Pakistan cricketer Abdul Razzaq has recently taken the plunge into coaching, taking up the position of assistant and bowling coach for Quetta Gladiators in the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
The all-rounder, who made his international debut in 1996, last played for Pakistan in 2013, rounding a total of 46 Tests, 265 ODIs and 32 T20Is for the country.
In an exclusive interview, Razzaq spoke about his plans as coach, the lack of pace-bowling all-rounders, India-Pakistan cricket relations, and more.
You were recently appointed as the Assistant/Bowling Coach by Quetta Gladiators for the second season of the Pakistan Super League. What are your aims and targets in this role?
It marks a new phase in my life and career and it's something that I am really looking forward to doing. I am hopeful that I can be successful in this field and support the players in whatever they need from me. I've played a lot of cricket and played against and with many great players and I hope to utilise my knowledge and experience from my playing days into my coaching role. As a player you learn a lot especially if you have played all around the world and I feel it's important to carry that experience forward into coaching.
You have a lot of experience from your playing days and played under a lot of different coaches. What do you feel makes a good coach?
I feel that coaching is all about helping and working with the players. If a player has any problems or issues, a coach's role is to help and support the player and not to impose himself or his methods onto that player. When you are an experienced cricketer you have seen a lot in your playing days so there isn't much that will surprise you or that you need to learn. The basics are there, the knowledge is there, it's just about imparting that knowledge onto the players you are working with.
Quetta were the runners-up in the inaugural Pakistan Super League, you must therefore have been impressed with their efforts in that tournament?
Twenty20 cricket is a tough gig and I believe that mental toughness plays a huge part in the difference between winning and losing. It's a format where you have to be switched on from ball one and carry that through. I think that with a little bit of support on the mental side of the game for the boys, especially when preparing for the big matches, Quetta Gladiators have the potential to go one better in the second edition of the Pakistan Super League.
How important do you think it is for former Pakistan players like yourself to be given job opportunities in the Pakistan Super League?
I strongly believe that whoever is entrusted in a coaching role should leave his ego behind and ensure that his focus is solely on helping the players. It doesn't matter how big a star you were in your playing days or how many matches you won for your country, your aim should be simply to help and work with the players and ensure that you pass on your experience to the players you are coaching.
I guess your aim is that the Quetta Gladiators role is the start of a long and productive coaching career for yourself?
Yes with Quetta I want to announce myself in coaching and I hope that opportunities arise to coach in other countries' international and domestic teams, as well as coaching in Pakistan domestic cricket. I am ready and willing to help anyone who needs me to help them with coaching.
Why do you think Pakistan can't produce pace-bowling all-rounders in this era?
The Pakistan Cricket Board needs to seek out former cricketers like myself to help in this regard. If we were allowed to work with players at the Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18 levels then there is no reason why we cannot produce genuine pace-bowling all-rounders. As a coach, one of my aims is to help Pakistan produce some great pace-bowling all-rounders once again. The issue why we are not producing such players is down to the system. I believe that we need coaches in Pakistan who aren't going through the motions and just doing their job day to day. Instead, we need people who have the ambition to produce world-class cricketers. The talent is there, the question that needs asking is what are the coaches in Pakistan doing for that talent. You need people who can spot the talent and have a keen eye for talent and how to nurture it. There needs to be a belief in the system and in the players, where they know that their talent and skills will be developed.
What are your thoughts on a very poor series for Pakistan in New Zealand recently?
Pakistan has always struggled on green, damp and grassy wickets and that's exactly what New Zealand prepared for them. It's tough for Asian batsmen to go to places like New Zealand on seaming tracks and perform. It was an opportunity for the Pakistani batsmen to enhance their reputations but sadly they failed to do that. As a batsman, you have to go out there and have the mentality that you will make a hundred and no Pakistani batsman did that. You have to have that mindset of scoring big and being that batsman who makes a hundred or one hundred and fifty for his team but that's where Pakistan was lacking.
Mohammad Asif recently labelled most of Pakistan's seam bowlers as average. Do you concur with this assessment?
Every player has a standard that they need to meet. Some of our players need to spend time with greats like Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Moin Khan, Ijaz Ahmed, Salim Malik and Shoaib Akhtar to refine their skills. The flaws are there to see and are obvious. We seem to get overawed and overwhelmed as soon as we come across conditions that are unfamiliar and seem to lack the plan to counter these conditions. Watching our seam bowlers bowling in New Zealand I came to the conclusion that they continued to bowl the wrong line. They were bowling the UAE line which does not work in places like New Zealand. These are basic flaws which the coaches and management need to address and I was surprised that this issue was not rectified in New Zealand. As soon as the Pakistan bowlers bowled the right line in New Zealand they looked threatening but they didn't do that often enough.
Do you have any hopes that Pakistan will challenge Australia in the upcoming Test series?
I definitely have high hopes. Australia aren't the team they used to be and despite the setback in New Zealand, Pakistan is not a bad Test team. I think the wickets in Australia will be truer than the ones Pakistan encountered in New Zealand and the wickets should be more to the liking of the Pakistanis. The ball comes onto the bat nicely in Australia and that should encourage the Pakistan batsmen to play more positively. I'm hopeful that Pakistan can challenge Australia and win at least one Test there.
You played in some great encounters against India during your career. Do you feel that modern day cricket is missing out due to the lack of India versus Pakistan matches?
Sport has always enhanced friendship between the two nations and I believe it can do it again. The tension on the border needs to end and the two countries need to live side by side in a friendly and cordial environment. Given the continued tension on the border it makes it very difficult to play cricket in such an atmosphere but I hope the tensions ease and India versus Pakistan cricket resumes as the world of cricket needs this rivalry to resume as soon as possible.
Saj Sadiq (@Saj_PakPassio
Updated Date: Dec 13, 2016 10:49:49 IST