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PCB chairman Shahryar Khan

How disappointed are you that one of the leading cricketers from Pakistan, Mohammad Hafeez, has been banned from bowling for twelve months?

Shahryar Khan: I am disappointed because Hafeez came through the test and was cleared by the ICC earlier but they have questioned him again on this issue. Having said that, I feel that the main point of Hafeez’s presence in the national team is his batting. His bowling has become rather marginal in the last year or two. The fact that he will not be able to bowl is a disappointment but not a major blow for us. He can still continue batting and play an important role for our team.

Is the PCB considering launching an appeal against the decision to ban Mohammad Hafeez from bowling?
SK: We will consider that option, although as things stand right now, we don’t have all the details about the situation to make a complete judgment. I will add that, in general, I am against such appeals as I really don’t think they get you very far.

Where does the fault lie in this case? Is it with the player or the coaching staff who should have taken care not to violate any rules?
SK: Let me tell you that I met Hafeez whilst he was practicing to correct his action. He worked very hard with our coaches and especially with Saqlain Mushtaq as well as Mushtaq Ahmed. They were trying to help him and Saeed Ajmal and they went through a very thorough process. Sometimes, you have a kink in your action which is very difficult to remove. Although I did see for myself that Hafeez’s renewed action looked alright but then that is with the naked eye. Once you put all that through minute camera angles then it makes a difference.

To answer your question, I don’t think this is the fault of the coaches or even the player himself. You are born, so to speak, with this action and you carry it through so I wouldn’t put blame on anyone for this situation.

What is the Pakistan Cricket Board doing to battle the scourge of illegal bowling actions which has now claimed Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez as its victims?
SK: It is very much a fundamental problem. Even when I was the chairman seven or eight years ago, I noticed that most First-Class teams were carrying one or two bowlers with doubtful bowling actions. So, even then I was well aware of the gravity of the problem and it was I who arranged for the specialist equipment to be ordered and sent to Pakistan so that we could monitor the situation. However, after I left the post of the Chairman at that time, this process was put into low gear and we didn’t progress for about six or seven years.

But now, we have again realized that it’s very important to have a laboratory that tests bowler’s action since we have a large number of bowlers who have doubtful actions. It appears that there is no off-spinner in Pakistan who has a clean action as they all seem to model themselves on Muttiah Muralitharan or Saeed Ajmal and consequently, they will not pass the test on their bowling actions.

The whole world is looking forward to the long awaited India-Pakistan series, can you provide us with an update about any progress in terms of agreeing dates with the BCCI?
SK: We have been talking consistently to BCCI. They have never doubted the fact that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in which we play five series with India over the next eight years. The first of these series is scheduled to take place in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah in December of this year. So the dates are very clear, the venues are agreed as well. What is holding us back from making the final announcements are a few factors.

The first one is that the BCCI, rightfully so, have said that the MoU was signed and approved by the former government in India. Since then, we have a new elected government in India and it is only right that we ask them to give the clearance to the MoU to play in UAE and the four other series thereafter. We are, therefore, waiting for the green light from the BJP government and as soon as it is given the BCCI says that they are committed to honoring the MoU to play with Pakistan in the UAE. So that aspect is very clear.

Another hurdle in this process is the issue of broadcasting rights. As you know, we have signed an agreement with Ten Sports whereas the BCCI have some financial and judicial problems with Ten Sports. This has been taken up with the management of Ten Sports and I believe that there is progress on this and this matter should be cast aside and the only matter that should remain is the permission from the BJP government.

Lately, there are signs that there is a political improvement in the relations between India and Pakistan although I personally do not feel that cricket should be part of any political relationship. Politics should be pushed aside and cricket should stand on its own.

Politics are always up and down with India and Pakistan so that should not affect our holding the series as agreed. So that’s where we stand as of now and in a nutshell, in the next month or so we should be over all these hurdles and play our series in December. It will be a very significant landmark series between India and Pakistan and not just for these two countries but for the cricketing world in general. As you may know, this series has been described as more important than the Ashes series and we look forward to this series just like we did in 2004 which is the time when India came to Pakistan to play a fantastic series.

The hunger for international cricket on home soil was there for all to see during the Zimbabwe series but can we expect any more series in Pakistan in the near future?
SK: Yes, we are working on future series with Test playing countries. In this regard, we are talking to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and there might be other countries who would be interested in visiting Pakistan to play cricket. As you know, we have many associate members visit us in the past such as Kenya and Afghanistan, with other countries like Nepal and Namibia also expressing their interest. So we can get associate members to visit us without a problem and we hope that will encourage the senior or Test playing countries to visit us as well, as it did in the case of Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe visit was very heart-warming and I will tell you why. We had expected a good series but what we hadn’t expected was a fantastic series which is what we got. The spectators were marvelous, absolutely superb. They were disciplined, welcoming and hospitable. I cannot express in words how young boys and girls, school and university students came out and offered a marvelous welcome to our players as well as the visiting Zimbabwe players. The Zimbabwe players were treated as heroes in Pakistan.

So, hopefully we will be able to get some Test playing nations to visit us but the main thing to headline is that this will not happen suddenly. It’s not like that we have Zimbabwe today and tomorrow we have England, New Zealand and South Africa arriving at our doorsteps. It will happen slowly and will take several years but the process has to start somewhere and thankfully it has started.

The PCB is facing criticism from some quarters for backing down from playing in the tri-series in Zimbabwe against the hosts and West Indies. Why the sudden change of heart?
SK: We have an agreement in place with Zimbabwe Cricket that we will tour there in return for their tour of Pakistan, so there is no question about that happening at some point in future. However there was no agreement in place to play a tri-series in Zimbabwe. There was some misreporting previously that we had agreed to a tri-series, when actually no agreement was in place to play against West Indies and Zimbabwe. So for some to say we backed-down from something that we had not agreed to, is wrong. – [Pakpassion]