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|September 16, 1998||
The Rediff Encounter/Col Rafi Nasim
'Tell me, where is it match-fixing does not happen?'
Ashish Shukla in Toronto
Colonel Rafi Nasim (62) is media adviser to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), and one of the more important cricket administrators in the history of Pakistan cricket.
A one-time secretary of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Nasim has played a big role in resuming cricketing ties between the two countries in 1978. He was also at the helm when the 1996 World Cup was staged by the sub-continent's cricket boards.
And now, he is media adviser at perhaps the most difficult time in the history of cricket in Pakistan, with so many allegations, counter allegations taking place in the full glare of the media spotlight. These days, there is hardly any cricket being discussed in Pakistan, the focus being entirely on the scandals that surround it.
You invite the Colonel to the press box during the second game of the Sahara Cup, for a brief tete-tete and he makes himself comfortable in the seat next to you. "Huzoor, hamare tallukat India se bahut purane hain, (our relations with India go long back)" says Nasim, with a self-satisified air.
Here is a man who has seen Pakistan cricket from very close quarters for close to four decades, and has kept everything close to his chest. "Saaheb agar mein kehne par aao, to bahut log benakab ho jayenge (a lot of people will be left defenceless if I come to speak," said Nasim. "For you must know I am a journalist too. I have written thousands of articles during my career. I could write a best-seller tomorrow without the fear of contradiction, for I have never been contradicted in my life. Why? Because I check my facts before I go public in print," said Nasim.
Before we talk of Pakistan's cricket, Nasim is keen to talk about himself. "I started my association with cricket very early. I am from Lahore, and we used to play cricket matches, club matches. I remember taking the press release to newspapers, highlighting the match results, photographs of important performers and so on. Since it was a regular exercise, I built up a rapport with the press. Now seeing this happen, most of the other clubs, playing their matches at different grounds, would bring the results to me and ask me if I could take it to the newspapers. That's how my influence started to grow.
"It continued like this for a few years, and then I got into the army," he recalls. "My parents told me, `Ab yeh cricket vagarah chode our afsiri karo (leave this cricket aside now and become an officer).' I did my army stint and when I finished, I saw I was still welcome in cricket circles.
"The PCB wanted to entrust me with some responsibility, but I said leave me alone in Lahore, my base is here, everyone knows me and if I am put in a new place, I would have to start all over again. That's how I became re-associated with Lahore and its cricket, became Lahore's secretary and gradually rose in the PCB heirarchy."
The life history is complete -- almost. "Whatever you see here, I could do in a jiffy. All these tents, organisation, media - I have handled these things for decades now," he says.
Having accompanied Nasim in his rambles, I turn the subject gently back to that of Pakistan cricket, and ask him what measures the Pakistan board has taken to bring in discipline and repair the damage to the good name of Pakistan cricket.
"You talk about match-fixing and the reports that are coming into the press," he says. "Tell me where it does not happen! Pakistan is not alone. Where we have made the mistake is to make it public. Allowed too many eyes to peer into our papers. Other countries are smarter, they have cleverly smothered the issue. For instance, look at India, there is no match-fixing issue there. But we, in Pakistan, have allowed it to gain ground."
This disclosure was very significant. For it showed that Nasim, the media adviser to the Pakistan board, did not deny that match-fixing was taking place. His complaint was merely that in Pakistan, the entire scandal was being played out in the glare of publicity.
Now that he is media adviser, has he advised players how to conduct themselves in public? Has there been an attempt by him to stop players from making a caricature of themselves in public? For instance, Aamir Sohail, who has been downright rude and boorish in the three press conferences held so far?
"I know, Sohail is a bit ujjad (rough). We have had a word with him. In any case, Javed (Miandad) is competent enough to handle these situations. Allow him some time and he will find the necessary amount of control," says Nasim. "For make no mistake, we could not have found a better person than Miandad. He has seen the best of times and his cricket knowledge, insight and understanding is peerless. The boys would have no option but to listen to him!"
The media adviser then sheds light on what he says is the main problem. "You must realise that in Pakistan we have two classes of cricketers -- one who is the well-read kind, and the other who is illiterate, who cannot even write his name in English. The latter class are, by nature, less responsible. They have no idea how to conduct themselves in public. They are dithering, and sometimes rude.
"I will give you an example," he says. "A certain Test player, still active, was asked for an explanation by the Pakistan Cricket Board. He did not have a clue how to answer it. He came to me and I advised him to just say you regret doing what you have done. No need for you to go into analytical discussion, for it will trap you more and more, was how I could convince him.
"Indeed, I have asked Majid (Khan) to arrange for a certain grooming of these players. These cricketers must be told how to conduct themselves in public, arrange for English tuitions to be given to these players."
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