Once regarded as Pakistan's main all-round spinning option in white-ball cricket, Imad Wasim at the age of 33 has not played international cricket since November 2021, when he represented his country in the semi-final of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup against Australia. With 113 appearances for Pakistan in which he has scored 1325 runs and taken 99 wickets, Imad's exclusion from international cricket has given rise to intense debate.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Imad spoke about his disappointment at not being picked by Pakistan for their recent assignments, why the selectors need to explain the reasons for their decisions, the need for Pakistan captain Babar Azam to take a stand against flawed decisions by the selectors, his future with Karachi Kings, Pakistan's chances of repeating their 2021 performance against India in this year's T20 World Cup in Australia, his determination to play for another 5-6 years and to make a comeback for Pakistan.
By Saj Sadiq (22nd July, 2022)
PakPassion.net: How disappointed and frustrated are you that it’s been 8 months since you were last picked for Pakistan?
Imad Wasim: I am very disappointed by this and my feelings on this stem from the fact that I have performed so well for Pakistan and have not been picked for the team for a while now. At the end of the day, I can tell myself that it is what it is, but that does not take away from the fact that this is a very frustrating situation for me.
PakPassion.net: Mohammad Wasim has said that the reason for your exclusion was because your performances were not up to the mark…
Imad Wasim: It’s not up to me to respond to this, rather it’s for him to explain exactly what he means by performances which are below par. Are these recent matches he is referring to? Or is he speaking about the past where my performances have not been up to the mark? My performances are out there for all to see whether they are in the domestic One-Day Cup or in the Pakistan Super League. Of course, this year’s PSL did not go well for Karachi Kings as we only won a solitary game in the tournament, but the fact is that I was an integral part of the team and did not perform badly and that must count for something. Previous to that, I was part of the Pakistan side where I performed well and in which we went all the way through to the Semi-Final stage of the T20 World Cup in the UAE. Anyone who makes claims like these needs to back them with facts and it’s really up to Mohammad Wasim to explain his reasoning with examples.
PakPassion.net: Fitness has been stated as another reason for your exclusion from the Pakistan team, is that a justifiable reason in your view?
Imad Wasim: I don’t have an issue with this statement from the Chief Selector as long as there is a specific fitness criteria which is being followed consistently for selection purposes. But what we see are players with worse fitness than me being selected which tells me that questions about my fitness are just talk. Everyone knows what’s happening here and it seems that all these issues such as fitness have been put out there to provide some sort of justification to keep me out of the side. If they do have a proper answer to what I am saying, then I would love to hear that, and they can speak to me about it. I have served Pakistan very well throughout my career with pride and dignity and will continue to do so in the future but it’s about giving the player respect as well. What I am saying should not be a surprise to anyone as most people who watch Pakistan cricket as well as our media are aware of the facts here.
PakPassion.net: Do you agree that a part of the ‘respect’ that you speak of is for the selectors to take the time to explain their decisions to you?
Imad Wasim: Definitely so but this has been happening to me for a while now. Of course, I am within my rights to ask questions of the selectors about my exclusion, simply because I know that I have and can serve Pakistan even better than I have done before. I am passionate about my country and about my game and the selectors need to give me the respect I deserve. They must understand that I have played and will continue to play for Pakistan even when they are no longer in their positions of power or part of the setup. If they feel that by undermining me like this, they will break me and I will quit, then they are mistaken. I will keep on performing and then make a comeback and play for Pakistan.
PakPassion.net: Do you feel that your non-selection is due to personal issues not connected to cricket?
Imad Wasim: Well if they don’t like my face, they should be brave enough to say it and I will be fine with that! Seriously though, not selecting someone for the Pakistan team because of personal dislike is not only unfair to the player and his career but it’s also a disservice to our country as it’s being deprived of the services of a good player. Such actions will eventually cost the country dearly and I urge the selectors to not think of personal likes and dislikes for players when selecting squads.
PakPassion.net: Is your constant exclusion from the Pakistan side putting a strain on your relationship with Babar Azam?
Imad Wasim: I have absolutely no issues with Babar Azam as he is the captain of Pakistan and a world-class player as well. But I do feel that he has to take an interest in these matters too because he will be leading the Pakistan side for a long time and what is happening with me in terms of selection can also happen to him, Mohammad Rizwan or some other player too. Babar is doing a great job as Pakistan captain at this time, but he has to take control of selection matters and become more accountable because at the end of the day, he is the one leading the team on the field and such issues will affect his team’s results. Babar is an excellent captain, and I am sure he will look deeply into this situation.
PakPassion.net: How do you rate Pakistan’s chances in the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia?
Imad Wasim: There is no doubt in my mind that we are a dangerous side for any opponents, and we will always find a way to be more competitive and productive in Australian conditions. Those who write Pakistan sides off in such tournament do so at their own peril as we have a knack of winning games and tournaments but only if the selectors select the right players to play at the right positions in the team.
PakPassion.net: Who do you see as the main competition for Pakistan at the T20 World Cup this year?
Imad Wasim: To be honest, given the small margins of error in the Twenty20 format which can cause your downfall, it would be difficult to pick out any one side as the main threat for Pakistan. Having said that, the main teams include Australia, England, India, New Zealand, South Africa, West Indies and even Afghanistan can all be classed as threats to Pakistan. Each of these sides are tough competitors but due to the nature of the format, you can never predict what can happen when you play them.
PakPassion.net: Can Pakistan defeat India again in the T20 World Cup in Australia?
Imad Wasim: The win against India in the 2021 edition of the T20 World Cup was an amazing experience and such 10-wicket wins happen very rarely, but it’s now in the past. We have to play to our best abilities and stick to our plans when we meet them again and then whether we win by 1 wicket or 10 wickets, a win is a win and we will take that. Given our potential, we can be competitive in 2022 in Australia just like we were in the UAE in 2021. Having said that, India had a bad day last time we played, and I expect them to come at us hard this time as they will be out for revenge. We will need to stay positive in such a case and raise our cricket standards and up our game on the day.
PakPassion.net: Are you still hopeful of making it into Pakistan’s T20 World Cup squad?
Imad Wasim: As things stand, there is a lot of time to go before that tournament and a lot can happen before that time. I am very hopeful of being included in the final cut for Pakistan’s T20I squad because like I have done many times before, I can serve Pakistan cricket again to my full potential. I feel that with the will of God, I will be able to perform well and be more productive for my country in this tournament with my abilities.
PakPassion.net: How do you feel about the battle for a T20 World Cup place between Mohammad Nawaz and yourself?
Imad Wasim: To be honest, there has never been any competition like that between myself and any other bowlers. Unfortunately, this is all the making of the Selectors for reasons best known to them. I feel that I am one of the top ten all-rounders in the world but having said that Nawaz is a fantastic player and whatever he is doing is simply amazing and he is doing a great job for Pakistan. If they can play 3 ‘keepers in the side, then why can they not play two left-arm spinners who are good with the bat as well. So there really is no need for any competition as such.
The way I can serve and what I have done so far for Pakistan is way more than what many others have done or can do. I say this with greatest of respect to Nawaz who has played alongside me and who is like my younger brother. Even if you ask him, he will say that there is no competition between us. I was the number one bowler in ICC’s T20I Rankings and was the number three all-rounder in ODIs when they stopped playing me and I am still considered one of the best all-rounders in white ball formats. These ICC rankings are not a lie and are based on sound reasoning. If people still need to be convinced about my abilities, then they can make their own judgement about me by looking at my past performances.
PakPassion.net: Do you feel that not batting higher up the order had an effect on your ability to perform for Pakistan?
Imad Wasim: Whichever position I batted at was in accordance with the wishes of the team management and what suited the team plan. I have no issues playing at any position apart from being an opener as that requires a different set of skills. But at the end of the day, where one plays in the batting order is driven by the team plan and based upon their requirements at that time. As for me, I was always up for any challenge that the team threw at me and that is the beauty of cricket. Sometimes you are sent in at number 5, at other times you are asked to bat at the number 8 position – that’s just the way the game is, and I have no regrets about that at all. The fact is that I always put my hand up for whatever the team demands or needs because I am a person who never plays for myself or one who just worries about my own runs and wickets. This is exactly why I get so much respect, even when I am not in the team, because people love and admire me and that respect from all over the world is what drives me to play cricket.
PakPassion.net: What went wrong with Karachi Kings in PSL7, and do you feel that your future is still with the franchise?
Imad Wasim: If you look at Karachi’s records in the previous editions of the PSL, we have done well and reached the playoffs and have also won the title, but PSL 7 was a disappointment for us, and these things can happen. We had some issues with our squad selection and we were wrong in a tactical sense as well. We also had injuries to Mohammad Amir and some other players which didn’t help our situation at all. But I am confident that we will come back strong in the next edition. Now whether my future is with Karachi Kings or not is a decision which is up to the franchise and the tournament is still 6-8 months away so there is plenty of time for Karachi to decide if they wish to retain me. All that is in the future as far as I am concerned and at the moment, I am looking ahead to playing in the Caribbean Premier League and doing well for my team in this tournament.
PakPassion.net: What would be your advice to Haider Ali who seems to have fallen on the wayside due to his recent performances?
Imad Wasim: I would advise him to keep on being positive and doing what he does best which is to play aggressively. I know that some will not agree with my views on this and would like him to change his style of play and attitude, but I do not agree with that. The way cricket is going nowadays, he needs to play his aggressive brand of cricket and yes there will be ups and downs in his career, but he needs to keep his mindset positive and hopefully as he gets more chances, he will perform better.
Players like Haider Ali are match-winners on their day so never write them off and instead give them more opportunities and make them feel secure and they will shine. A lot of people will say that he has had lots of chances and should be discarded but we all saw how England changed their game since they gave the likes of Jason Roy and others chances to prove themselves. Those players became superstars and helped England become a force to be reckoned with as well. So, my advice to Haider would be to stay positive and keep on doing what he knows best and not worry about the opinions of people. This is because people change their opinions in a matter of two innings.
PakPassion.net: How do you see your future and do you feel you have the mental strength to make a comeback to international cricket.
Imad Wasim: I am a ‘proper’ 33-year-old player, and whilst I wish I could say that I am 27 or 28, the fact is that I am not shy of stating my true age. I feel that I have a good five to six years of cricket left in me. What I am sure about is that I will make a comeback for Pakistan, sooner or later. This is because I have great self-belief and also believe in my potential. I do not have to prove to the world that I am good enough to play but I have to show to myself that I can and will play, and God Willing you will see me in Pakistan colours soon.