The ABC from Zed: Zaheer Abbas

How do you assess the current Pakistan team?
“Well, a top class off-spinner is not there, a left-arm spinner’s not there. The fast-bowers are always getting injured. The batting, apart from a couple, is inconsistent. No real settled opening pair, which is very important. Pakistan are in a re-building process at this point of time. We have a few mature-players. For the past seven-eight years Pakistan cricket has gone down a bit and we have to look into this. Players have taken their places for granted because there are no replacements. Money has come in to the game so that players now can play 10 or 15 Test Matches and become millionaires quite quickly. So what they are trying to do and are satisfied doing is playing just a couple of games. Their minds aren’t always focussed on the game. So the emphasis on putting country before self because there is nothing else to play for, isn’t there."

So what is the solution you propose?
“Maybe we need to concentrate more on the junior development to get the boys becoming men. At that level you need to see if a player can deliver the goods for the state team. The front-line problems show the background. If you’re going wrong somewhere, you have to find the underlying reason."

How do you compare Pakistan with other teams?
“The other teams are mentally strong. India’s Tests against Pakistan were won by people like Dravid who even though they were not in the best of touch, did the necessary for their team when it mattered. Look at England now, they’ve come up so much because of their attitude. You can tell it is a big difference from my days (in county cricket in the 70s and 80s). At Pakistan’s best they are a match for anybody but there is no replacement for Inzamam and the non-front line bowlers are mediocre and there are no spinners for Kaneria, who is showing much improvement, to work with."

How would you have played Murali and Warne?
“It’s not for me to say, but I think that maybe they have taken many wickets in the past ten or so years by bowling to batsmen who don’t know how to play spin. I can’t say that they wouldn’t have taken so many, they are good bowlers, but I know what the standard is. Had they been bowling in my era, they would have taken wickets but not so many.”

Do you think India’s rise can be sustained?
“I would like to see Pakistan winning more but India are a very good team and winning against Australia in the last Test of the series in India showed all the qualities of mental strength and strong stamina that have raised them up. But if they are to be taking ground advantage where 20 wickets can fall in a day, then that is not an advance in the true standards. But full credit to them.”

What about India against Pakistan coming up?
“It will be close of course. But actually I would like to see India playing Pakistan not every year but every two or three years, to keep the special quality of it. Whenever India-Pakistan plays the whole world stops and takes notice!”

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