"There was no agreement in place to play a tri-series in Zimbabwe" : Shaharyar Khan
by Amir Husain

Player:Mohammad Hafeez, Adnan Rasool, Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif, Salman Butt, Raza Hasan

DateLine: 25th July 2015


www.PakPassion.net is the exclusive source for the following interview.


A seasoned former diplomat and the current Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Shaharyar Khan has fast established a reputation for sound leadership and also undertaken some bold steps to ensure that international cricket makes a return to Pakistan. In this regards, the recently concluded tour by the Zimbabwe team has earned him plaudits from friends and foes alike.


In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, the Chairman of PCB spoke on a variety of topics including the steps being undertaken by his administration to counter the menace of illegal bowling actions, matters relating to the India-Pakistan cricket series, the prospects of more international cricket on Pakistan soil, the status of the Pakistan Super League and what is preventing Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif from resuming their cricket careers.


PakPassion.net : How disappointed are you that one of the leading cricketers from Pakistan, Mohammad Hafeez, has been banned from bowling for twelve months?
Shaharyar Khan : I am disappointed because Hafeez came through the test and was cleared by the ICC earlier but they have questioned him again on this issue. Having said that, I feel that the main point of Hafeez’s presence in the national team is his batting. His bowling has become rather marginal in the last year or two. The fact that he will not be able to bowl is a disappointment but not a major blow for us. He can still continue batting and play an important role for our team.


PakPassion.net : Is the PCB considering launching an appeal against the decision to ban Mohammad Hafeez from bowling?
Shaharyar Khan : We will consider that option, although as things stand right now, we don’t have all the details about the situation to make a complete judgment. I will add that, in general, I am against such appeals as I really don’t think they get you very far.


PakPassion.net : Where does the fault lie in this case? Is it with the player or the coaching staff who should have taken care not to violate any rules?
Shaharyar Khan : Let me tell you that I met Hafeez whilst he was practicing to correct his action. He worked very hard with our coaches and especially with Saqlain Mushtaq as well as Mushtaq Ahmed. They were trying to help him and Saeed Ajmal and they went through a very thorough process. Sometimes, you have a kink in your action which is very difficult to remove. Although I did see for myself that Hafeez’s renewed action looked alright but then that is with the naked eye. Once you put all that through minute camera angles then it makes a difference.


To answer your question, I don’t think this is the fault of the coaches or even the player himself. You are born, so to speak, with this action and you carry it through so I wouldn’t put blame on anyone for this situation.


PakPassion.net : What is the Pakistan Cricket Board doing to battle the scourge of illegal bowling actions which has now claimed Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez as its victims?
Shaharyar Khan : It is very much a fundamental problem. Even when I was the chairman seven or eight years ago, I noticed that most First-Class teams were carrying one or two bowlers with doubtful bowling actions. So, even then I was well aware of the gravity of the problem and it was I who arranged for the specialist equipment to be ordered and sent to Pakistan so that we could monitor the situation. However, after I left the post of the Chairman at that time, this process was put into low gear and we didn’t progress for about six or seven years.


But now, we have again realized that it’s very important to have a laboratory that tests bowler’s action since we have a large number of bowlers who have doubtful actions. It appears that there is no off-spinner in Pakistan who has a clean action as they all seem to model themselves on Muttiah Muralitharan or Saeed Ajmal and consequently, they will not pass the test on their bowling actions.


We all know about Lahore Lion’s bowler Adnan Rasool who was more or less the second best off-spinner in the country and he was also called for a suspect action during the previous edition of the Champions League Twenty20 in India. I am sure that there are many others like him too. But there is hope, as we are planning to install within the next month or two, a laboratory which will have the capability to photograph in minute detail the bowling actions. This will help us in identifying the bowlers who have doubtful actions and then allow our coaches to help correct such problems. This issue from now onwards will be handled in a scientific manner which will help us improve matters.


PakPassion.net : The whole world is looking forward to the long awaited India Pakistan series, can you provide us with an update about any progress in terms of agreeing dates with the BCCI?
Shaharyar Khan : We have been talking consistently to BCCI. They have never doubted the fact that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in which we play five series with India over the next eight years. The first of these series is scheduled to take place in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah in December of this year. So the dates are very clear, the venues are agreed as well. What is holding us back from making the final announcements are a few factors.


The first one is that the BCCI, rightfully so, have said that the MoU was signed and approved by the former government in India. Since then, we have a new elected government in India and it is only right that we ask them to give the clearance to the MoU to play in UAE and the four other series thereafter. We are, therefore, waiting for the green light from the BJP government and as soon as it is given the BCCI says that they are committed to honoring the MoU to play with Pakistan in the UAE. So that aspect is very clear.


Another hurdle in this process, is the issue of broadcasting rights. As you know, we have signed an agreement with Ten Sports whereas the BCCI have some financial and judicial problems with Ten Sports. This has been taken up with the management of Ten Sports and I believe that there is progress on this and this matter should be cast aside and the only matter that should remain is the permission from the BJP government.


Lately, there are signs that there is a political improvement in the relations between India and Pakistan although I personally do not feel that cricket should be part of any political relationship. Politics should be pushed aside and cricket should stand on its own. Politics are always up and down with India and Pakistan so that should not affect our holding the series as agreed. So that’s where we stand as of now and in a nutshell, in the next month or so we should be over all these hurdles and play our series in December. It will be a very significant landmark series between India and Pakistan and not just for these two countries but for the cricketing world in general. As you may know, this series has been described as more important than the Ashes series and we look forward to this series just like we did in 2004 which is the time when India came to Pakistan to play a fantastic series.


PakPassion.net : Are you confident about the series actually going ahead, given the impression that BCCI seem to frequently renege on their commitments in such matters?
Shaharyar Khan : I really cannot comment on this. All I will say is that our dealings with the BCCI have been very satisfactory and we have no complaints on that account. They have put everything up front and been very honest with us. They have said that they need their government’s approval and we have accepted their stance on this. I do not see any problems in their dealings with us, however I cannot comment on what is happening within BCCI on this subject. What I can say with some confidence is that I have very good relations, currently, with the BCCI but then I have also had good relations with the past Chairmen of the BCCI like Mr. Jagmohan Dalmiya and Mr. Sharad Pawar. I know them all very well and have very good relations with them.


PakPassion.net : The hunger for international cricket on home soil was there for all to see during the Zimbabwe series but can we expect any more series in Pakistan in the near future?
Shaharyar Khan : Yes, we are working on future series with Test playing countries. In this regard, we are talking to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and there might be other countries who would be interested in visiting Pakistan to play cricket. As you know, we have many associate members visit us in the past such as Kenya and Afghanistan, with other countries like Nepal and Namibia also expressing their interest. So we can get associate members to visit us without a problem and we hope that will encourage the senior or Test playing countries to visit us as well, as it did in the case of Zimbabwe.


The Zimbabwe visit was very heart-warming and I will tell you why. We had expected a good series but what we hadn’t expected was a fantastic series which is what we got. The spectators were marvelous, absolutely superb. They were disciplined, welcoming and hospitable. I cannot express in words how young boys and girls, school and university students came out and offered a marvelous welcome to our players as well as the visiting Zimbabwe players. The Zimbabwe players were treated as heroes in Pakistan.


So, hopefully we will be able to get some Test playing nations to visit us but the main thing to headline is that this will not happen suddenly. It’s not like that we have Zimbabwe today and tomorrow we have England, New Zealand and South Africa arriving at our doorsteps. It will happen slowly and will take several years but the process has to start somewhere and thankfully it has started.


Let me add to that by saying that I have had very sympathetic discussions with the people in the ICC, the ECB and others who want to consider the possibility of international XIs coming to Pakistan. By this I mean that this could be an ICC XI tour or a Commonwealth tour or it could be a tour of that kind involving international players who visit Pakistan with full security. But as I said, the doors are gradually opening up.


PakPassion.net : Can you give us an update on the progress of preparations for the Pakistan Super League. When are you expecting this tournament to take place?
Shaharyar Khan : We are hoping to have it by spring, around February/March next year. Whereas we would like to go ahead with this plan and prepare well ahead of time, there is a problem regarding the venues. Since security reasons prevent the top players like Glenn Maxwell and AB de Villiers or Mitchell Johnson from coming to Pakistan, at least for the time being, we would like to hold this tournament in UAE. The UAE officials are telling us that the venues may not be available during the dates that we want them for the tournament but we are working with them to resolve this issue.


We do have other options which involve venues in other parts of the world but that in itself requires a lot of planning and discussion. Our first priority was to have it in the UAE and then in the next year or the year after to have it in Pakistan. Negotiations are still in progress for holding this tournament in the UAE and we hope to have a resolution and announcements for the dates for the PSL in the next couple of weeks.


PakPassion.net : In terms of alternate venues, Doha in Qatar has been mentioned a few times. Is that the case and also is there a final decision on the name of the league?
Shaharyar Khan : Yes, as I stated, we have considered other options and Doha (Qatar) is one of them. In terms of the name of the league, that aspect is being handled by my colleague Najam Sethi and the marketing department who have my blessings and authority to go ahead and make a call on this. They are travelling to UAE and Qatar to make sure that arrangements are in place and I think things will come to a head very soon.


PakPassion.net : With Mohammad Amir already playing domestic cricket, what is the update on Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt’s road to redemption and reinstatement to Pakistan cricket?
Shaharyar Khan : I am very clear on this issue. Mohammad Amir has served his sentence and past the period where he has been kept under observation. He is now free from September to play First-Class cricket. Until now he has played Grade II cricket and done fairly well. If he does well in First-Class cricket, then there is absolutely no reason why he shouldn’t make it to the top. So that is the situation with Amir and everyone is looking forward to his return.


As regards to Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif, the matter is still with the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) as they wish to speak to both players. The reason is that they are not totally satisfied with the announcements and explanations given by these two players, vis-à-vis their participation in the spot-fixing activities.


During the ICC meeting in Barbados, we were briefed by the ACSU on this issue and it is quite clear that they would like to speak to both players and to re-assure themselves that they are regretful and contrite about what they have done and accept the full responsibility for their misdemeanors. This, in the view of the ACSU, has not been made clear in the statements by the two players. This is mainly true of Salman Butt although Mohammad Asif also seems to be following his lead in this process. In summary, the future of Butt and Asif is dependent upon how quickly the ACSU clears their names on the same lines as Amir. Their cases are quite clearly in a different category to Amir.


PakPassion.net : With the recent banning of Raza Hasan on charges of doping and the issues about behaviour of certain other players in mind, what steps is the PCB taking to address the issue of discipline?
Shaharyar Khan : Let me first say that the present team has been very good at discipline and I have absolutely no qualms about their attitude or behaviour. In fact, I have had feedback from international observers from the time we played in the 2015 World Cup, the Bangladesh series and the visit by the Zimbabwe team that the behaviour of the Pakistan team has been exceptional. Everyone, from the Match Referees to the management were happy with the team. We play the game in the right spirit without sledging, angry exchanges and other nonsense and we seem to have that under control. Haroon Rasheed and the Head Coach, Waqar Younis have been instrumental in maintaining discipline in the team.


As regards to this drug taking issue, it’s very much an individual matter. This boy, Raza, who is a promising talent and a very good bowler did not pass the drugs test, with the results revealing some material that is banned and he was therefore banned for two years. He has appealed on some technical grounds but regardless, as I have stated before that this is an individual case and discipline has generally been very good.


PakPassion.net : The PCB is facing criticism from some quarters for backing down from playing in the tri-series in Zimbabwe against the hosts and West Indies. Why the sudden change of heart?
Shaharyar Khan : We have an agreement in place with Zimbabwe Cricket that we will tour there in return for their tour of Pakistan, so there is no question about that happening at some point in future. However there was no agreement in place to play a tri-series in Zimbabwe. There was some misreporting previously that we had agreed to a tri-series, when actually no agreement was in place to play against West Indies and Zimbabwe. So for some to say we backed-down from something that we had not agreed to is wrong.


(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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