Chandigarh: Haroon Rasheed, who has come as manager of the Faisalabad Wolves, spoke to The Telegraph on Monday evening.
Q The Faisalabad Wolves are in India ... Are you, now, expecting an early resumption of bilateral cricket?
A It’s special for Pakistan to play India and, I assume, it’s the same for Indian cricketers when they face Pakistan. I hope cricket will again help build bridges, help improve relations.
As a former Pakistan cricketer, how did you react to the shock defeat at the hands of Zimbabwe in the Harare Test?
Look, the pressure is always on the more established team when it faces one short on experience... The ‘smaller’ team can play with more freedom, for its players have nothing to lose. The ‘bigger’ team won’t get credit for winning, but plenty of stick for losing... Any defeat is hard to accept, but we certainly don’t need to press the panic button. We paid the price for a couple of bad sessions.
So, credit to Zimbabwe?
Why not? They played well.
But aren’t there issues for Pakistan to address?
There’s a place for seniors and look at how Younis Khan performed... We need to be patient with the younger cricketers... They, in turn, have to perform and tell the selectors that they’re indeed worthy of their place. Like I’ve said, we don’t need to rush for the panic button.
Former captain Inzamam-ul Haq has suggested that Dav Whatmore isn’t quite the right man to coach Pakistan. Do you agree?
For me, it’s not about individuals... You need a coach at the colts’ level. At the highest level, you need a good man manager... Somebody who can act as a father-figure, somebody who can communicate. If a foreigner can do that, I don’t have a problem. We need to be clear about what a coach should be doing with the national team. Actually, more than a coach, he’s got to be a cricket manager. The players have to respond to him, have got to share a rapport.
You came from an era of great batsmen in Pakistan... Javed Miandad, Zaheer Abbas, Majid Khan, Asif Iqbal... Why is it that there’s such a dip in quality?
But other teams, too, have experienced it... Look at Australia... Do they have the Mark Taylors or the Waughs or the Matthew Haydens? They don’t... They don’t have replacements for Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath either... Such cycles will come about, that’s the way of sport... Perhaps, T20 cricket is having a negative effect.
What’s your take on T20?
Cricketers won’t have issues if they get exposed to T20 after a season or two of first-class cricket. But there could be problems if cricketers start off by playing T20. Having said that, limited overs cricket in general has changed the face of the game... In our time, 200 for two or three at stumps on the first day of a Test was seen as very good. Now, teams routinely score over 300. The pace has changed, thanks to limited overs cricket. First the 50-over game and, now, T20.
Are we placing too much in the T20 basket?
I can’t say off-hand... This needs to be studied... What I’ll definitely say is that the nature of pitches has changed ... Now, they’re much more batsman-friendly and the bowlers largely look to restrict instead of getting wickets (in the shorter formats).
Mediocre batsmen quickly become heroes in T20...
(Laughs) But hitting is also an art... You need a good eye and the skill to pick the ball early.
Going back in time, do you think you got all the opportunities you deserved?
I believe in destiny... I was destined to play 23 Tests and 12 ODIs only... Woh likha hua tha... I don’t have regrets. In fact, that I could open with Barry Richards during Kerry Packer’s WSC remains a high point... I played with and against greats... In more recent times, I’ve enjoyed looking after the Pakistan Cricket Board’s youth development programme. It’s satisfying.
How do you assess the Indian team?
India have been doing very well and the other teams will have to work hard to beat them.
You’ve played against India and have been making a note of India’s performances over the past many years. What’s special about this team?
(Mahendra Singh) Dhoni has made the biggest difference... He captains by example... Leads from the front. Also, he doesn’t get flustered when the chips seem to be down.
Some words on Dhoni...
I first saw Dhoni in Pakistan on the 2005-06 tour... Over the years, he’s grown into a captain who absorbs all the pressure. Win or lose, Dhoni remains the same. That’s a big quality to have.
For you, then, is Dhoni India’s finest captain?
Yes... Going back to the early 1970s, Ajit Wadekar was good, but he captained in one format — Test cricket. Dhoni leads in all three and has been successful in each one of them.
Who has been Pakistan’s No.1 captain?
Imran Khan... Miandad, too, was very good.
What made Imran stand out, as a cricketer and as a captain?
The way Imran led from the front... The way he worked hard to become a match-winning bowler when the coaches early on felt he should concentrate on batting! As captain, Imran was inspirational... His determination rubbed off on teammates, making them go to extraordinary lengths... Dhoni, like Imran, is inspirational.
Has Imran been Asia’s best captain?
I wouldn’t like to compare one with the other... The subcontinent has had some very good captains and each has done something special in a particular era and a certain environment. They’ll be remembered.
Well, just who is a good captain?
Somebody with a strong work ethic, somebody who is fair, somebody who can take all the pressure without flinching.
The last one... We’ve spoken about captains... Who, according to you, have been the finest batsmen from the time you made your debut for Pakistan (1976-77)?
Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar have been the best... Gavaskar distinguished himself across the world, taking on the best bowlers without protective headgear... At home, he had to bat on spinning tracks... Sachin has been remarkable. To have stayed fit and hungry for 24 years is just mind-boggling... He’s a unique breed and, in all these years, hasn’t figured in one controversy.