DateLine: 23rd March 2010
Former Pakistani stalwart Basit Ali, recently speaking exclusively with *PakPassion.net*, has categorically rebutted allegations in some sections of the media that there was a rift between Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan during the 2009 ODI series in the UAE.
According to Basit, there was no such rift between Pakistan’s two leading batsmen, and the allegations are “absolutely untrue. Had there been any differences, why would Yousuf have specifically called for Younis Khan’s inclusion in the team in Australia?”, Basit countered. Referring to the team’s performance Down Under, Basit lamented the fact that despite Yousuf’s requests, the PCB refused to select Younis for the Test series, and instead, wrongly sent him for the ODIs.
In an extensive and wide-ranging interview with *PakPassion.net*, the full transcript of which will be posted in the next few days, Basit also commented on the recent bans imposed by the PCB on certain players, including on Yousuf and Younis. He felt that these bans were an act of revenge by Yawar Saeed, former manager of the Pakistan cricket team.
“When Younis became captain, he wanted [a management and coaching team of] young, committed people with him. Unfortunately, Ijaz Butt gave him elderly people, such as Yawar Saeed, and a rift started, leading to the bans now”, was Basit’s view.
Basit, renowned in his youth as a hard-hitting batsman who took on the great West Indian pace bowlers and conquered them (*albeit all too briefly*), also questioned the selective imposition of the bans on the players only, and wondered why the team management was not fined or banned as well. “Why is it just the players? Aqib, Intikhab, etc were there too, but are not banned? In fact, Intikhab was made Director of the NCA, so he has been given another good job – why?”, Basit continued.
*Captaincy Issues and Younis Khan’s return*
Basit also discussed the reasons Younis Khan had left the captaincy in 2009 after the ODI series in the UAE. The main reason was “player politics”, he felt. “During and after that tour, a few players who did not even deserve to be in the team, guys like Salman Butt, Misbah-ul-Haq, etc, and also players like Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik, were doing politics which led to Younis’ departure”, Basit continued.
In Basit’s view, despite the bans, the PCB will be forced to recall Younis Khan for this summer’s Test tour to the England. “Younis was the only true patriot amongst all these players. He fears and has hope in Allah alone, so what other people do cannot affect him. In my view, Younis Khan will definitely play for Pakistan again and mark my words, he will be captaining the Pakistan team against England this summer”, Basit boldly predicted.
“The Board will be forced to make him the captain for that series – there is no other option. In particular, if the Twenty20 World Cup doesn’t go well, the Board will go through further huge upheavals, even bigger than the recent bans and fines etc.” Basit also felt that Pakistan’s captain for the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies should be *Shahid Khan Afridi*, saying that “people are talking up Salman Butt’s chances, but Salman doesn’t even deserve to be in the T/20 team!”
*Pakistan team for the ICC World Twenty20*
Basit was one of the selectors who picked the world title winning World Twenty20 squad in 2009, and thus has ample on-the-job experience of being a PCB Selector. He criticised Salman Butt’s selection for this year’s tournament, given that Salman Butt was not a Twenty20 player, and expressed his concerns at Imran Nazir missing out on selection.
Working off his international batting experience in the West Indies during the 1990s, Basit opined that the Twenty20 World Cup in the West Indies wouldn’t see too many scores of 200+, and would be a relatively low-scoring tournament. Commenting on the recently selected squad for the ICC World Twenty20, Basit praised Hammad Azam and Mohammad Hafeez, and said Khalid Latif might turn out to be a good selection in this format only, as he might click on the slow paced wickets of the West Indies.
*Future stars of Pakistan cricket and three players who could have achieved a lot more: Hafeez, Nazir and Malik*
Basit played for Pakistan in 19 tests and 50 ODIs during the early and mid 1990s, and was lauded by many as the "new Javed Miandad". Given his background, PakPassion.net asked him about future batting stars of Pakistan cricket, and his response was rather surprising.
“I am a big fan of three players: *Mohammad Hafeez*, *Imran Nazir* and *Shoaib Malik*. These three guys have so many qualities that even they don’t realise it themselves. If only I had been given the opportunity to work with these guys, with Allah’s help, I would have taken them to great cricketing heights.”
Responding to further questions about the relatively average records of these three players, Basit commented that “Hafeez’s average of 18 would have been 58 if I had been coaching and managing his career to date. Whatever captains he had, they never allowed him to play the way he wanted to play, the captains always forced Hafeez and these other guys to play a certain way, never giving them a free rein, never allowing them to express themselves”.
“These players should have been allowed to play the way they wanted to. The example I like to give is *Sehwag *– he plays the way he wants to and succeeds. If you tell Sehwag not to play any shots ever and just block, his average will become 18 too, like Hafeez”, Basit continued.
Discussing Imran Nazir, Basit felt that “Imran Nazir is not a player for 50 overs, he’s a player for 15 overs. It is exceedingly silly to use him to bat for 50 overs. He should be told to bat for 15 overs only. If he just bats for the first 15 overs, he can easily score 80 odd runs, and thus get the team to 150 in those 15 overs – job done”.
In Basit’s view, again, captaincy was the main reason for Pakistan’s continuous wasting of great talent. “Imran Nazir hasn’t succeeded so far because of poor captaincy – in Cricket, it’s the captain who plays a key role in making a ‘hero player’ into a ‘zero player’. The example I like to give is Imran Khan – he took Saleem Yousuf from obscurity and made him into an opener. Saleem was a number 7 or number 8 batsman, but the captain gave him the confidence and the backing to contribute at the top of the order”.
“These three guys are all talented but other than Younis, they never had a captain who could get the best out of them. It is their bad luck that they didn’t play most of their careers under Younis”.
Responding to queries about potential stars amongst the youngsters, Basit spoke glowingly of *Umar Akmal*. “Umar Akmal is the future of Pakistan cricket, and a future captain too”. Other players for the future identified by Basit included *Babar Azam*, *Shehryar Ghani* and *Faraz Ahmed*. However, he felt that all these youngsters need to keep their feet firmly grounded and continue working hard if they wish to succeed.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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