Known for his all-round abilities which saw him lead his country to victory on many occasions, Abdul Razzaq represented Pakistan on 339 occasions, scoring over 7000 runs and taking an impressive tally of 388 wickets.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Razzaq spoke about his excitement of seeing the entire upcoming PSL being played in Pakistan, why he rates Pakistan Super League to be of a higher standard than the Indian Premier League, his impressions of Pakistan's emerging fast-bowling talent, how the confidence shown by the BCCI has helped Virat Kohli perform at his peak and his own aspirations to teach cricket to youngsters at the grassroots level.
By Amir Husain (21st January, 2020)
PakPassion.net: How excited are you about the upcoming season of Pakistan Super League being played in Pakistan?
Abdul Razzaq: I think holding the next edition of the PSL entirely in Pakistan is a major achievement for the country. It’s great to see that top-level cricket in all forms is being revived in Pakistan and it’s encouraging to see the presence of so many foreign players in team rosters for this tournament. I pray to the Almighty that this whole venture is a success, and in the future, we get to see more top-level cricket and an increase in the number of international sides visiting Pakistan to play full series.
PakPassion.net: Are you hopeful that India will be one of those foreign teams to visit Pakistan one day?
Abdul Razzaq: I certainly hope so and I will go as far to say that a visit by India to Pakistan will have huge implications and once that happens, other sides such as South Africa, England, Australia and New Zealand will also have no qualms in touring our country. A tour of Pakistan by India, although looking unlikely now, when it happens, open many doors for the restoration of international tours to Pakistan and is vital in that sense.
PakPassion.net: How has your experience been with Quetta Gladiators during earlier editions of the PSL?
Abdul Razzaq: I have been associated with Quetta Gladiators for the past three seasons of the PSL and it’s been a great experience for me. What has made my stay so enjoyable at Quetta Gladiators is the presence of our Head Coach Moin Khan, who has created a brilliant atmosphere in the side. We all feel part of a family and the confidence that sort of atmosphere has created has paid us back in the shape of the PSL title in 2019 and hopefully will result in us taking the title again in 2020.
PakPassion.net: How do you rate the PSL in comparison with something like the Indian Premier League?
Abdul Razzaq: The PSL has played a key role in the improvement of standards of cricket in our country and has been very beneficial for Pakistani players and the pitches on which games are played are of superior quality. In contrast in the IPL, it is my observation that the pitches in India are not prepared properly. The pitches sometimes provide a bit too much turn or the ball remains low which to me is not good for the game. Given the difference in the quality of cricket in both leagues, I would go as far as saying that if a team of the best players from the IPL faced a similar team from the PSL, the Pakistani team would come out on top.
PakPassion.net: You must be happy with the recent revival of international cricket in Pakistan?
Abdul Razzaq: Of course, it’s a good thing that we have had a tour by Sri Lanka and will shortly be hosting Bangladesh for a full series. However, apart from these 2 sides, no other major side has agreed to come to Pakistan. Even with Sri Lanka, we saw that their main players opted out of the Limited-overs series which meant that younger and inexperienced cricketers were sent to Pakistan. Whilst the result was favourable in T20Is for Sri Lanka, it appeared that the whole series was nothing more than paying courtesy to Pakistan and more of a face-saving exercise for all concerned. To me, the whole idea of a series between two sides means that the best possible teams should play against each other which is not the case here. Even the Bangladesh side visiting Pakistan will be without the services of one of their top players, Mushfiqur Rahim, which doesn’t feel right to me.
PakPassion.net: Are you satisfied with Pakistan’s stance concerning the arrangement of the tour by Bangladesh?
Abdul Razzaq: The tour by Bangladesh is a step in the right direction but if the rumours about some sort of deal regarding Pakistan handing over hosting rights for this year’s Asia Cup tournament to Bangladesh are true, then that would be very disappointing. To me, tours like the one from Bangladesh should follow normal procedures and protocols and not be arranged based on of some ‘give and take’ type of deal. In the past, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh sides would have been last on our list when it came to playing a home series, but given our circumstances, we are now pleading with the same boards to come and play in our country. This is not the right way forward and to move forward, PCB needs to use its influence on ICC committees to convince India to travel to Pakistan. Once this happens, the issue of high-calibre foreign teams not visiting Pakistan will be resolved in no time.
PakPassion.net: Faheem Ashraf was deemed to have a bright future, but now finds himself on the side-lines. What are your thoughts on his career to-date?
Abdul Razzaq: I have a lot of sympathy with Faheem as he is a good talent and I feel that his fall from grace is simply due to not being utilized correctly by the team management. But then, there seems to be a bigger issue at play here as in Pakistan we seem to carry a player through the initial stages of his career and invest in him and then for some inexplicable reason, drop him from the side and then move to on another player. This cycle goes on and, on. The result, as we have seen in the case of the Pakistan T20I side is that we are without the services of match-winners like Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal or Ahmed Shehzad. The side has been given a completely new look but this is not the way to build good teams. Players performing well in domestic cricket consistently and for many seasons need to be given a place in the side and not doing this is why our overall ranking in World Cricket has dropped so much. By dropping players like this, we are seeing that cricketers are losing their motivation to play longer for Pakistan and to perform for the country. When there is no desire to perform after being disappointed by their treatment, the players are unlikely to reach high levels of achievement and to break records.
PakPassion.net: Do you feel that Pakistan selection policies are to blame for the current state of Pakistan cricket?
Abdul Razzaq: The fact is that there is a lot of uncertainty in team selection at the moment. We have players who are being brought into the international side based on good domestic performances and then discarded if they don’t perform even once. Also, just because one player performed well in this year’s domestic season, it doesn’t mean that he should be preferred over another player who has performed well for the past few domestic seasons. The other puzzling point is that whenever the selection panel changes for Pakistan, the next group of selectors seem to bring in a completely different bunch of players which puts a big question mark on the whole process of selection. It seems to imply that the selection was wrong and that criterion for picking players was incorrect in the first place. So, where does that leave the PCB administration and the captain and coach, if it is shown that they had chosen the wrong set of players before? Does that mean the previous team which is radically different from now was a mistake?
PakPassion.net: How encouraged are you by the emergence of the newer group of fast-bowlers like Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah and Mohammad Musa?
Abdul Razzaq: I, like every other Pakistan well-wisher, am pleased about the emergence of these young fast-bowlers. However, as they say, empty vessels make the most noise and we are seeing a lot being said about these bowlers without them having played much cricket or performed well. What we need to do now is to give these youngsters some time to develop and show their skills, and most of all we need to give them motivation and confidence to succeed. Instead of going by statements from the media where everyone is praising these bowlers about how fast they can bowl and so on, what we need to look at is how well they are performing in international games. For that, these bowlers need to be given time but unfortunately, our media is prone to making big statements and putting pressure on the players. So, if the bowler bowls a good bouncer, it is made to look as if he was raining fire on the batsman. The focus needs to be not on what pleases the media but on actual performances and the creation of records like those achieved by Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis or Shoaib Akhtar. To be honest, I am worried that once the hype dies down and these youngsters don’t perform in one or two matches, they will be taken out of the side and discarded which will be the wrong way to proceed.
PakPassion.net: Do you think there is any truth in what Danish Kaneria implied about discrimination in the Pakistan team due to religious beliefs?
Abdul Razzaq: To me, this whole matter seems to have been created out of thin air. There is no truth in what Kaneria asserted because if religion was an issue, then as a Hindu he would never have played for Pakistan. He was always an integral part of the Pakistan side and to hold that stature in any side is a matter of honour for any player, regardless of what their background is. He was always respected on and off the field by all players, so I do not think there is any room for controversy regarding his religion and treatment in the Pakistan team.
PakPassion.net: How serious were you about helping Hardik Pandya?
Abdul Razzaq: Look, the statement I made was made in good faith. From what I saw of Hardik Pandya, I felt that he could improve further as a player and I could help him with that and I spoke purely from a cricketing point of view. It’s not as if I am desperate to help him out for any other reason. We know when it comes to the current state of India and Pakistan relations, this would not be possible in the first place.
PakPassion.net: What, in your view, is the secret behind Virat Kohli’s success?
Abdul Razzaq: He is a fantastic player and there is no doubt about it. However, he is lucky as the BCCI supports him well and instils the confidence in him that any player needs to succeed. The respect he gets from his board is what probably inspires him to do well all the time and the results are there for all to see. I do believe that even in Pakistan we have players who could become better than Virat Kohli, but they are neglected by our system which is a tragedy. In Kohli’s case, he has taken that confidence shown in him by the board and using his talent, repaid them with his performances.
PakPassion.net: Looking ahead, is coaching the younger generation of cricketers something you would like to do?
Abdul Razzaq: It is my mission now to coach youngsters from the grassroots level as that is the level where coaching is most needed. This is the age and level where the passion for the game is developed. In my view developing players from the ages of 8 to 15 is key in making sure that we get passionate young cricketers of the future and this is my current goal. I hope to find these youngsters from schools, colleges and universities or wherever else the talent for cricket exists in Pakistan.