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April 8, 1999


The Rediff Interview / Shaharyar Khan

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'Saqlain had no business telling the umpire what his job was'

 Shaharyar Khan
Given the controversies that erupted in the prelude to Pakistan's tour of India earlier this year for a Test and one-day series, it was perhaps little wonder that Shaharyar Khan, diplomat par excellence and former foreign secretary of Pakistan, was asked to accompany the side.

He was neither coach, nor manager -- rather, the suave diplomat played a larger role, of buffer between the team and the media, ensuring that no ill-considered words by the former lit any unwelcome fires. In an extensive conversation with Faisal Shariff, Shaharyar Khan discusses the tour in all its aspects

What according to you are the gains from this tour, now that we are at the fag end of it?

The gains from this tour have been exceptionally overwhelming. Our highest expectations have been realised. The team has knit into a fighting unit. We have been sparking on all cylinders. This tour has gone a long way in rebuilding the confidence and morale of the guys. The boys are more exuberant and raring to go. This has in all respects been a very fruitful tour, and could well have paved the way for our success in the World Cup in England this May.

Politically speaking, to what extent do you think has the tour helped, or will help, in restoring friendly ties between the two nations?

I expect it will help to a great extent. The goodwill that has been generated is very promising. There has been more public contact. We have had an opportunity to mingle with the people and evaluate for ourselves the situation here, to learn that the so-called hatred and hostility between the people of the two countries is a myth contrived by politicians.

The Calcutta Test struck the one sour note, didn't it? What effect do you think the incidents there would have had on the people of Pakistan?

What happened in Calcutta was very unfortunate, but all tours have their highs and lows and I guess this was one of the lows of the tour. The crowd erupted because they felt that Sachin was not out. But I guess that it was the decision of the umpire, and keeping that in mind, the rules of the game should be respected. But do you what everyone back home asked me? They asked me how it was possible to usher 60,000 people out of the stadium in half an hour. This looks like the handiwork of a few who wanted to have the match abandoned. You know that if the match is abandoned, then all bets are nullified. Say for example if ten thousand people out of 45-50 thousand people disrupt a match, then it is possible for a match to be abandoned. Of course the situation should have been brought under control but that's another argument altogether.

Would you advocate disciplinary measures against Calcutta for the incident?

(*Smiling*) I would give them another chance. They are sports lovers. These things do happen in sports, but I think I would give them another chance.

Wasim Akram has been frequently criticizing the umpiring standards in this series. What is your opinion about the umpiring?

 Wasim Akram with Javed Miandad
I don't know what Wasim felt about the umpiring, but I thought that it was pretty good, barring a few decisions. But I guess the odd mistakes were expected, since this was a very high pressure series. We had three neutral umpires and I thought that their performance was commendable.

The match fixing and betting scandals that have rocked the cricketing world seem to have originated from the sub-continent. You think the ICC has handled the situation well?

I think its time the ICC cleans its stables. It is unfortunate that the allegations point towards the sub-continent. I think that the inquiries should be rushed through, and harsh measures should be taken against those found guilty. The betting mafia in Sharjah especially should be brought to book. It has brought the game into disrepute. Betting and match fixing has changed the face of the game here.

Just before the tour began, an Indian newsmagazine had carried extracts from the leaked report of the Justice Quayyum commission of inquiry into match fixing. Did the publication of the story have any impact on the side?

The leaks did upset us briefly. You know, the players were upset about the reports but I spoke to them and asked them to sail through it. The reports demoralized us, more so because just about a week before that the same magazine had carried a cover of the Pakistani players with handicapped children. That was very unfortunate, to have followed that up with the match-fixing reports. This kind of journalism is in bad taste and potrays the media in bad light.

But don't you think that some of the players are involved in match fixing?

I think we are making a mountain out of a molehill. See, for example Mark Waugh and Shane Warne accepted some money from a bookie for giving details about the weather, which could have been available from any source. You know how this thing works. A bookie will call on them as a well wisher. On his way up to the player's room, other players will see him. One of them will make a random statement about it to other players or to someone from the media. Later, when the same bookie meets the player in the lobby or something, he will try to look like he is on real close terms with the player and this strengthens the belief that the player is involved with the bookie. Immediately after that, if the player gets out on a low score, the whole episode which has preceded the dismissal suddenly attains prime importance and that player is branded as a match-fixer. Its time we got over these petty matters and started off on a new ground altogether.

Just then, Geoffrey Boycott who is seated next to us adds in his typical Yorkshire accent, 'Young man, this gentleman is a diplomat. He will speak four sentences and I will speak one and I will have said more than him. Be careful, he is a very smart Alec.

What did you make of Sarfaraz's allegations against Sunil Gavaskar and Asif Iqbal?

It is most unfortunate that a player of the calibre of Sarfaraz made these allegations against two of the most respected gentlemen this side of the globe. To accuse someone without any substantial proof is a very irresponsible act. Some people do these things to settle personal scores. And I suppose Sarfaraz is one of them.

The Pakistan captain was not too happy about the fact that Saqlain was banned for dissent. You think the one-match ban on Saqlain was a little too harsh?

 Saqlain Mushtaq
Harsh is not the right word to use. There are two circumstances when one shows dissent -- one is in the heat of the moment, like showing the bat to the Umpire or swearing at a player; the other is one which is preplanned and premeditated. I think Saqlain had no business telling the umpire what his job was, telling him he should have consulted the third umpire. I think he waited for a while before he came out to bat. He then walked straight up to the umpire asking him to refer to the third umpire. This was uncalled for. Firstly there is so much of pressure on the players, to add to that you can't have these things happening.

Recently, there were talks about Boycott being appointed as consultant to the Pakistan team for the World Cup. Do you think it would be a good idea?

Not at all. I think, too many cooks could spoil the broth. We definitely can't have two coaches for the World Cup. If they want to replace Javed Miandad as coach, then that is a different issue. But I am definitely against having two coaches for the team.

You were born and brought up in India, weren't you? Tell us about your earlier memories..

 Shaharyar Khan with Asif Iqbal
I was born and brought up in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. I did my schooling in Dehra Dun at the R.I.M.C. It used to stand for Royal Indian Military College then, now it has been changed to Rashtriya Indian Military College. I then went to Delhi College in Indore. I have a lot of cousins in Hyderabad. Tigermiya's (M.K Pataudi) relatives are in Hyderabad. Its surprising, you know, in every city that we went the RIMC guys kept in touch with me. They rang me up regularly. In fact in Jaipur, the RIMC guys came over with their wives and we had a gala time together. It was all very nostalgic and touching. Even in Kochi and Chennai the guys met me.

What kind of relationship do you have with your cousin, M A K Pataudi?

My earliest memories of Tigermiya are of the times when his mother would refuse him permission to travel alone to Canterbury for his cricket practice. So, as the elder brother, I used to take Tigermiya to Frank Wooley in Canterbury. Tigermiya was 10 then, and I was only 14, but he respected me a lot. But I don't think Frank Wooley taught him much because Tigermiya was a very talented boy. I was sure that he would hold his own against the best in the game.

Does the Pakistan board have plans of inviting India in the near future?

Yes, of course, plans are under way to invite the Indian team to Pakistan. The problem is that the cricket schedule for the next year is pretty tight. I reckon the Pakistan board is tentatively looking at a full-fledged series in 2001, which is the earliest that both sides have free time on their calendar at the same time. That, I reckon, is a possibility that the PCB is looking at.

He said it, now you say it...


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