Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Shahryar Khan had a nostalgic visit to the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai on Thursday.
As an 11-year-old he had sneaked out to see the great Vijay Merchant and K C Ibrahim bat out entire days in Ranji Trophy matches while accompanying his mother to the squash courts of the club.
A descendant of the Nawab of Bhopal, Khan reveled in his early memories of the country, his visit as manager of the Pakistan cricket team to India in 1999 and the dynamic role he played in the restoration of cricketing ties between the neighbouring countries.
The crisp voice of the diplomat resonated as Khan charmed Mumbai's press corps with anecdotes and an analysis of the Indian team's historic tour of Pakistan.
On the India-Pakistan 2004 series:
It was a watershed series, mainly because there was an extraordinary turnaround in public attitude. They didn't listen to what the politicians, the diplomats were saying. The public raised its voice for cricket and this came from the heart. Personally, also I did not expect the people to be so enthusiastic.
'We want to live in peace,' that was the message that came through very strongly. The politicians cannot turn their backs round to such strong opinions. The series had a very significant impact on people-to-people relationships between India and Pakistan.
I know some of the Indian players had apprehensions about visiting Pakistan; the players felt threatened, but the public reception evaporated all the fears. There were some wonderful stories we got to hear. There was an amazing reception and it wasn't for the cricketers alone.
India's High Commissioner to Pakistan summed up the emotion when he said, '20,000 Indians came for the series; you have sent back 20,000 ambassadors of Pakistan back to India.'
On Bob Woolmer's selection as the coach of Pakistan:
Coaching has become a real science. A coach is now a kind of a doctor, a psychologist and a computer analyst. The coaches in the subcontinent are not at that level of computerized scientific coaching.
Coaching has not taken off in Pakistan. In such a huge country there are only 38 recognized coaches, of whom only one, Wasim Raja, is a master coach. Only three coaches in Pakistan have passed the Level 3 grade in coaching. I can't have a person who isn't a master coach the national team.
In the subcontinent we rely too much on names. Viv Richards couldn't make a great coach; even Clive Lloyd couldn't. Simply being a great player does not make you a great coach and we need the assistance to western methods of training.
When Woolmer's team joined us, they [Woolmer's team] said that what we have is a very unfit set of players. Each of them will be given separate training, and of what I know, the players are responding to Woolmer's methodology.
On Pakistan bowlers Shoaib Malik and Shabbir Ahmed being brought under scrutiny for their bowling action by an ICC committee:
Let us wait for the final recommendations by the ICC. The committee's decision is not the final word on the issue.
But, I must say, long before this recommendation came through, chucking was being monitored by us. I visited small games, even school games, and saw that illegal actions were growing at all levels. Lots of school boys had very doubtful actions and we asked the umpires to call them for that since overlooking that was not doing any good to them.
We already have a committee to control and reverse the growing illegal action syndrome because it is getting out of hand. We have a process to put their actions into place by working with the local coaches.
My grouse is that the Shabbirs and Shoaibs shouldn't have reached the international level with faulty actions.
On the teams subcontinent teams being scattered units of brilliant players:
Sometimes you get good sides from here. But mostly players from these countries remain individual stars. Once they become stars, earn a lot of money, they tend to become ego centric. They are perhaps then not committed to the team's cause. Some of them tend to have their egos bristled by the acclamation they get.
In Pakistan a lot of boys come from difficult family backgrounds. Many of them have learnt cricket on the maidan; some of them are school dropouts. So, when they do well in cricket, and people and the media focusing, the success can be a little heady.
Our teams react to inspirational captaincy. That is one way they gel together as a team. We saw what Imran Khan did to the Pakistani team. Even the Indian team that drew the series with Australia in Australia and won in Pakistan was a very good side.
On India and Pakistan furthering cricket ties:
The boards have decided that the national champions of the two countries - Ranji Trophy winners and our Kaiz-E-Alam winners will play one four-day match and a one-day match alternately in each country. Faisalabad will host the Ranji Trophy winners this year. It is a very important step because India's domestic cricket is very strong, but our tournament lacks luster; our champions lack the strength. So if they play with a strong Indian domestic side they will learn to compete a notch higher.
Also, we have proposed a trophy between school national champions from India and Pakistan. That has to be finalized yet but we are trying to improve our relations at every level of the game.