Currently a top-rated cricket analyst and regarded as an astute captain and an elegant right-handed-batsman in his playing days, Michael Vaughan's most memorable achievement was the leadership of the England team when they regained the Ashes in 2005, almost nineteen years after having last won the trophy. In one hundred and sixty-eight international appearances, Vaughan amassed over seven thousand and five hundred runs and was also ranked one of the best batsmen in the world following the 2002/03 Ashes, in which he scored 633 runs, including three centuries.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Vaughan spoke about his impressions of the recently concluded tour of England by Pakistan, Misbah’s leadership, Yasir Shah's form during the series, Mohammad Amir's return to international cricket and discussed the lessons Pakistan can learn from England's ODI brilliance.
By Saj Sadiq (9th September, 2016)
PakPassion.net : Were you surprised to see that Pakistan were so competitive in the Test series against England?
Michael Vaughan : I thought Pakistan were the best prepared touring team leading into the first Test that I have seen for many, many years. I guess due to their lack of playing time before the series it meant that they could arrive early in England and practice at the Ageas Bowl, then play a couple of warm-up games and arrive at Lord's against an England team who were without Ben Stokes and James Anderson. It therefore didn't surprise me that they came out of the traps nicely. But once they were hammered at Old Trafford I thought they would slip away. Then losing at Edgbaston was, to me, a killer blow after they played so well for three days and before England fought back. I just didn't think they would have it in them to bounce back in the last Test at The Oval.
Misbah deserves a lot of the credit, the way he's captained the team and created a culture of fight in that unit. Mickey Arthur's reinforced that spirit and on top of that, they were fitter than any Pakistan team I've seen arriving in England for many years. The batting surprised me in a positive way. I thought the bowling would be the main threat and that was proven to be the case. I was really impressed with the discipline with the players all sticking their hands up at different times. It was one of the best Test series in England that I have seen for a long time so credit to the Pakistan team.
PakPassion.net : Being top of the ICC Test rankings is quite an achievement by Pakistan isn't it?
Michael Vaughan : Yes it is. Considering they have not played any home Test matches for so many years and they have not played that many away Test matches either. They are not used to English conditions or the Duke ball and to come here and draw a Test series against an England side that is so difficult to beat and to compete with them in English conditions was a tremendous effort. But, with Pakistan cricket I believe they always have that inner fight and I really do think they are fighters and take the fight to the opposition. Sometimes it doesn't always come off but the talent has never been in doubt, but what I've seen in this series was discipline, commitment and togetherness. I didn't see any falling out between the players or management and they looked like a cohesive and collective unit and that's down to Misbah getting them altogether. When you get players with that amount of talent and you can drive them forward with a spirit and ethic of being together as one, then Pakistan are always going to be a major threat.
PakPassion.net : Yasir Shah came to England with a big reputation. Do you think he justified all the hype?
Michael Vaughan : Yes, he started brilliantly and England didn't play him well at Lord's, then he struggled in the next two Tests and then he came back well in the last Test at The Oval. He's still only young and he's come out and got so many wickets so soon, so I guess expectations keep rising and everyone expects him to get five wickets every time he gets the ball in his hand and that's not going to be the case. I think he epitomises the Pakistan spirit because he's always out there up for the fight. He's an energiser, a bubbly character who shows a lot of spirit and he has that energy that you require at the highest level. Shane Warne had it and Yasir Shah has a long way to go to get to Warne's level but as a captain I'd like to have him in my team.
PakPassion.net : You've been praising Sarfraz Ahmed a lot recently, what appeals to you about him?
Michael Vaughan : I look at the game and think as a captain which players would I want in my side. I then look at the Pakistan team and which players I would want in my team. Now I know that the England team has many players I would want in my side, but Sarfraz Ahmed is that typical wicket-keeper/batsman who I call a pest, as he's creating questions for the bowlers whenever he goes out to bat. He is not just standing still and playing the same way. Instead, he's asking the bowler questions all of the time about where are you going to bowl, where am I looking to score and so on. His wicket-keeping can improve but I still think he is a high-class wicket-keeper and all of the great Pakistan sides that I have seen have always had a very busy and active wicket-keeper and I think Sarfraz is going to be one of those.
PakPassion.net : Your thoughts on Pakistan’s veteran batsmen who just keep on going?
Michael Vaughan : Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq, I just don't know how they are doing it at the age of thirty-eight and forty-two. I've no idea what tablets Misbah and Younis are on but I hope they can carry on for as long as they possibly can because they are great to watch.
PakPassion.net : Where do you stand on the Mohammad Amir debate regarding his return to international cricket?
Michael Vaughan : I'm very straight forward regarding this; anyone caught cheating shouldn't play cricket again, but I'm not one of those people who will say the same thing over and over again. It's happened, he's come back and he's a wonderful talent. At times during the series he showed us what a talent he is. Again he's got that fighting spirit that you want in the side and full credit to him to cope with the pressure and in particular that first week of the series because at Lord's you could tell he was nervous in that first spell, but he got better and better. The English crowds gave him a bit of stick but they were also respectful. The game needs talented players and he has said sorry and we should all move on with the game now.
PakPassion.net : Looking back at the tour by Pakistan, what was it like to commentate on from your perspective?
Michael Vaughan : Pakistan has always been my most enjoyable tourists to commentate on because, for example this series has brought great skills and competitive cricket for the past seven to eight weeks which we don't see enough of. A few of the One-Dayers were one-sided but Pakistan finished the series strongly and they were fantastic in the Test series. I wish Pakistan could tour England every year as it's always a very enjoyable and competitive series. I would certainly welcome them back on a regular basis.
PakPassion.net : What can the Pakistan One-Day team learn and take on board from the England One-Day team?
Michael Vaughan : I think Pakistan has the talent. England were rock-bottom after the World Cup and all they changed was the philosophy and culture. Pakistan need to be more aggressive with the bat. It's not going to change straight away but they need to look to get 330-340 rather than the 270-280 totals they are targeting. That just means being a little bolder and taking on the shots that little bit sooner. It might mean you get bowled out in the forty-second over a few times in trying to do so, but keep trying it as England have done and it can change around because all teams bat deep now down to number eight and nine so go a bit harder at the top of the order and in Sharjeel Khan and Azhar Ali they have the players to do that. Also, Imad Wasim who looks a very thoughtful and skillful player and Sarfraz Ahmed in that middle period as well, there is enough talent and skill and power to get the big scores.
PakPassion.net : The IT20 at Old Trafford, it felt more like Lahore than Manchester didn't it?
Michael Vaughan : I'd love to see the Pakistan team in England more often. You get a great atmosphere from their fans and you know the grounds are going to be full. The cricket has been hostile at times and it's been energetic and competitive and that for me is what cricket is all about. I don't like seeing one-sided series because we commentators get bored, the crowds get bored and there is no atmosphere in the ground. With a good team like Pakistan in the mix, you can sense like you did at Old Trafford that the crowd is thinking what's going to happen as nobody knows who will win. Coming to that game, Pakistan won that match because they played better on the day, but if you played the same match three days later then England could play better on the day to win that one and that's what I call a real, close competitive series and not a too one-sided one.
PakPassion.net : What are your memories of touring Pakistan?
Michael Vaughan : It was tough to go out there and play. It's a shame that there is no international cricket in Pakistan. Who knows what will happen in the future. Considering Pakistan doesn't have cricket on its home soil it's remarkable how competitive they have been. The pitches in UAE are similar to the likes of Lahore and Karachi, but still to have your home base counts for a lot and I think they are coping with it really well. I hope in time international cricket eventually will be played once again in Pakistan but I would say with the current climate and all of the politics around the world it's going to be very difficult in the next few years to do so.
PakPassion.net : What are your memories of facing the likes of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis and other Pakistani greats?
Michael Vaughan : I always look back and think, God I got a hundred against Wasim and Waqar who are deemed two of the greatest fast bowlers to have ever played cricket. I think that the era of Wasim, Waqar, Javed Miandad was a great one for Pakistan. I loved the way Miandad played the game. Also Inzamam what a great batsman he was.