’s PCB on the PM’s advice was debatable, Ramiz said in the first step he had decided to increase the monthly retainership of 192 first-class cricketers of the six provincial teams from Rs150,000 to Rs 250,000, which they were not getting from their departments.
“The first-class cricket structure will be made more viable and steps will be taken to end the uncertainty among the players about their future,” he said.
“To further strengthen domestic game we will introduce from the next season three-month winter and summer leagues and a national U-19 T20 league too which will help us produce best professional talent for the Pakistan team,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that no work was done in the past on age-group [U-16, U-18] cricket.”
Explaining his vision, Ramiz said PCB’s performance relates with Pakistan team’s performance and it all relates with “your infrastructure, grassroots cricket; we will improve these areas. To improve the standard of pitches in Pakistan we will bring in drop-in pitches”.
“The coaching area must be revisited. Schools cricket will be joined with club cricket, as many schools [presently] have no grounds.”
HAYDEN, PHILANDER APPOINTED
Commenting on the forthcoming ICC T20 World Cup, Ramiz said the first match against India was vital and Pakistan had to go with full force in order to win and change the trend of losing World Cup matches to India.
“The Pakistan team needs some coaches to boost it, though it is not possible for anyone to make the batsmen of Viv Richards’ calibre in a few days time. But yes we can do what is best for the team. This team can win the [T20] World Cup if the players boost their performance by 10 per cent and the first match against India must be won for Pakistan to set a good pace for themselves,” he said.
To strengthen the national T20 team, the PCB chief said former Australian opener Matthew Hayden and ex-South African fast bowler Vernon Philander had been appointed as batting and bowling consultant coaches, respectively for the ICC T20 World Cup being staged in the UAE and Oman during October-November.
“Hayden will bring an Australian touch of aggression in the Pakistan team and I personally know Philander who can also bring a positive change,” Ramiz said.
The appointments were announced after both head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis stepped down last week, citing personal reasons and mental stress as a result of the Covid-19 biosecure environment surrounding fixtures and tours.
Asked if he would consider Babar Azam as captain in all formats, Ramiz said it was premature and he had to know Babar more closely.
“I have held a couple of sessions with Babar and I will hold more to know further about him before taking any decision in this regard,” he said.
To a question if he would give Babar all powers to select his own team like Imran, Ramiz said though he favoured a strong role of captain in team selection, everyone had to earn that status on his performance.
Commenting on the resumption of bilateral cricket with arch-rivals India, Ramiz said Pakistan taking into consideration the current political situation surely would not press for it.
“We will not go after India to resume bilateral cricket, it is quite impossible to consider it. Frankly speaking, our sporting ties [with India] are disturbed due to the [prevailing] strained political situation [between the two countries], and there is a status quo policy.”
Only two cricketers of the Pakistan’s 1992 World Cup-winning team — Moin Khan and Aaqib Javed — were present at Ramiz’s first official press conference.
It is learnt that Ramiz had invited all members of the victorious 1992 team but for one reason or the other many did not turn up.
Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2021