Pakistan bowling coach Waqar Younis wants the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to formulate a clear policy which stops talented players from abruptly retiring from the Test format. “Of course you can’t stop anyone or force anyone. But there should be a PCB policy,” Waqar told reporters in a video conference on Monday. Experienced pacers Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz quit Test cricket last year to focus on the short formats and Pakistan’s bowling frailties were subsequently exposed in Australia where they lost both the Test and Twenty20 series. “If a star player suddenly leaves, or drops a format, it’s a massive setback for the team. You’re forced to fast-track rookies, which is a big problem and we faced it in absence of Amir and Wahab,” he maintained.
Coming into the squad as bowling coach after two stints as head coach, Waqar was forced to work with an inexperienced bowling line up. “Just before the Australia series, Amir and Wahab ditched us and we had the only choice to pick youngsters. We were the new management and decided to go on with taking in the younger lot and groom them. Misbahul Haq, the head coach and chief selector, spoke about this earlier about having a policy about players deciding what and what not to play. We cannot control players’ choice on what they want to play, but then there should be a mechanism so we all are on board. It never should be like players leaving last moment and not keeping anyone in the loop or giving enough time for back up.”
Waqar felt Pakistan needed a bigger pool of fast bowlers to cope with the demand of limited-overs cricket and was optimistic he could help create one. Amir, 27, gave up Tests in July in order to manage his workload and extend his white-ball career for Pakistan as well as in T20 leagues around the world, while 34-year-old Riaz followed suit in September, taking an “indefinite break” from red-ball cricket. Waqr said the way cricket had expanded, having four-five fast bowlers was not enough. “You probably need four-five mature bowlers for test cricket. But for the shorter formats, you need a bigger pool of bowlers, who can share the massive workload. Naseem Shah, Musa Khan, Haris Rauf, Dilbar Hussain… if we can harness them with Amir, Wahab and Mohammad Abbas, I think we can have a battery of 8-10 fast bowlers. And once we have that, we’d never be affected by anyone quitting abruptly and can rotate them. Bench strength is crucial. You need to create a pool, which even those on the bench are match-winners themselves.”
Cricket should not resume in empty stadiums: To a question, Waqar said he was not in favour of cricket resuming before empty stadiums amid the coronavirus pandemic as felt the desperate plan would end up creating more problems while the world battles a worsening health crisis. Waqar said there shouldn’t be any cricket at the moment. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused nearly 70,000 deaths so far globally. “No I don’t agree with this suggestion that cricket activities should resume soon even before empty stadiums,” he said. Some former cricket stars and officials of cricket boards have said that the game can resume slowly and matches can be held in front of empty stadiums with the proper precautions in place for teams, officials and other ground staff. “I think maybe in five or six months’ time, when things are under control around the world and we get back some normalcy in life, we can think about matches behind closed doors,” the former fast bowler said. Waqar also made it clear that he was very keen to see the T20 World Cup held this year in Australia even if slightly delayed. “Whenever I have played for Pakistan as a player or been a coach with the Pakistan team it has always been my desire to see the team win a major ICC title. That is why this World T20 is so important for me and the team,” he said. “I would like to be the part of a management where we can win a major title,” he added.
The Vehari-born also brushed aside allegations regarding regional bias in Pakistan cricket. “There is no truth in the allegations of regional bias against me. It hurts to see people come up with such statements about me with regards to preferring players from Rawalpindi and other areas of Punjab,” he said. “I have played cricket for almost 25 years and I have never thought about such a thing. I coached Pakistan for four years and during that time I tried to pick the best players for the betterment of our cricket.”
Contradicts Wasim Akram’s statement on Virat Kohli: Waqar believes that he would have made life difficult for Indian skipper Virat Kohli, if he was bowling to him during his career. Waqar comment contradicted Pakistan’s fast-bowling great Wasim Akram’s, earlier, statement where he said that if he was young and playing against Kohli, it would be a bit difficult to bowl at him. “I won’t give such a statement because it will be wrong to say that we did not have a player like Virat Kohli during our playing days. I bowled against few of the best batsmen in the world such as Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Martin Crowe and Viv Richards. I made a name for myself by bowling to such great players,” said Waqar. “I will put a question mark on this statement because I had some skills about getting batsmen out, back in the day, and it would not have changed even if I was playing these days as well.”
Cricket around the world has come to an indefinite halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic and players have been reduced to trying to stay fit at home. For Waqar, it’s a difficult time but an opportunity for the players to utilise their time well. When asked if he was worried about the lengthy layoff, he said: “It depends how lengthy this will go on… if it’s a shorter one with another one or two months and things start to get normal then it won’t hurt. Everyone around the world is in the same boat and problems are nearly the same for all of us. So, to be honest, I am not worried at the moment. But I will probably start to get worried after April-May, and if it goes further then that’s where I am afraid things will start to go out of hands not for us but for the entire cricketing world.”