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Performance alone counts, not reputation, says Ashraf

- EXCLUSIVE
- PCB chief is for an Indo-Pak XI to take on the rest
Zaka Ashraf

New Delhi: Zaka Ashraf, the nattily attired chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), spoke to The Telegraph at the ITC Maurya on Saturday afternoon.

The following are excerpts

Q You must be relieved that Javed Miandad, who has close family ties with Dawood Ibrahim, has decided against coming to India...

A Look, the fact is that Miandad was never supposed to come as a nominee of the PCB... He’s a legend and his name did come up initially, but he’s overseeing a review of our domestic cricket and I asked him to focus on that... He could, at a later time, at an appropriate time, come to India. This Revival Tour is all about cricket and that’s the way it should be. I’m thankful to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for inviting us.

But just the other day, Miandad himself went on record to say that he’d be coming here and would also travel to Ajmer. What’s your comment?

Initially, Miandad had been keen on coming to New Delhi... He’d then said that he’d also like to offer prayers in Ajmer Sharif. However, nothing happened since.

Moving away from Miandad (the PCB’s director general)... I understand you’ve suggested to the BCCI that a joint Indo-Pak team take on the Rest of the World...

(Laughs) I have.

How did the BCCI react?

President (Narayanswamy Srinivasan) said the Indo-Pak team would be unbeatable! He’s right, for no country has as much talent as India and Pakistan.

If the proposal is taken forward at the level of the ICC, what would you favour — a Test match?

That could be worked out... Woh dekh lenge.

You’ve been wanting an Ashes-like series between India and Pakistan. Realistically, as of today, when could that come about?

Hopefully, at the earliest... We could play on each other’s soil or even play on neutral territory... I’d like the teams to fight it out for, say, the Jinnah-Gandhi Trophy.

Why not a trophy named after cricket greats from the region?

Generally, Jinnah and Gandhi stand tallest, one in Pakistan and the other in India. In my view, the trophy should be named after them.

Recently, there was a controversy involving the Pakistan captain during the T20 World Cup for the Blind, in Bangalore. You had to step in...

Bilkul... I had to act as the fire brigade! Sometimes, one needs to play that role.

From the beginning of your tenure (October 2011), you’ve had zero tolerance towards indiscipline. Has it been your priority, after the spot-fixing scandal of 2010?

One of my priorities, yes. I firmly believe that no team can move forward without discipline. A disciplined team is a united team, a team with faith in its leader.

What are the other priorities?

Performance. If you don’t perform, you won’t be there. If there’s something seriously wrong, then you get hospitalised. If there’s something wrong with a cricketer, then he has to get things right at the PCB’s academy in Lahore, which is being expanded and modernised.

So, what’s your brief to the selectors?

Only be guided by performance... Non-performers shouldn’t be picked, stature and reputation notwithstanding.

You’re a top-ranking industrialist. How are you managing that role?

Actually, my businesses (sugar, coal mining, power generation and more) have suffered... I don’t think I’ve been able to devote more than an hour to my businesses on any one day since taking over as the PCB chairman. But I’ve been given a responsibility and I’m trying to do my best. I’d like Pakistan to become No.1 in as many formats as possible... Woh meri khwaish hai.

[Pakistan are currently No.4 in the Test rankings and No.6 both in ODIs and T20s.]

Given your ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) connections, why aren’t you in politics?

Well, I’ve chosen to stay away. I could have been a federal minister, sitting in Islamabad. Politics call for full-time involvement... It has to be 24x7.

Imran Khan is an opponent of the PPP. Are you on good terms with him?

Of course, I’m on good terms with all politicians... I don’t pick and choose when, for example, I have to invite politicians for functions of the PCB... Imran’s a legend and we respect him for his achievements in cricket. I’ve not politicised the PCB, for cricket is a national passion and doesn’t belong to an individual or a party. I’m clear about how we should go forward.

As a youngster, did you follow any cricketer’s career with plenty of interest? Were you anybody’s fan?

(Laughs) Hanif Mohammed... Then it was Zaheer Abbas... Imran... Wasim Akram after him... At different times, they’ve been among my favourites. Today’s lot is very young.

Have you raised the issue of Pakistani cricketers returning to the IPL?

Not even in passing... The IPL is the BCCI’s property. It’s for the BCCI alone to decide.

The last one... Pakistan is going to have its own version of the IPL, the Pakistan Super League. Do you expect big names to participate?

I’m hopeful... The League will begin after our team returns from South Africa and before the start of the IPL (April 3). It’s going to be a short affair, for now.