Calcutta: Former Pakistan captain Zaheer Abbas, an all-time great batsman (108 first-class hundreds), is in New Delhi on a private visit. On Saturday evening, he spoke to The Telegraph.
The following are excerpts
QWhat’s your take on Shikhar Dhawan’s incredible debut?
A Wow... Where was this boy all this while? To score a hundred in one session merits the highest praise. Whatever the standard of the opposition, a hundred on Test debut is a special achievement... Dhawan’s coming good in this manner is great news for India.
Is it curtains for Virender Sehwag?
Difficult to say... Somebody goes out and somebody takes his place... That’s the nature of a team sport... It’s about how opportunities get utilised. Sehwag has had a good innings.
Either internationally or at the County level, you played against some legendary openers... The likes of Barry Richards and Gordon Greenidge... Who would you pick as the No.1 opener?
Probably Richards, going by what I saw in County cricket... Greenidge, too, was outstanding... They had a presence and, so often, scored at will.
For quite some time, Pakistan have been struggling with their opening combination. Why?
I don’t know why, but we’re struggling with the No.3 position as well. If you lack solidity in the top three slots, then you have a weak line-up.
There have been reports that the two Pakistan captains, Misbah-ul Haq (Tests, ODIs) and Mohammed Hafeez (T20s), have been having problems...
Even if problems are there, they can be sorted out... There are issues in every team, but it’s not that they can’t be resolved. The team has to come first.
Have you been impressed by India’s performance in the ongoing Test series against Australia?
Very much so... It’s a strong comeback after losing to England in the last series at home... I’m happy for (captain Mahendra Singh) Dhoni, whom I quite admire.
Sachin Tendulkar is only playing Test cricket now...
Look, I’ve always had a soft corner for Sachin... He’ll know when it’s time to leave the game completely... In a respectful way, I think a player of his greatness shouldn’t only be playing one format. I shouldn’t be misunderstood when I say this.
What are your thoughts on the disciplining of the four Australian players?
But discipline has to come first... At all times... Not submitting the presentation may not look a huge issue, but a task is a task... Whether given by the captain or the coach.
Three of those disciplined — Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson — are big names. So, what’s the message sent out?
That nobody is bigger than the game... Players will come and go, but cricket will remain... The stature of a player shouldn’t be a factor when it’s a matter of discipline.
What would you have written had your coach asked you to make a presentation?
Probably that I’d like my response to be on the field, over the 22 yards... But one thing for sure, I would have followed the coach’s instructions.
Times have changed...
They have... If I have to look back, the standard of the game was much higher when I played (1969-1985)... Every team had stars and you didn’t have to count the big players on your fingertips... Today, of course, there’s so much money and some players have made a career out of T20 alone.
Is T20 harmful or beneficial?
It’s lowering the standard of the game... Some out-of-the-book shots are being seen, fine, but I don’t think this format is beneficial to cricket as a whole.
The final one... You must be disappointed that, since we last spoke a few months ago, Indo-Pak relations have worsened yet again...
(Anguished tone) Main kya kahoon... A hockey series has just been cancelled... I wonder if sport is becoming politics or if politics is changing because of sport... Pata nahin... It’s very sad... Where I’m concerned, sporting ties across disciplines must never be snapped... It has happened far too often.