Interview of Cricket Fans – 43 – Pakistan

Thank you so much for your participation in this interview, tell us how did you fall in love with Cricket.

My earliest memory of falling in love with cricket was an evening, surrounded by family and all of them glued to the TV. It was raining sixes on TV by Shahid Afridi – the young, the very aggressive. Lala made me fall in love with the game and I will forever be grateful to him for that.

Have you been fortunate enough to watch an international match live in a stadium? If yes, what was the experience like?

Last year, in December 2019, I got lucky enough to witness the 5th day of Pak-SL test match in Rawalpindi at cricket homecoming. The ground was buzzing, even though it was a clear draw but everyone came out to cheer for our heroes. From young kids to elderly people, everyone was chanting and it was surreal.

Rawalpindi has always been enthusiastic to welcome cricket and the thumping passion of the crowd was self-explanatory.

Cricket has returned to Pakistan, must be a special feeling this since it has returned after 10 years or so.

Looks like a festival, to be very honest. I attended the test series and PSL at homecoming and people were literally enjoying themselves out there. There is nothing that makes Pakistanis happier than biryani and Pakistan winning a cricket match. So, that shows how important cricket is for us.

Apart from Imran Khan, who is the best Pakistan captain in your opinion?

I believe a captain is the one who leads the team by setting an example. I would always have chosen Shahid Afridi because he led the team to straight two semifinals (both of them have been stained to our hearts for life, that’s another fact), but again, his performance as a batsman in most of the crucial matches wasn’t up to the mark. So, Shahid Afridi is a controversial vote.

I would choose Wasim Akram as a better captain since he made one of the strongest teams of all World Cups Pakistan has ever participated in. Unlucky as a captain, we lost the match but I believe he had the spark to take us to another level. 

Pakistan has this knack of producing fearsome bowlers, who is your favourite pace bowler of all time of Pakistan?

This is a no brainer for me. It has to be Shoaib Akhtar. He was fierce, ferocious and he carried his attitude in style. Yes, I am biased on his name because we both belong to the same city. I grew up watching his blazing spells and he has been one of the most successful bowlers for us.

In modern cricket, I sincerely pray, Shaheen Afridi gets to live up the hype he has been under. He is a fireball.

Babar Azam, we all have seen what he can do in the international stage, how important will he be for Pakistan in the years to come?

Babar Azam is the next big thing in modern cricket but I believe he has to work on his finishing skills and that is where he is lacking at the moment. People have been criticizing a lot on him lately due to his fluctuating strike rate but I believe if you have someone in your middle order who is a capable finisher, or at least can make it easy enough for the rest of them to follow, we have enough.

In the recent ENG tour, he has been exceptional but it would have been cherry on top for us if he had been able to turn his fifties into tons. Glass is half full for him at the moment but he will get there, InshaAllah.

Apart from Babar Azam, who is the other batsman that you feel can match up to his ability?

Haider Ali is the young gun and the best thing about him is his attacking mindset. That’s the key to the game, instead of absorbing pressure, reflect it. We saw his incredible innings in the 3rd T20I against England and I can’t wait to see more of how he can lift up the wood.

Sarfaraz Ahmed has won you a Champions Trophy in 2017 but he doesn’t have much else to show in his CV, would you still back him further as captain or would you give the captaincy to Babar Azam in all three formats?

The reason Sarfaraz Ahmed is not in the playing XI is more because of his batting rather than his captaincy skills. If he had been capable enough, he would have been there and helping Babar out with crucial decisions – as we used to see Dhoni guiding Kohli in his early days.

I would say that he can still be in the team, without being a crowned captain, just a fair enough batsman and it will end up as a win-win for us.

Pakistan – India rivalry is huge, isn’t it? Which is your favourite match between these two teams? Mention your favourite Indian cricketer of all time as well.

I had to travel to Kashmir back in 2007 while Pakistan was touring India. It was the 2nd ODI at Mohali and I requested my parents to wait for India’s innings to finish and then we can leave. I remember the Indian dressing room was getting ready to celebrate Sachin’s ton but he was caught behind off Umar Gul by Kamran Akmal on 99. I jumped high enough not because Sachin was dismissed but because Kamran Akmal didn’t drop it.

India had scored 321 in that match and Pakistan won by 4 wickets, with Younis Khan crowned as the man of the match. It is memorable because I had listened to Pakistan’s innings on the radio all the way from Kashmir (yeah, signals weren’t popular back then). Listening to any match on the radio isn’t easy and imagine following it while Pakistan is chasing. But yes, the CT final will always stay special for all of us for all of the reasons.

I always have loved Rahul Dravid and still do. What a humble, gentle and smooth cricketer India has been blessed with. He has been exceptional for India back in his playing days and still is doing his best with the youngsters. He isn’t mentioned much but know that he is loved immensely on this side of the border.

Who are you rooting for in the National T20 Cup? Who is that one Cricketer you will keep a close eye on?

I cannot root for any team in the National T20 Cup. I thought earlier, I can but now I have experienced it, so my heart is divided for all of them. Rather, I would like some collective and comprehensive positive result for team Pakistan as a result of this tournament in the form of young talent. Let’s not let them warm the bench anymore.

There are many young cricketers whom I want to be a part of our team. Apart from Haider, I follow Zeeshan Malik and Umer Khan. I hope they do their best.

Your all-time Pakistan XI?

Imran Khan
Saeed Anwar
Younis Khan
Muhammad Yousaf
Moin Khan
Wasim Akram
Waqar Younis
Abdur Razzaq
Shahid Afridi/Abdur Razzaq
Saqlain Mushtaq
Shoaib Akhtar

Thank You Waqar Farid for this comment on my previous post.

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