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Friday, June 05, 2009

Interview of Umair Qazi: Well Pitched Blogger

There are many blogs about cricket in internet and ‘Well Pitched’ is one of them. However, there is one thing that I liked most about the blog is that its writers not only shares news and information about cricket, but also shares their own opinion about different issues of cricket world. The blog is updated pretty regularly and you can find several news and information about cricket in this blog. Well Pitched also has a poll section where you can provide your opinion about different cricket related issues. At the right hand side of the blog, you can find a list of cricket blogs that you can like to follow. There are four writers who contribute to Well Pitched blog. I sent interview questions to the blog contact and the answers are provided by Umair Qazi, popularly known as Q on “Well Pitched”. Here is the interview for Sports37 readers:

Razib Ahmed: How do you see India’s recent performance against Australia and England at home? Do you think that the current team under Dhoni can become no. 1 in test and ODI cricket as India did in twenty20?

Umair: India has a long way to go before they can be considered the top test team in the world. Their victories over Australia and England at home were not surprising because India has always been very strong at home. However the way they beat them was unexpected as Australia were completely outplayed and the 387 chase against England was out of the blue. Having said that there is something about this Indian team under Dhoni that gives an impression of them being world beaters. It is the belief that they have within themselves I think. Indian teams of the past did not come of as confident as this one. A large part of this attitude has to do with Ganguly and Dhoni is the best man to take this attitude and belief forward. India is definitely the most improved team in the world and they can challenge the best and the number 1 mantle in test cricket will be theirs when they start winning overseas consistently. In ODIs as well they are one of the best if not the best.

Razib Ahmed: You know that Pakistan cricket has been badly hit by the country’s security condition as well as disciplinary problem inside the team over the last one year and Pakistan did not play any test match last year. What do you think PCB should do at this moment to get over this problem? Do you think that playing scheduled home series in neutral venues could be an effective solution for Pakistan at least for a while?

Umair: Neutral venues is the only way forward for Pakistan. Unfortunately the image of the country has been tarnished so negatively that one is helpless when it comes to attracting people to Pakistan. Our media needs to take a lesson or two from India and our board needs to learn how to market themselves properly. In times like these, the PCB need to lay their egos to rest and turn to neutral venues for holding international matches, otherwise the team will lose out on a number of bilalteral series. Therein lies an opportunity as well - the PCB can play an instrumental part in developing offshore venues like it did with Sharjah and Toronto. Morocco, Malaysia, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are just some of the places where the PCB can look to stage its matches. They can create goodwill with these countries and use them to market itself globally. That would be a win-win situation for the board and the team thatwill finally get to play some cricket.

The disciplinary problems, I believe, have been well handled by the inclusion of Intikhab Alam and Javed Miandad in the PCB set up. These men know how to handle cricketers and they are well respected by the players, hence everyone is kept in check.

Razib Ahmed: ICL-IPL conflict was one of the major issues in world cricket over the last one year. Do you think that ICL deserves ICC’s recognition? How do you see BCCI’s influence over the other cricket playing countries in keeping ICL players out of international cricket?

Umair: This is a tough one. Though I personally love the ICL as do other Pakistanis due to the inclusion of the Lahore Badshahs, I do understand why the BCCI are acting in the way they are. The ICL is a threat to the BCCI, which is why the IPL was launched hastily. Had the IPL not been announced the ICL would have managed to lure away a number of high profile cricketers. I believe the ICL in a way played a big part in the 20-20 boom we saw during 2007 and 2008. The ICL needs to be recognised because it has contributed to cricket in a way and can do so even more if allowed to going forward. One just needs to find a solution of how the ICL can share its revenues with the ICC, the way the other boards do, and a way for the BCCI and the ICL to work hand in hand. A country like India can sustain a dozen such cricket leagues because of the craze for the game and its population so there’s no reason why the ICL and IPL cannot coexist. They can.

I believe the bans on the ICL players are unfair. The BCCI has the power and it will wield it. It really is upto the other boards whether they want to tow the line. The truth is that no one generates more revenue for cricket, other cricket boards, and other players than the BCCI. The other boards will have to tow the BCCI as long as they don’t find ways to match their revenue generating abilities. The ICC needs to stand up here, recognise the ICL, and the let the players play. There’s nothing that justifies these bans.

Razib Ahmed: You know both ICL and IPL offer big-buck deal for the cricketers. Do you see it as a development of cricket?

Umair: I see it as a retirement package for the cricketers. The golden handshake.

On a more serious note, yes it is development of cricket in a way. Both the ICL and the IPL provide opportunities for young and upcoming cricketers to interact, practice, and play with the best in the business. Its an amazing step in the learning process for these cricketers and the benefits of this will be realized by India in the future. One can see the results already - the bench strength that India has created is second to none and it adds to their status as a top team today. Of the top of my head I can name as many as 30-40 top cricketers from India. I can’t do that for any other country. So its definitely development of cricket for India.

Razib Ahmed: In one of your entries, you wrote that Allen Stanford had come easily and left easily. Well, do you think that a tournament like Stanford Twenty20 could help Caribbean cricket to bring back its golden days?

Umair: Not immediately but in the longer term, if Allen Stanford remains in it for that long, then maybe. West Indies may never reach its golden days of the past but it can become a stronger outfit. From what I understand the West Indies at large lacks the infrastructure, the facilities required to promote cricket. The WICB needs to go to the roots to develop cricketers at the school level, develop cricket amongs the age groups, set up academies, provide coaching to talented cricketers, have the men to spot these cricketers at a young age. For all this a board needs to be financially equipped, which the WICB isn’t. An Allen Stanford can help in that way - financially. Staging only a 20-20 tournament will not make a team into world beaters. Using the money generated from the 20-20 tournament the right way can.

Razib Ahmed: How do you see Australia’s dominance in the cricket world being faded away? Between India and South Africa, whom do you think could replace Australia from the no. 1 position in test and ODI cricket?

Umair: Australia’s downfall is good for cricket. It makes the game more competitive. It gives you 3-4 teams who can compete evenly for the top spot and provide more even contests than the past. Australia has dominated so well that other teams have been way behind them for a decade and more. The last 2 ODI World Cups have been such one sided contests that it has made the viewing boring. A weaker Australia gives the viewers more exciting cricket in my view. It was inevitable once the big players left the stage and it will get tougher for them when the Haydens and Pontings and Husseys leave in the next 2-3 years.

Right now South Africa is the top test team in the world. They haven’t lost a test series for 2 and a half years now. But I don’t think they will dominate the way Australia did or the West Indies did before them. It will be a more even challenge between them and India. Australia, Sri Lanka, and even England and Pakistan won’t be far behind either.

As for ODI cricket, picking a number 1 team is difficult because the game is so unpredictable. All I can say is that I can’t wait for the 2011 World Cup. The world is itching to see hands on that cup that are not Australian.

Razib Ahmed: Among the youngsters like Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, who do you think is most likely to take up the place of Sourav Ganguly in India’s test squad?

Umair: Yuvraj Singh has already taken his place in the test line up. Yuvraj has always been hailed for test greatness and I believe now is his time. He always had a start-stop test career which never gave him the confidence of being a first choice in the XI. With that confidence of being in the line up he will manage to make the number 6 spot his own and the number 4 in the future after Sachin moves on. The Rainas, Sharmas, and Kohlis will come into the reckoning once Dravid, Sachin, and Laxman move on. Out of the 3, Sharma impresses me the most as a long term prospect.

Razib Ahmed: How do you evaluate Bangladesh’s performance over the last one year? Today (4 January 2009), ICC chief David Morgan said that Bangladesh’s test status should be reevaluated. Do you support Mr. Morgan in this regard?

Umair: I don’t know what Mr. Morgan has been smoking. Has he watched Bangladesh play test cricket recently? They managed to push South Africa, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka to the hilt. They almost managed to win matches against them. With more experience they will be winning these matches sooner rather than later. Any team with the likes of Ashraful, Shakib, Rahim, Murtaza and the Iqbals should not be doubted. Bangladesh will be a force in the years to come.

Razib Ahmed: A lot of things were written about the future of India’s ‘Fav Five’ (fabulous five) in the last one year. Now, with two of them (Ganguly and Kumble) already retired, do you think that Sachin, Dravid and Laxman are also very close to say goodbye to international cricket? Do you believe that after the retirement of the trio, India will also have to go through a tough formation period as Australia is going through now?

Umair: I think Dravid is close. This may be his last year in cricket. Sachin and Laxman though may play on longer. It is widely believed that Sachin wants to play the 2011 world cup and considering how badly Sachin wants to be a part of a world cup winning team i think the perception is true. And India will not have a better chance than 2011 under Dhoni. With Sachin missing meaningless ODI tournaments and sitting out of a few games every series are signs towards a process that will eventually result in prolonging Sachin’s career. he’ll play a few more years I reckon.

Laxman is the more underrated of the fab five and he’s the youngest of the lot as well. He always scores, in every series. As long as the form doesn’t abandon him, he will also play on for a few more years. Maybe even longer than Sachin.

Australia are finding it tough because they haven’t been able to replace their bowling attack - 20 wickets win you test matches and McGrath, Warne, Gillespie used to get Australia 20 wickets. The current set of bowlers are finding it tough to pick up 20, which is why Australia is no longer the force. The Waughs, Martyns, Langers were easily replaced in Australia’s batting line up. Even Haddin seems to be coming into his own and soon Gilchrist will not be missed. Similarly, India seem to have the batting bench in Rohit Sharma, Raina, V Kohli, Pujara, Badrinath, Kaif and others who can replace Dravid, Sachin, and Laxman in the future. I don’t think India will find it tough as long as they bowling remains a force. And with Zaheer, Ishant, Munaf, RP, Sreesanth, Bhajji, Mishra, Chawla they have ample force for a long time.

Razib Ahmed: Now, can you please share some words with us about your blog Well Pitched? Do you have any future plan for your blog?

Umair: Well Pitched was established over a year ago where a few of us transitioned from discussing cricket over an email chain to a blog. The intention was to reach a wider base of cricket fans, which we managed to achieve over time. We at Well Pitched hope to continue with providing insights and opinions on cricket coupled with focusing in detail on the domestic scene in Pakistan. In the longer term we would like to transform Well Pitched into a full fledged cricket website providing opinions, poll, columns, reviews, games among other things. For now though, the aim to reach as many people as possible with our views on the happenings in the cricket world.

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