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'Ganguly's done much better than Inzy'

March 23, 2005 18:28 IST
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Rameez Raja had it all. A perfect upbringing, the cricketing pedigree (he is the younger brother of the celebrated Pakistani all-rounder Wasim Raja) and the technique needed to succeed at the highest level. After he retired from the game, he has become a much sought after television commentator.

Rameez RajaThe former opener was also chief executive of the Pakistan Cricket Board. He resigned from that post in August 2004, citing increasing media commitments.

Thus, having been there and seen it all, Rameez is well-versed in the nitty-gritty of Pakistan cricket. Senior Cricket Correspondent Ashish Magotra caught up with the former Pakistan captain to discuss, among other issues, Pakistan's chances of squaring the ongoing series in the Bangalore Test, beginning on Thursday.

Every time I speak to someone outside the Pakistan team, they have something bad to say about the side. It can't really be that bad, because Pakistan does have some good talent. What really is wrong?

This team has been overly criticised at times. No youngster is a finished article; he needs to spend some time at the top level to become good. I think people with vested interests take a negative line on how cricket is being run and unjustly criticize our cricketers. I think the best thing for them would be to come up with a solution also. Criticism should be constructive.

You have been in the hot seat yourself, as PCB chairman. You know exactly what happens.

Most of these cricketers have been in the hot seat themselves, as cricketers and administrators also. So I don't understand the logic of presenting a negative picture without presenting a solution to it.

Obviously, when you lose, you have problems. The main thing is to deal with the problem and allow the players to breathe freely. I think we need to give them space. That is why these boys are always under pressure.

After getting his century at Kolkata, Younis Khan hit back at his critics in a very vengeful manner.

The game, as you know, is so unpredictable that you can be a hero one day and a zero the other. I think we need to be very careful when we look at a player's talent. Younis did have a very lean Test match in Mohali, but he came back very strongly.

You have to present both sides of the player; the positive and the negative. I believe Younis Khan has done a fair job batting at number three in Test cricket. He averages above 40 in both Tests and ODIs. He bats at the number three position, where some of the established players were not willing to go.

This team has a problem for sure. Their bowling attack has not looked sharp. But, on the positive side, they are fighting and that is what is expected of a young team. It is a tremendous opportunity for youngsters, like Yasir Hameed, Salman Butt and Danish Kaneria, to play well.

I mean we even felt the pressure when we toured India in 1986 though we had a very good team. The noise, the people, the pitches and the environment all add to the pressure.

With so much India-Pakistan cricket being played, don't you think the intensity of old is being lost?

It is always intense. Intensity has not gone from the competition and will never go. India has been winning the last few matches so people take it as if the intensity has gone. Mohali was intense as was Kolkata. I can never imagine the intensity will ever lessen.

Who do you feel are the biggest and brightest talents for Pakistan?

Ironically, the two who didn't play in Kolkata. Butt and Hameed are both very talented. Asim Kamal is very talented. He may not come across as gifted or talented as a few other players, but he is very committed and that's what makes the difference at the highest level.

Like Rahul Dravid, for instance; he is so focussed on his game that nothing disturbs him.

Kamal is similar. He is a very good player against spinners and pacemen alike. He can go places and I believe he will. The bench strength in the batting department is good, but to win Test matches one needs to take wickets -- 20 of them. 

In Kolkata, Pakistan misread the pitch. Mohammad Khalil was wasted. They should have gone for Arshad Khan and now they probably will do that in Bangalore.

How does Pakistan win at Bangalore. In your opinion what do they need to do?

It is very important for them not to be totally scared by the defeat at Kolkata. They will, obviously, be a little down. It was very hot; the crowd was one-sided. So that sort of doubles your pain. They needed to hang in there for the first 50 overs without any major damage. Had they done that they would have been able to draw the game. That would have been a big result for them, but they threw it away.

For Bangalore, they need a mental lift. I think they need a few very strong team meetings. They need to plan. They had no plan for Rahul Dravid. It was easy to see how the Aussies blocked his off-side play. They put two fielders on the on-side and stuck to a middle-leg line.

They have tackled Sourav Ganguly well; used the short ball effectively.

Virender Sehwag -- you can never have a plan. They have had plans for certain players but the most damaging player was Dravid and they didn't seem to have a plan for him. So they need to sort that out first.

Pakistan also needs to figure out how to play Anil Kumble in the fourth innings. They need to play well in the first innings so that there is not a lot of pressure in the fourth innings when Kumble is rampant and becomes almost unplayable.

You have played with both Inzamam and Imran Khan. How do they differ as individuals?

A huge personality difference! Inzamam is low key; Imran was a very expressive captain. But, at the end of the day, a captain is only as good as his players. Under Imran, we straightaway found someone like Wasim Akram and then Waqar Younis. When you have two of the best bowlers in the world playing for you it eases up matters considerably. We had quality spinners also.

Now, the cupboard is not as full as before. Inzamam has to do a lot as captain, because his bowlers are not world-class. He is not the best captain Pakistan has had, but he is respected and, right now, he is probably the best option we have.

Who do you back in Bangalore?

India is the clear favourite. They won the last Test and they will be raring to go. But I don't know whether they will be playing for a win or a draw. I mean the series is theirs for the taking; they can't lose. But the Indian team is playing smart cricket and one trusts them to do the right thing. The senior crop is very, very intelligent.

Pakistan has no choice. They need to strategise. But you have to have players who can do the job for you. It's not going to be easy.

Sourav Ganguly's captaincy was a little defensive in Kolkata.

Obviously, Sourav is under pressure because of his lack of batting form. When he goes out to bat he is still thinking like a captain. That lack of confidence seems to be rubbing off on his captaincy as well.

Take the case of Dinesh Karthik. He looked very flat at Mohali and the runs he made in Kolkata have given him such a big boost.

Another factor might be that he (Ganguly) has so many senior players around him offering advice. That can also dilute your thinking a bit.

Basically, the trick for Sourav is to get runs under his belt and the rest will fall into place. Ganguly could have a done a lot better.

Ganguly versus Inzamam. Head-to-head, who's the better captain?

Obviously, Ganguly's done better; much better. Ganguly's won Test matches for India; identified new players and stuck with them. He has settled well into the job.

And even though Inzamam has been around as skipper for almost two years he is still feeling his way through. He keeps losing crucial players and has not found the replacements. He also has problems with other players.

I mean, Shoaib has an attitude problem. He can be nasty on the field; he is very moody. My problem would be that he gets us bad headlines all the time, and we have to answer to stuff on and off the field. It can get tough for a skipper.

Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

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