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‘I was harsh but honest’

‘I do have one clear-cut agenda. That is Pakistan. If my loyalty is being questioned, then, people do not know my track record’

‘I was harsh but honest’
DELIGHTED: ‘I was amongst, millions across the nation, delighted that Pakistan qualified for the final of an ICC tournament.’

A fair meaning of the noble trade can be argued into five core principles: truth and accuracy, impartiality, independence, humanity and accountability.

One must wonder where the above were heeded, when a well-known news channel, used excerpts of my interview given to another TV channel, without really understanding my underlying message, then proceeded to form their own expert opinion, turning it higgledy-piggledy to adduce allegations of ‘match-fixing’.

Let me assist with my qualified cricket expertise, where one has to be objective in undertaking a SWOT analysis of the participants, but also, critically to me, understand the commercial aspect and break these into bite size chunks for the armchair supporter.

Pakistan were seen as rank outsiders to lift the ICC Champions Trophy. The last 19 ODI’s confirmed a win-loss ratio of 8 to 11. Delving deeper, six of these triumphs were arguably, versus lower ranked Ireland and 5 against West Indies, as both sides were locked in trying to qualify for the mega event. Putting matters into further perspective, the victory on the 2016 England tour was when the hosts had wrapped the series up 4-0, the other success, a series levelling victory in Australia, whereby Pakistan lost the next three.

Therefore, after the opening defeat to rivals India, that notion was further strengthened.

However, all was not doom and gloom, as a few clashes passed, it became apparent, that teams would be playing on used surfaces, thereby giving sub-continental sides, a clear advantage in my eyes.

Pakistan were not the only sub-continental side that cottoned on to the dry, abrasive surfaces assisted their spinners, allowed seamers to reverse swing and made run gathering easier for their batters. Guess where three out of the last four participants came from!!

These conditions and the fact that the players were playing well presented a huge advantage for Pakistan. It built the players’ confidence who then gave their best which in turn lead to their progression to the semi-finals.

It was at this juncture that the Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed, when queried, refused to dedicate the win to a living legend Javed Miandad, as a birthday gift. The retort was negative with the captain implying that he (Miandad) was too critical to be awarded such accolade.

Incensed was a personal emotion towards the captain, who over the years, seemingly ignored my wholehearted support of his cause, be it, when advising him to bat up the order, take his batting skills to the next level by coaxing the lower order along. Let’s not forget my ebullient reinforcement for him to steer the rudder, after the 2015 ICC World Cup, lead me to state that ‘one should not get conceited after a couple of wins and that he should respect his seniors’.

Conversely, the compass doesn’t always point due north, however, as a Pakistan captain, one has to endure criticism, enjoy successful accolades, whilst seeking improvement at all angles.

One particular media house, has attempted making this some ethnic issue, which is completely vitriolic, that deserves a response.

If one cares to look back in time, it will be understood as a former chief selector, I gave opportunities, to players, from outstations like Hyderabad and Attock into international cricket and several others at a slightly lower level.

To this day, numerous cricketers touch base with me requesting assistance for cricketing justice to be served.

Building on the above foundation, a very well respected Karachi Cricket Association official, will confirm unwavering levels in my attempts to raise the city’s cricketing agenda.

There is a powerful quote from Paulo Coelho’s – The Alchemist – ‘When you want something; all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it’.  Back to the facts; when I commented that ‘aap ko yahan laya jah raha hay’, it was taking the tournament trend into account.

Even a defeated England skipper, rued the fact, his players were under prepared for a surface suited to the opponents, more than his own.

I was amongst, millions across the nation, delighted that Pakistan qualified for the Final of an ICC tournament and conveyed a congratulatory message to the Team Media Director for the achievement; winning or losing wasn’t an issue as the Team had done the nation proud.

Shortly after, a channel toed a similar path, were one listened to a crescendo of hammerings. It was deemed appropriate at the time to absorb like a good sponge and not become confrontational. However, my stance on a show of an Indian channel whereby I put up an argument which was lauded by millions across the globe was lost in translation……Pakistan lost a huge opportunity before the final to make a paradigm shift, in not being able to coerce the BCCI to sit down and legally commit to a bilateral cricket programme, or the final will have one dressing room vacant. This could have forced the International Cricket Council to intervene for some unilateral agreement?

On the flipside, I do have one clear-cut agenda. That is Pakistan. If my loyalty is being questioned, then, people do not know my track record. Several financial offers have been declined in order to cross-question Pakistan’s agenda.

I confess I was harsh. However, it revolved around being open and honest.

I will continue to offer my views in a forthright manner, taking the principles of the opening paragraph of this piece into account. We live in an age, where opinions will always beg to differ; for that I make no apology, but welcome open dialogue, in contrast opposite to the bias others care to create in consuming column space or TV talk time. I felt I owed this to the cricket-loving nation of Pakistan who were hurt and upset at supposition made to deliberately malign my character.

 

–Aamer Sohail played 47 Tests and 156 One-day Internationals for Pakistan. He has also served as Pakistan’s chief selector

Aamer Sohail

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