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Exclusive! Pakistan cricket, as never been revealed before!

Last updated on: January 10, 2014 11:16 IST

Exclusive! Pakistan cricket, as never been revealed before!

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Manu Shankar

'One of the boys who was caught in match-fixing comes from a village near Rawalpindi, where he lived in very basic conditions. Suddenly this boy becomes rich, he has two houses in Lahore, he is a glamour boy, he comes on television and the gap between rags to riches has been achieved. So he is a product of this environment; the environment of corruption!'

'I made sure Danish Kaneria stayed a Hindu. There was pressure from Inzamam; there is no doubt about it, but we are very proud of a Hindu playing for Pakistan!'

Shaharyar Khan, former chairman of Pakistan's cricket board, in an exclusive and frank interview with Rediff.com's Manu Shankar.

He was the most outspoken chairman the Pakistan Cricket Board ever had.

In the three years he was at the helm, Shaharyar Khan brought stability and freshness to the game in the country.

However, there were many lows too, and those included the Oval Gate scandal and the mysterious death of the country's coach Bob Woolmer, shortly after Pakistan were eliminated from the 2007 World Cup.

Rediff.com's Manu Shankar caught up with the Pakistani diplomat while he was in Delhi to release his book, Cricket Cauldron: The Turbulent Politics of Sport in Pakistan.

During the course of a freewheeling interview, Shahryar Khan, who is Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's special envoy and Indian cricket legend Mansur Ali Khan 'Tiger' Pataudi's first cousin, opened up on the infamous Oval Gate, where Pakistan cricket stands at the moment and why India and Pakistan should revive cricketing ties.

There is an interesting theory that cricket did have an influence in the birth of Pakistan.

The Bombay Pentangular tournament was perhaps the biggest of that time. It was like a Test match. The Brabourne stadium used to chop full and you had Hindus playing Parsis, Hindus playing Muslims, Parsis playing Muslims.

Politicians were against such tournaments; Mahatma Gandhi was against the tournament.

He would say that you can't have Hindus versus Muslims matches going on, to which the Hindu players would say the riots are on and the Pentangular tournament brings the temperature down; not a single communal incident takes place during Pentangular matches.

The Merchants, Nayudus would say let us play the matches. For a couple of years, they fell in line with what Mahatmaji said, but then they were back in the field and were winning and making money.

Though many believed it led to the two-nation theory, I don't think so, because cricket didn't have that kind of hold at that time.

At the same time I would say it did have a minor effect on the masses.

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Image: Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez celebrate the fall of a wicket during a match against India
Photographs: Reuters

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'Sachin, Dravid, Kumble messaged me, saying their wives were not allowing them to tour Pakistan'

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Manu Shankar

Don't you think that cricket has always been the common biding factor between the two nations. The 2004 tour, for instance, which, in many ways, was a path-breaking series.

Everyone was sceptical prior to the tour. Many said there would be incidents and bad behaviour.

Security, and even the players, such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, seemed unconvinced; they messaged me, saying that their wives were not allowing them to tour Pakistan.

But after the series they were thrilled. And guess who came for the Karachi game? Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, and they had a whale of a time.

Ask them, and they would tell you that the atmosphere back there, instead of being hostile, was extremely friendly.

I remember, when Rahul Dravid was batting on 99, the entire Pakistani crowd was on its feet, egging him on to get to his century.

Imagine a Pakistani crowd wishing an Indian star batsman to his century. Well, this was unheard of, but it showed the new spirit.

Perhaps, Dravid was so surprised that he got out the next ball.

Then, in the final match of the series in Lahore, Mohammad Ali Jinnah's daughter (Dina Wadia, Bombay Dyeing Chairman Nusli Wadia's mother) came to watch the game as my guest. So, that is why I say the 2004 tour was a path-breaking tour.

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Image: Shoaib Akhtar during the India's tour of Pakistan in 2004.
Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters

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'Lack of education comes through in Pakistan cricket more than Sri Lanka or India'

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Manu Shankar

Dav Whatmore, who recently quit as Pakistan's coach, said language was as a major barrier in communicating with the players.

Bob Woolmer too faced similar problems. Is it the lack of education among the players?

Yes! It is necessary for us to come face to face on basic fundamental issues.

Terrorism is one issue; an extreme religious outlook is another.

Then, lack of education. This comes through in Pakistan cricket more than, say, Sri Lanka or India.

Although we coach them in academies, the education level is so low that they find it difficult to absorb.

Woolmer once came up to me and said that Imran Farhat and Imran Nazir are such talented players, but they make the same errors repeatedly.

They go for the hook and get caught at the boundary, and international teams are smart enough to identify that.

Woolmer spoke to them for one hour, telling them what to do and what not to, and showed them pictures on his laptop.

Guess what happens next?

In the next match, both were out playing identical shots -- the hook -- caught at the boundary.

So, if you don't have basic education, you will not be able to absorb.

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Image: The late Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer during a practice session.
Photographs: Clive Rose/Getty Images

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'Salman Butt was guilty of greed'

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Manu Shankar

Is lack of education, the idea of making fast money, hampering youngsters in Pakistan cricket?

One has to agree that some of the boys live with very basic amenities.

One of the boys who was caught in match-fixing comes from a village near Rawalpindi, where he lived in very basic conditions.

Suddenly this boy becomes rich, he has two houses in Lahore, he is a glamour boy, he comes on television and the gap between rags to riches has been achieved.

So he is a product of this environment; the environment of corruption!

So cricketers think that agar politician kar saktein hai, Prime Minister saab kar saktein hai toh mein kyun na karoon? (If politicians can do it, the prime minister can, they why can't I?)

Salman Butt was one of the educated ones who got into match-fixing...

Salman Butt was one of those who was guilty of greed.

Mohammad Aamir, perhaps, had to lose the most, as he was one of the most promising fast bowlers in the country.

He comes from a very impoverished background, and with the various perks available with the game, he was bound to fall for it.

There is corruption at every level, and when you grow up in such an environment such things are bound to happen.

There is lack of accountability in society.

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Image: Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamir and Mohammad Asif, who were jailed in Britain for match-fixing.
Photographs: Hamish Blair/Getty Images

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'I was very disappointed when Yousuf Youhana converted to Islam'

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Manu Shankar

You were critical of Inzamam-ul Haq's long prayer sessions and how Bob Woolmer was uncomfortable with the fact that there was not much time left for practice...

Yes, that was a problem, especially under Inzamam. I knew that once Inzamam left the scene, this trend would come to end.

Woolmer felt he wasn't getting enough time for practice, but at the same time he could see it was keeping the team united.

By all means be religious, but do in your own manner. This phase was very difficult.

Was Yousuf Youhana's conversion to Islam part of it?

Frankly speaking, I was very disappointed when he converted.

Cricket is the one biding force in Pakistan, so it was disappointing to see Youhana convert.

I used to tell Yousuf that you are excused from morning practice, go and pray in church. He would say thank you very much and would come back for practice.

Four years later, I found that in South Africa his enthusiasm had dipped and he wasn't keen on going to church.

When I asked him about it, he was very vague. He is not from the Christian community, but is one of those Dalit converts.

Probably, he felt demeaned by fellow Muslims.

I made sure that there was no pressure on the others. Like Danish Kaneria. I made sure he stayed a Hindu.

There was pressure from Inzamam; there is no doubt about it, but we are very proud of a Hindu playing for Pakistan!

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Image: Mohammad Yousuf, formerly Yousuf Youhana.
Photographs: Nigel Roddis/Reuters

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'Inzamam was the religious leader of the team'

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Manu Shankar

So if Inzamam was doing this, why wasn't he stopped?

He wasn't stopped. I told Woolmer not to get into it. Being a Christian, it would have become a communal issue.

I kept telling Inzy 'Don't do this,' and he said 'Theek, theek hai (alright).'

After Inzamam the whole thing would have to come to an end and it did come to an end.

There was no point taking a course of action because he was captain and a religious leader, and we suffered!

It was the price we had to pay.

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Image: Inzamam-ul-Haq, second from left, in prayer.
Photographs: Ben Radford/Getty Images

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'During the tea break at the Oval, I asked Inzy to take the field; he didn't, and we all know what transpired'

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Manu Shankar

Staying with Inzamam, the Oval Gate controversy left a scar on Pakistan cricket.

That England tour was a forgettable one.

Player power was taking over, with Inzamam instructing days of practice.

Unfortunately, the team backed him and things began to go awry from there.

Things reached such a low that the team refused to obey the instructions given by either Woolmer, Zaheer Abbas or me.

During the tea break, I asked Inzy to take the field; he didn't, and we all know what transpired.

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Image: Inzamam-ul Haq with coach Bob Woolmer, Shahryar Khan is on the right.
Photographs: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

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'In three years, Hair officiated in five of our series. It was bound to blow up in our face'

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Manu Shankar

Darrell Hair has never been a popular umpire anyway...

Well, we suffered; that is all I can say.

When the same Darrell Hair no-balled Muttaiah Muralitharan, the Sri Lankan team protested and left the field, but skipper Arjuna Ranatunga had one foot on the field and the other across the boundary line, meaning he hadn't officially left the field.

So he knew the rules and the umpire couldn't forfeit the match.

After that incident, there was some noise, and Hair wasn't part of any Sri Lanka series for eight years. Rightly so, because he had some hang-ups regarding the Sri Lankan team.

What happened with us?

In three years, Hair officiated in five of our series. It was bound to blow up in our face.

I told the ICC (the International Cricket Council) that give us an Indian umpire, but not Hair.

They didn't listen and we ended up paying the price.

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Image: Umpire Darrell Hair, second from left, speaks to Inzamam-ul Haq, third from left.
Photographs: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

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'Who would come and play when, perhaps, the friendliest of nations like Sri Lanka is being fired upon?'

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Manu Shankar

It has been five years since the Sri Lankan team was attacked in Lahore. Since then Pakistan has had no cricket on its soil. Do you see cricket returning to Pakistan?

Terrorism has dented Pakistan badly.

Earlier, the feeling was that Pakistan was discriminated. Foreign teams were not ready to come and play. Australia, England, India.

Then this terrorist attack happened and that silenced most of them (the people who felt Pakistan was being discriminated against).

Who would come and play here when, perhaps, the friendliest of nations like Sri Lanka is being fired upon?

But it has been good for five years and we have been playing at alternative venues.

We do hope that cricket returns to Pakistan soon.

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Image: Pakistan cricket star Misbah-ul Haq.
Photographs: Philip Brown/Reuters

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'India-Pak series is more important than the Ashes'

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Manu Shankar

How realistic are you about resuming cricketing ties with India?

We are keen to start the bilateral series.

Although India has not come to us, we are ready to come to India.

Whenever there is a gap or window, we are more than happy to come to India and play a five ODI series. I am not in favour of T20s.

If an India series can be arranged, Pakistan will go, even if it means an out-of-turn tour.

We need to start the series. Even the ICC says the India-Pakistan series is more important than the Ashes!


Image: Sachin Tendulkar in action against Pakistan.
Photographs: Hamish Blair/Getty Images

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