Cautious Ramiz backs Misbah, urges team to be aggressive

KARACHI: While terming recently appointed head coach-cum-chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq as a ‘safe and sensible asset’, Ramiz Raja insists Pakistan needs to shed old approach and embrace aggression which has long been the country’s forte in international cricket.

In an exclusive interview with Dawn, the former skipper-turned-commentator also welcomed the revolutionary changes brought about by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to the domestic structure while saying the level of competitiveness would eventually benefit the national side across all three formats in terms of team selection to compete with the top sides of the world.

Commenting on Misbah’s appointment after the PCB opted against renewing Mickey Arthur’s contract following Pakistan’s failure to qualify for the knockout phase of the ICC World Cup on net run-rate, Ramiz said it is a gamble to have coach who is totally raw to the job.

“I think Misbah got the nod because Pakistan didn’t have anyone else. Moreover, as an individual he’s someone who has proven himself as a safe and sensible asset. However, I just would be worrying about the approach though [given his reputation as Test captain who preferred the safe option],” Ramiz, who is also an ex-PCB chief executive, remarked.

“Pakistan need to be aggressive because that’s in our cricketing DNA. Look at how well we play T20s only we are being aggressive. But having said that may be the format doesn’t allow us to do anything else but it works and that’s why we are ranked No.1 in the world.

“I think the same [T20] approach will serve us well in 50-over games and Tests. We have become timid in our selection choices for both the longer formats and fall back on players for safety reasons rather than taking a chance with someone who may be raw but has a ticker to win on the day,” he added.

“Our game plan has bordered on safety and old school tactics. We must start afresh and as part of a build-up towards that dream by adopting aggressive mindset in selection at all tiers so that the entire system is given a jolt and directed to follow that theme. This aggressive mindset has to permeate the entire system, not just the Pakistan team[s],” he continued.

“Coming to Misbah as chief selector, it is an intriguing choice because giving complete powers to one person in our system can be tricky. In fact, it backfired in England when Ray Illingworth, who was the captain in the 1970s, was given the dual role.

“I think the only problem is that players in the dressing room would develop fear of Misbah rather than having a bonding with him as their coach. A player who he doesn’t think of much will have no chance but to face the situation during the three-year coaching/selection stint. Massive checks and balances would have to be put in place to see that such scenarios do not occur.”

Meanwhile, Ramiz also backed the choice of Waqar Younis as the national team’s bowling coach. “Waqar wants to coach and I wish him well. In the past, he had been part of the dressing room as Pakistan coach and so I hope and pray that this time around he would have a settled and a happy time of it. But we would miss him in the commentary box!”

Arthur, Ramiz reckoned, did his best but could not achieve the best results for Pakistan.

“The departure of Mickey was on the cards. He did try his hardest and helped Pakistan forge ahead in T20s but I think he would admit himself that Pakistan were nowhere near close to their best in Tests and ODIs. Nevertheless, he gave his best and worked with a lot of passion,” Ramiz asserted.

“In my view, the less number of personnel in the support staff in our dressing room the better. If you have not been able to locate a good batting coach there’s no need to jump the gun. Let it be. I think we forget that a strong cricket system produces strong talent and super-imposing someone in the shape of a coach is not the way champions are made.

“Lastly with the T20 World Cup looming in the background I feel we need to find a T20 coach for Pakistan and not risk it with Misbah. He is young and new to the job and may not be able to mange so many formats and different group of players,” stated Ramiz.

Ramiz also suggested replacing the captain for the longer formats.

“I would vote for change in the captaincy too. I would keep Sarfraz Ahmed as captain only for T20s, if at all. We need to look for other options in other formats. A shelf life of any captain or coach is generally for 3-4 years.”

Ramiz said the forthcoming domestic season would be a big test for all stakeholders, the PCB as well as the players.

“Having fewer teams will make our domestic set-up more competitive. It would be easier for fans to follow the first-class season with lesser number of teams and just one system which is now provincial and city-based. The entire season would be easy to manage and to be aired on TV,” Ramiz, who previously had been a strong supporter of departmental cricket, observed.

“Not only does it allow players with better monetary contracts but importantly we will see more quality than quantity.

“Of course it will take time to settle down and it needs to be managed well too. Any promising system and beginning needs good managers and administrators for it to be a success. Special efforts will have to be made to get good people/administrators running different tiers of our first-class and sub first-class cricket. I also think selection process of first-class teams has to be left with the provincial associations to give them ownership of talent and territory.

“I believe it’s a novel idea to do away with toss. It would mean that pitches will be difficult to doctor in favour of home sides. I would go further and would want two or three centres to experiment with drop in pitches of different styles like pace, bounce and spin. It will offer challenge for players to adjust and adapt and hugely benefit them when they go on future tours,” Ramiz concluded.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2019

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