Rashid Latif, the latest chief selector of the Pakistan side, is a happy man. For one, Shahid Afridi found his touch with the bat against arch-rivals India in a last-over win to give credence to Latif’s belief in him. And secondly, the former Pakistan wicketkeeper believes that the current side is experienced enough to challenge for the World Cup next year. He explains why and more, in a conversation with The Indian Express. Excerpts.
How significant is this last-over win against India for Pakistan?
Very significant. Pakistan have had suffered many a jolt of late. There have been controversies, poor performances and uncertainties. I believe the win against India not only will bring in positive vibes but will also give the team a huge lift. Victories are warmly feted by both sets of fans in this clash (India-Pakistan encounters) and the whole nation is very happy that we won the game.
Shahid Afridi’s performance had been under the scanner, especially with the bat. Will this knock will help him regain his confidence?
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Shahid has always been a very important player for us. After Shoaib Akhtar retired, he’s easily the biggest star in the country. We don’t have big movie stars like in Bollywood. Naturally, everyone’s happy that he won us the game with the bat. But here’s the thing with him. He’s now one of our premier bowlers. When he will play a good innings, he will win us matches. It happened against India. He has a clearly-defined role and has been doing his job very well as a senior player in the team.
Did you see any similarities between R Ashwin’s final over and Chetan Sharma’s famous final ball?
It’s obvious that people will compare this with our win in Sharjah in 1986. Javed Miandad had clinched it with a last ball six off Chetan. And it gave us such a big psychological upper hand that India couldn’t beat us in an ODI for the next five-six years. I hope this win also gives us a similar morale boost. Chetan was a very good bowler and it was one of those deliveries. But such is the nature of India-Pakistan ties that even minor slip-ups are hardly forgotten. This is one match that makes heroes and zeros. Like Chetan, Ashwin, too, might have to bear this for the rest of his career. He didn’t bowl badly and Shahid even had a mis-hit. But he’s so powerful that the ball cleared the ropes.
You’ve been given the job to build a team for the World Cup. What are your plans to build a successful side?
In Mohammad Hafeez, Misbah ul-Haq, Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi, Junaid Khan and Ahmed Shehzad we already have the core. They will go to the World Cup. Abdul Razzaq, too, will be there if he’s fit. And there are some really talented young players in the team.This is an exciting time for Pakistan cricket.
The last time the World Cup was played in Australia-New Zealand, Pakistan won. Can Misbah do an Imran?
To win a tournament like the World Cup, you need more than just good players and a great captain. You need luck as well. That team returned from the brink to win the title. They did it because they had the champion’s luck and also showed enormous character. It was basically an inexperienced team with Inzamam-ul-Haq, Ijaz Ahmed, Aaqib Javed and Moin Khan. Imran, Miandad and Wasim Akram were the three experienced players. This team has plenty of experience on their side. And it has the right mixture of youth as well.
As PCB’s anti-corruption chief, how are you planning to rid Pakistan cricket of corruption?
It’s not the job of an individual. The PCB and ICC are working jointly. We are trying to ensure that only the players with good characters come into the team. We are checking their past. And we are putting a lot of emphasis on that, because it’s imperative to have a clean past. We are holding seminars to educate young players.
It must be a challenging post, considering that Pakistan cricket has always been riddled with controversies.
We’ve got to stop these controversies. We’ve to check if our system is faulty and if there are loopholes, and plug them. But corruption in cricket is a global problem, not just ours.
Do you think that the PCB’s decision of not supporting the ICC overhaul might affect Pakistan cricket?
What happened was wrong. Just three countries can’t be the guardians of the game. India is already a cricketing superpower, so their constant need to stamp their authority on the rest of us makes no sense. If they need more money, they could always play more matches with Pakistan. It’s the biggest money-spinner in all of cricket, after all.