DateLine: 22nd December 2009
Question: How did you get into cricket?
Taufeeq Umar: My cricket career started in 1994 when I attended a Pepsi Imran Khan coaching clinic. They formed a team called Pepsi Lahore which I was selected for. Kamran Akmal also started his cricket career from there.
Question: Lahore is a cricket mad city, how did you manage to get yourself noticed among so much competition?
Taufeeq Umar: The clinic was coached by experienced domestic batsmen such as Azghar Khan, Azmat Rana and Agha Zahid. These guys recognised the talent in me and selected both Kamran and I for the final 13.
Question: Were you then selected for any junior or academy tours after this?, If I remember correctly you toured England with the U15s team?
Taufeeq Umar: After that my first tour was with the U15s team for the world cup in 1996 in England. We reached the finals.
Question: You have now played cricket for many years, what do you think about the standard of domestic cricket in Pakistan?
Taufeeq Umar: The standard of Pakistani domestic cricket is very good. Most of the players who play for the departments have been playing for many years and they are all professionals. The facilities provided to the players however are not very good.
Question: You have just participated in the recent Qaid-e-Azam trophy. Have you seen any youngsters who have impressed you?
Taufeeq Umar: The U19s have just toured Sri Lanka and now there is a world cup about to take place so the talented youngsters have been busy there. However there is a young guy named Umar Amin who has performed really well and Ahmed Shehzad is another young talent who has been putting in good performances.
Question: You have mashallah played cricket to the highest level. Who has helped you through your career the most?
Taufeeq Umar: There are a lot of people who have helped me in my career. I started in Lahore Gym Khana club and my manager there was the first person to support and guide, He was my Ustaad (Mentor). In international cricket Aamir Sohail has helped me a lot, he is like an elder brother to me, I have learnt a lot from him.
Question: When Bob Woomer came to Pakistan as a coach, you were dropped. What was your relationship with Bob Woolmer like? A lot of people said at the time that you were dropped unfairly.
Taufeeq Umar: I made a comeback after one and a half years. PCB recalled me for the England series. I was dropped after just one match. A player can have an unlucky innings or two If you drop someone based on just one match especially someone who is making a comeback then I feel it is unfair. I feel I should been tested for the whole series.
Question: Why hasnt Pakistan been able to bring good consistent openers since Aamir Sohail and Saeed Anwar?
Taufeeq Umar: I think the biggest problem is that no opener is given a consistent long run. If you look at the likes of Imran Farhat and Yasir Hameed who both have performed well but not been continued with.
Thanks to Allah I still have a test match batting average of 40 after 25 test matches. This is considered a good record in international matches and no other Pakistani opener still has as good a record.
Aamir Sohail and Saeed Anwar are great players and there is no doubt in that but even they didnt perform in every single match. They were given a proper chance, they didnt have the fear of being dropped after one bad performance. Not giving proper chances to openers is the main problem with the Pakistani team.
Question: You have opened the batting with many other Pakistani openers. Who did you enjoy opening with the most?
Taufeeq Umar: I scored a test hundred on debut and I was partnered at that time with Saeed Bhai (Anwar). I also opened in the 2003 world cup and it was again with Saeed Bhai. I used to really enjoy playing with him because he used to teach me along the way and he always realised that I was the junior so he used to take all the pressure onto himself. That is a trait of a great player.
Other then Saeed Bhai if I have had a good understanding with someone then that is Imran Farhat. He is from my bank and he has also played a lot of international cricket. Thanks to Allah we have got a record of four international hundred run opening partnerships for Pakistan.
Question: Saeed Anwar was a great batsman, Did you base your batting style on him?
Taufeeq Umar: No this is my natural style, A lot of people have said that it is similar to Saeed Bhai. I have learnt a lot from him and I have watched a lot of his videos to learn more but my batting style is my own.
Question: In the 2004 home series vs India many people claimed that the Pakistani players were really friendly with the Indians. Do you think the lack of competitiveness from the Pakistanis was the reason Pakistan lost?
Taufeeq Umar: On the ground the atmosphere was completely different, all the players were playing to win. The Indian players were in form on the back of a well fought away series against Australia. Their players were experienced and they played the better cricket on the day and thats why they won.The cricket was hard fought, there were no one sided matches.
Question: Shaun Pollock is one of the greatest bowlers in cricket history but you played him with ease. What were your tactics against him?
Taufeeq Umar: My average is around about or even higher then 80 against South Africa. When I went on the away tour I was the man of the series for Pakistan and when they visited Pakistan I was also the man of the series.
They had the best bowling attack in the world but thanks to Allah I found it easy and I managed to score well against them.
Question: One of your strongest points was that you always knew where your off stump was. I watched the whole of the South Africa series and you left many deliveries which were very close to the stumps. We dont find this with the current crop of openers?
Taufeeq Umar: A good opener is someone who knows where their off stump is. This is something which you need to practice on as a batsman. On a fresh wicket and in new conditions it is hard to know where your off stump is straight away. This is something which requires training.
Question: Looking at your batting it is quite evident that you were more suited to test cricket. Do you feel that playing ODIs has affected your career? Do you think that your cricket career could have been longer?
Taufeeq Umar: No I wouldnt say that, I am still playing domestic cricket and I am sure that I will make an international comeback inshallah. I am fully driven to make my way back.
I dont think that you should categorise someone as a test specialist or a one day specialist. The most important thing for an opener is for him to give a good stand. Nowadays the batting in test cricket is pretty much the same as the batting in one days. The trend in one days has also reversed. You hardly ever score 90+ in the first 15 overs, mostly you only see scores of 50 to 70. The slogging is left for the final overs. Even in one days the trend now is to play steadily in the first 15 overs.
Question: You were in the team when Javed Miandad was coach. How did you find him as a coach. I remember once you were batting and Miandad was giving you signals from the balcony?
Taufeeq Umar: There is no doubt that Javed Bhai was a great coach and a great player. I have learnt a lot from him. He is a whole academy by himself. They say that if Javed bhai spends just a week with one player then that is enough for the player to improve.
Question: Throughout your career who was the most difficult bowler you faced?
Taufeeq Umar: It all depends on the conditions. If the conditions are batting friendly then even the best of the bowlers seem easy. If the conditions are tough then even an ordinary bowler seems very tough.
Overall I feel I have struggled against Brett Lee and Glen Mcgrath.
Question: You played in the ICL. How do you feel it has benefited you? What have you learnt from the ICL and what is your overall impression of the ICL?
Taufeeq Umar: I joined ICL because I wasnt being given a proper chance up here. We are all professionals and we will play cricket where we can. We werent being given games up here so we decided to go and play in the ICL.
We learnt a lot in the ICL because the playing conditions were different to ours and we were playing against players from all over the world.
Question: Pakistan is heading off to Australia, The last three series have been 3-0 defeats. do you feel Pakistan will be able to perform?
Taufeeq Umar: An Australian series is always difficult especially for Pakistan as the playing conditions of the two countries is very different. There is a lot of bounce in the Australian pitches which you dont find in Pakistan.
There are also a lot of new players in the team so I feel that the team will struggle a bit in Australia but all the players are very talented and if they play as they have been playing then Pakistan will give Australia a difficult time. However I feel that Pakistan will struggle.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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