A cricketer with significant international experience and a popular choice among Twenty20 franchises, Sohail Tanvir has seen it all. The left-arm pace bowler missed out on selection for the recent World Twenty20 and remains off the selectors radar despite commendable stats at international level. He continues to ply his trade in Twenty20 leagues around the world, most recently in the Pakistan Super League where he was a member of the Karachi Kings squad and was coached by the newly appointed Pakistan Head Coach, Mickey Arthur.
Now one of the top-paid players in the Caribbean Premier League where he will represent the Guyana Amazon Warriors, the 31-year-old spoke exclusively to PakPassion.net on a range of subjects including the Pakistan Cup, Inzamam-ul-Haq's appointment as Chief Selector, his aspirations of a return to the Pakistan team and his experience of working with Mickey Arthur.
By Amir Husain (14th May, 2016)
PakPassion.net : Let’s start with the recently concluded Pakistan Cup, how was that experience?
Sohail Tanvir : It was an excellent tournament and it proved to be a very competitive one too. The quality of cricket was impressive and from a spectator’s point of view, there were lots of exciting games with some close finishes which is pretty impressive as these types of tight results are not common in One-Day cricket as the game is spread over 50 overs; this is more the domain of Twenty20 games. I also think that the weather was quite hot with daytime temperatures approaching 40°C so the teams bowling first had a bit of a disadvantage. I am not making excuses here; we all know that these types of issues are part and parcel of the game and we as professional sportsmen are used to it and do get on with it. The groundsman needs to be given credit also as he did a great job to prepare the pitch every night for the game the next day in such heat. It really was an amazing task accomplished by the ground staff and also, ultimately, the PCB who with the sponsors organised this tournament in such a short space of time.
PakPassion.net : Your past record in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) has been good, are you looking forward to the upcoming edition as well?
Sohail Tanvir : I started at a low price level at the CPL back in 2014 with the St. Lucia Zouks and then improved further with St Kitts and Nevis Patriots in 2015. This year, I have been chosen as one of the top-paid players for the Guyana Amazon Warriors which is a great honour for me and I am really looking forward to fulfilling my duties in that regard. Obviously, being an Icon player raises expectations around you and I am training hard to make sure that I am up to that task.
PakPassion.net : How do you view the recent appointment of Inzamam-ul-Haq as Chief Selector and will that open any doors for your return to the Pakistan squad?
Sohail Tanvir : To be honest, I am still unable to understand why the door closed on me in the first place. I was only playing in one format which is Twenty20 and in that I was the top wicket taker for Pakistan in 2015. In my last international Twenty20 series which was against England, I was joint highest wicket taker for Pakistan alongside Shahid Afridi with five wickets, so not much wrong there either. If you talk about my batting, then I was the third highest run-getter in that series after Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi which is not poor by any standard. So as you can understand, I was very disappointed to not be included for the Pakistan squad in subsequent games. A few critics question my fitness but as you know, the Pakistan Cup was played in very warm weather conditions. Unluckily, Azhar Ali our captain lost all tosses and we ended up bowling first in temperatures around 40°C. To my credit, I played all four games and also bowled up to ten overs in those games so surely fitness was not an issue there. My economy rate (4.08) in this tournament was the best amongst all bowlers and my batting was also important for the team. The 26 I scored off just 9 balls against Islamabad was crucial for our victory in a very tight situation. So overall, in terms of performance, the Pakistan Cup was pretty satisfactory for me. Regardless of this disappointment, as a player my job is to deliver and that is what I will concentrate on regardless of who is in the selection committee.
Now, Inzamam-ul-Haq has just taken over as Chief Selector and it will take some time for him to get used to what is happening around him. I don’t think he has been following Pakistan cricket that closely as he had his own commitments with Afghanistan cricket but I do hope that with the passage of time as Inzamam gets to know things better, the situation will improve for me personally. Modern cricket has changed a lot - I know we all say that but many of us don’t understand that concept. I am hoping that the management will take into account the changes that have been brought about in the modern game. Gone are the days when getting hit for six runs an over was considered a crime in the eyes of management. Nowadays, a bowler giving away 55-60 in his ten overs is considered 'a job well done’. Whereas 200-225 was considered a par score before, recently teams are consistently scoring 300+ and still losing games so one could say that the economy rate expectations have changed a bit.
We need a Chief Selector who understands all these considerations of the modern game and I believe Inzamam is that person. The PCB have to be congratulated on the decision to appoint him but then I must caution everyone against any overnight improvements. Just like it is necessary to give time to players to improve, the same applies to the Head Coach, team management and in this case, the Chief Selector as well.
PakPassion.net : Lack of fitness of our current contracted players has been in the news a lot recently, does this shock you given there is so much emphasis in this area?
Sohail Tanvir : Frankly speaking, I cannot comment on the fitness of those players as I am in no position to do so but I will speak about the general emphasis on this aspect. Fitness only means anything if a player has the skills to perform. Now, you can say that being fit helps a player perform to his potential but what helps you on the field of play is your skill. Quite possibly in years gone by, fitness was not that important and you could get away with skills alone but it is not the case today. All of today’s players know that fitness is an important part of their game but unfortunately as you pointed out, this still appears to be an issue with our players.
Again, I cannot speak for other players but from my experience, I can tell you that when I started playing, keeping oneself fit was never given any importance. It was all about improving skills. Things have changed now but there is an underlying issue with lack of this awareness at the grassroots level. One cannot blame the PCB for this as this is just a cultural issue for us. Contrast that with England or South Africa where people are well aware of how to work on their fitness. So players at the Under-12 or Under-16 level are made aware of how to maintain their fitness or about the right techniques to train and so on. When this same player graduates to the senior level, there isn’t much more he needs to be told about these issues; this is not the case in Pakistan. Once this awareness is embedded in our young players then maintaining fitness will not be such an issue in the later years.
PakPassion.net : How was your experience in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) with Mickey Arthur as coach for Karachi Kings?
Sohail Tanvir : He was a very good coach for us. One thing I say is that if you wish to judge any person, you should see them when things are not going their way or when they are under pressure. In Mickey Arthur, I saw a very cool-headed person who refused to press the panic-button even though things weren’t going so well for Karachi Kings. Of course there was pressure on the players and the coach but he remained in control and carried out his work as normal. There was no overreaction, finger-pointing or attempts to blame individuals by Mickey. He was passionate about cricket and about Karachi Kings as well. I suppose at the end of the day, he will need some space and time to prove himself.
PakPassion.net : Mickey Arthur appears to be a bit of a disciplinarian so do you see an issue with that when he works with the Pakistan players?
Sohail Tanvir : To be fair, with such Twenty20 leagues as the PSL, the time to implement any policies from the coaching staff is limited so I did not see the side of Mickey that you are talking about. Language or communication in English was an issue but we had Mushtaq Ahmed in the middle who helped out in that aspect. Going forward, when Mickey works with the Pakistan team and depending on whether he has a local person in his coaching staff or not, language may be an issue as many of our cricketers may not be able to communicate that well. Having said that, if you are just talking about cricket then most players will be able to understand instructions even with limited knowledge of English.
PakPassion.net : What will be the biggest challenge for Mickey Arthur as he begins his tenure as Pakistan Head Coach?
Sohail Tanvir : Whenever anyone takes up a position like this, the only real challenge is to improve the ranking of the team. In Pakistan's case this effort will be centered around the Limited Over formats. He will know that Pakistan are a much better team in all versions of the game than our ratings seem to suggest. For him the first task will be to come on board and understand the quality and temperaments of the players who are in the team. Once he gets familiar with the players and they with him, his job will get easier and the performances will show a marked improvement. In that respect, Pakistan are lucky to have someone like Mickey Arthur who has some great experience of coaching the likes of Australia and South Africa. He will be able to use this experience to assist the Pakistan players and work out plans to improve their performance.
PakPassion.net : Pakistan’s batting has been a big weakness in the recent past, do you feel that Mickey Arthur can help improve that aspect of our cricket?
Sohail Tanvir : If you look at our previous records, our batting has never been good enough to overtake our bowling strength in terms of winning matches. In my experience, I have never heard anyone say that we are a better batting side than a bowling one. This is not to say that we have not produced any batting greats. We had names like Majid Khan, Hanif Mohammad, Javed Miandad, Zaheer Abbas, Mohammad Yousuf, Inzamam-ul-Haq and nowadays we have Younis Khan who can be considered as one of the top batsmen in the world. In my view, what Mickey should be looking to do is to make our batting side strong enough so that it can support our bowling side. The idea being that our batsmen should put enough runs on the board which our bowlers can defend with ease. We will never have the batting strength which will make us into a top batting side like India. This is similar to India’s position who have never had the best bowling side in the world, despite spending large amounts of money and hiring top coaches from around the world. I am confident that Mickey Arthur can deliver this improvement for Pakistan as he has a proven track record in such matters and one hopes that he can repeat the same for Pakistan.
PakPassion.net : Looking forward to Pakistan’s tour of England, are you optimistic about their chances?
Sohail Tanvir : This will be a tough tour for Pakistan, let’s not underestimate the challenge here. The home side is very likely to prepare seaming tracks for all formats of the game. Like I said before, our bowling has never been a problem but our batting must rise up to the occasion and provide the support needed by our bowlers. This will be the biggest challenge facing Pakistan in England and could easily decide the overall fate of the series.