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The Rediff Cricket Interview / Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Shaharyar Khan

April 06, 2005

'Cricket diplomacy has worked'

Shaharyar Khan, former diplomat and chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, visited the Delhi and District Cricket Association last week and, after a look at the Ferozshah Kotla ground and pitch, told the media he has no problems about the sixth and final One-Day International between India and Pakistan being played at the venue on April 17.

Later, during the course of an exclusive interview with Associate Editor Onkar Singh, he praised Harbhajan Singh [Images] and declared there is nothing wrong with the ace off-spinner's bowling action.

Is General Musharraf coming to watch cricket or is he using the trip to talk diplomacy?

General Musharraf is essentially coming here to watch cricket. He will arrive in New Delhi on April 16 and watch the match the next day. Once he is here I think he would find time for diplomacy and discuss matters of bilateral importance to India and Pakistan informally, if not by sitting across the table.

Sitting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] and Foreign Minister Natwar Singh he would indeed be talking about how to move forward. But I am not involved at the moment with that part of his visit.

How much cricket does the general understand?

Generalsaab is found of playing tennis and squash, but he is a keen follower of cricket. Whenever possible he finds time to watch the game on television or keeps abreast with the latest on the field. Some of his advisors are very good at cricket and follow and understand the game; they keep telling him about how Pakistan is doing.

When India visited Pakistan last year President Musharraf came to see two matches despite his schedule. I can tell you he really enjoys watching the game. He understands the game perfectly well. He may not have played at the highest level, but he has played cricket to know the finer points of the game.

Were you surprised when General Musharraf appointed you PCB president?

I was surprised when the appointment came. There were many others who wanted the job, but he thought I should head the PCB and I am doing the job that was entrusted to me.

Harbhajan Singh was furious when his bowling action in Kolkata was questioned.

He has reasons to be furious, because only recently a group of experts, appointed by the International Cricket Council, had given him clearance and it was found that he was not throwing; even his doosra was under 15 degrees.

I can understand the frustration Harbhajan is having right now. He had passed his test on internationally acceptable machines that determine the degree of the angle of the wrist while delivering the ball and yet he is being made to undergo another test.

But the great Bishen Bedi says raising the angle from five degrees to 15 is handing the game over to thugs. Do you agree?

'We are handing the sport to thugs'

Bishen was a great spinner who had a pure bowling action. There were many others like him -- for instance Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding and others -- who also questioned the findings of the bio-tech machines which determine the angle of the wrist at the time of delivery of the ball. The committee of experts later found that even the purest bowlers like Bedi had 10 to 12 degrees of angle at the time of releasing the ball. So I do not agree with Bedi.

You are related to Mansur Ali Khan 'Tiger' Pataudi, the legendary India captain. How would you rate him as a player?

I am Tiger's first cousin, and am elder by a few years. When he was playing for Kent in the United Kingdom I used to drive him around to the ground and back home at his mother's request. He was an excellent batsman and a fine fielder. He was a worldbeater; a great player.

If he had not lost one eye in an accident I can tell you he would have been difficult to dislodge. It reduced his ability as a cricketer by half. The year he met with an accident he had scored four centuries in county cricket.

Why are Inzamam-ul Haq and Shoaib Akhtar [Images] at loggerheads all the time?

Shoaib AkhtarI would not say that. Shoaib has a few problems. He is a match-winning bowler, but there are times when he goes off the field saying he is injured. He did so in Australia.

Inzamam is a fine player, with great temperament. He has been able to handle Shoaib Akhtar very well, both on and off the field. Shoaib allows his injuries to be seen as more important than what they are.

Team spirit demands that he (Shoaib) should stay on the field even if he is not bowling. Then he should field. He has superstar qualities but he would be missing in the one-day matches in India.

But all great bowlers and batsmen are arrogant.

I do not think this is true. We have the fine example of Colin Cowdrey, who, despite being one of the most successful batsmen, did not have an iota of arrogance.

We had the great Garfield Sobers. There are many others. Inzy has shown his worth, but the man is very modest. It is a question of your own attitude.

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How difficult was it to keep in touch with your relatives when things between the two countries were not that good?

Indeed, it was difficult to get a visa in the first place and that would not happen very often. Whenever I came here to attend conferences or other official engagements I would hop across to Bhopal to meet my near and dear ones.

But now the times have changed and India and Pakistan are coming closer. Visas are being given for the asking. This never happened when I was a diplomat.

Has cricket diplomacy succeeded?

Of course, it has. Look at the amount of goodwill the two teams generated during the series played in Pakistan. If the Indians won the hearts of the Pakistanis in Pakistan, we are here to achieve the same goal in India. Cricket diplomacy has worked. I have no doubts on that score.

Image: Imran Shaikh

More Interviews | Pakistan's tour of India: The Complete Coverage

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