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‘If Sachin’s still enjoying the game, he should have played this series’

- Ramiz Raja on whether there’s a right time to retire
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Ramiz Raja

Calcutta: Ramiz Raja, a former captain and CEO of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), spoke to The Telegraph in the lead-up to the second ODI, at the Eden, on Thursday.

The following are excerpts

Q Is there a good time to retire?

A (Laughs) There never is! It’s a painful decision to make, but when it’s time to pack up, you know it’s time to pack up. Your family and friends may feel very differently, but when you get that feeling within, then it’s time to go... Time to move on.

So, what gives way first — the body or the mind?

Both... The reflexes get slower and, then, there may be issues with the eyes. Mentally, you can’t have a situation where you’re not up to it.

You decided to retire during the 1997 Sahara Cup in Toronto... India, under Sachin Tendulkar, were on a roll and Sourav Ganguly had a terrific tournament...

Indeed... The tournament didn’t go well for us (Pakistan got thrashed 1-4)... The results were making me bitter... And, when I’d walk into the dressing room, I’d realise that some of the players were many years younger to me... I found I didn’t have friends any more. It wasn’t a happy environment for me.

Then, should we blame Sourav for your retirement?

Absolutely... I’ve told him that.

But was it easy making the decision?

Wouldn’t say it was easy... I’d go for long walks near our hotel... Walk and walk... But once I’d decided, once my mind was made up, I felt as light as a feather.

You could have continued playing, at least in Test cricket...

Possibly, but I didn’t want a situation where I could have ended up getting a rough deal from the selectors... More so, after having captained Pakistan... Then, there were youngsters who were pushing hard and I didn’t want them to wait. I wanted to go gracefully, to go honourably... I’d been a member of a great team, had played a good hand in our 1992 World Cup win... I did have nice memories to hold on to. Don’t forget that from the mid Eighties till the early Nineties, we beat almost all teams... We had such incredible talent.

The buzz was that the PCB wanted you to continue, that they wanted a ‘clean’ man at the helm. Were you asked to reconsider your decision?

I got the impression that Majid Khan, who was then the CEO, wanted me to continue... There were already whispers about the involvement of some players in match-fixing... There was quite a bit of talk about the image of Pakistan cricket and so on.

You had a career in television waiting, so you didn’t have to worry financially. You had a position of privilege, isn’t it?

It was a strange situation... TV networks had begun approaching me even while I was playing. They wanted me to quickly retire and head straight to the commentary box!

Bizarre...

Oh, absolutely.

You’ve mentioned the bit about not wanting the youngsters to wait. That’s a nice sentiment, but is it across the board?

Look, the senior players must set an example... Must act as good role models.

Did Rahul Dravid time his retirement well?

Dravid was smart... He didn’t have one good tour (Australia, last season) and decided it was time to go... He retired before anybody would begin throwing questions at him. So, yes, Dravid acted as a good role model.

Dravid, of course, retired from ODIs quite some months before he left Test cricket...

Well, yes... This is an era of piecemeal retirements! Ricky Ponting did the same thing... Strictly speaking, for me, you became a former player once you’re through with Test cricket. That’s the top format.

Lastly... Should Sachin have retired from ODIs almost on the eve of such a big series, against Pakistan?

I’d say that if Sachin’s still enjoying the game, he should have played this series.