"This ODI team does have the Cornered Tigers spirit" : Moin Khan
by Amir Husain

Player:Moin Khan, Rashid Latif, Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Saleem Yousuf, Imran Khan, Sarfraz Ahmed
Event:Australia in United Arab Emirates 2014/15, New Zealand in United Arab Emirates 2014/15

DateLine: 22nd December 2014


The sight of Moin Khan walking in to take guard at crucial moments in the innings was one that always filled Pakistan supporters with joy and hope. The gutsy street-fighter attitude embodied by the likes of legendary cricketers such as Javed Miandad was reflected in full in the manner in which Moin approached his cricket.


Never one to throw in the towel and always the first to answer any crisis with his aggression, the wicket-keeper captain from Karachi represented Pakistan in 69 Test matches in which he scored 2741 runs. He also had the honour to wear Pakistan colours in 219 One day internationals where he made 3266 runs with a strike rate of over 81 which included the glorious and victorious World Cup campaign of 1992.


At 43 years of age, Moin is currently tasked with the dual role of chief selector and team manager for the Pakistan team. His commitment and enthusiasm to see Pakistan succeed was one of the highlights of his exclusive interview with, where he spoke about Pakistan's recent performances in the UAE, his own career, the honour of keeping for the two Ws, Sarfraz Ahmed's progress so far and much more. How important was the healthy competition with Rashid Latif in the development of your career?
Moin Khan: It’s always a good thing but at the same time a tough situation to have a competitor for your position in the team. It gives you a boost in the sense that it makes you think very carefully about your own performance and how you can improve it to stay in the team. You tend to work hard and stay fitter as that’s the only way to survive in the team.


So I was very lucky that I had a competitor like Rashid and ultimately that reflected in the positive results for Pakistan. When I used to play, my aim was to perform well to stay clear of the competition and that obviously benefitted Pakistan. And I am sure this must have been the same case for Rashid.


This type of competition is very important for any team and this type of healthy competition does not mean that one player is being undermined at the expense of another. As chief of selectors, I am trying to encourage such competition which can only be beneficial for Pakistan. The players also understand this well and you see them competing in all aspects, whether it’s fitness, fielding or performance. Looking back at your time as captain of Pakistan, how painful are the memories of the loss against England in Karachi (Dec. 2000)?
Moin Khan: Well it was a good match but unfortunately we didn’t play well, especially in the second innings where we could have done better. We played some horrible shots in that innings and that really wasn’t the most professional batting display by us. England to their credit, responded well and won that match. As you will recall, we played ten minutes after sunset. That was very strange and even the ICC didn’t take much notice of that. However, the rules have changed now and that’s good for the game. Yes, its history, but the fact is that it happens to be the first match that Pakistan lost in Karachi and that does bring back some bad memories. Being regarded as a gutsy player in your playing days, do you see similar qualities in the Pakistan team of today?
Moin Khan: All I will say is that every person has their own approach to the game. You really have to compete hard and also set goals for yourself. Not only that, you have to set yourself to beat the standards set by some great players. In that process, you create new standards for others to look up to. That way, people remember you for a long time after you are gone and obviously you also feel satisfied with that. For example, when Saleem Yousuf was in the team, I looked up to him and wanted to be at his standard when I got a chance to play. Once I got that chance, I wanted to set my own standards of excellence for others to follow.


I have always been a hard working person. Even though, as I always say, Rashid Latif was more talented but my hard work is what sustained me in that period. This is what I also learnt from my seniors as well, from players like Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram and also Waqar Younis.


As far as the impression of being ‘gutsy’ is concerned, well the fact is that all followers of the team want someone who can play the role of an anchor in times of crisis for the team. This is what I always wanted to do. I would always pray to the Almighty for assistance as I went in to bat. This was a habit of mine and when you ask for help from the Almighty in times of trouble, then that gives you some inner strength. Once I had that feeling in me, then I would give it my best shot and most of the times, I would succeed. I suppose you can also say that luck favours the brave. You had the honour to keep wicket to Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Tell us about that experience.
Moin Khan: It was indeed an honour playing in the same team as the two Ws. It was sometimes very difficult to keep for them. It was easier in places like Australia where the ball comes very hard into your gloves, but the bounce was very good on those pitches. But when it came to England or the sub-continent where the ball doesn’t bounce that much, you had to stand a little close to the stumps and couldn’t really go for the thick edges. You just don’t have enough time to move your feet on such surfaces and with the speed of these two great bowlers, you can imagine how difficult it was and I did break a few fingers during those times.


Yet, as I said earlier, it was an honour to be keeping to these great bowlers. I really enjoyed doing that job and they were always very encouraging towards me, even though I dropped so many catches off them! They never criticized me for that as they knew that I always tried my best. I was very lucky to have played in their era. What are your recollections of the 1992 World Cup? How was the mood during the group stages and how did it develop into something more positive as the campaign went on?
Moin Khan: We went to Australia one month before the World Cup started. We played a few warm-up matches and lost to some grade teams there. Even when the actual mega event started, we only had three points in the first four matches and it was obvious that we weren’t performing well at all.


We were definitely very depressed about the whole situation but something changed when the match against Australia came up. We had a great team meeting before the match where Imran Khan and other seniors spoke to us. They motivated the youngsters in the team with a pep talk. I recall that even the youngsters took an active part in the meeting and suggested a few things that they could think of. We put our heart and soul in that game and kept ourselves alive in the tournament.


That match was special and the turning point of our campaign, in that it helped us build momentum from that point onwards. After winning that match, we started to feel that we were unbeatable. There was a confidence and a belief that had suddenly come about in the team and we felt motivated to move on. The rest, as they say, is history. How can the same ‘Cornered Tigers’ type spirit be inculcated in this team?
Moin Khan: Firstly I believe that this ODI team does have the Cornered Tigers spirit and they have shown it. Let me also tell you that this kind of attitude shows up when team members start thinking carefully as to what their responsibility is and what people expect from them. When you start thinking like this then you put in your hundred percent. When everyone does that effort then the team appears united and moves towards a common goal.


You have to sacrifice a lot and you have to make sure that you are there for each member of your team; in the good and bad times to appreciate and encourage them. The Cornered Tigers spirit will only come about when you ask yourself if you really want success or not. Once you make that decision, then you move ahead and put all distractions to the side; even your own family comes second. The Sarfraz Ahmed story is an incredible one. How do you think that transformation came about for Sarfraz?
Moin Khan: Ups and downs happen in one’s career where you try and play well but just can’t find the luck you need. It happens. The way he is playing now is incredible. Personally speaking, I have always backed him as I have seen him play in domestic cricket and I know his potential to succeed for Pakistan. I have been backing him for the last five years and he’s justified the support he’s had.


He’s a great listener and pays careful attention to any advice I give to him and he tries to apply that in match situations, which is excellent. My advice to him is always to take pride in what you do and play your natural game; enjoy yourself when you are out there. I tell him that we need runs – don’t think about getting out etc, play run scoring shots with whichever technique you want to use. Not only me but Waqar has worked very hard with Sarfraz as has Mushtaq Ahmed. The Captain, Misbah-ul-Haq also has great faith in him and I understand that he recently said that Sarfraz was like ‘Oxygen’ to the team. What other compliment can a player expect than this one from his captain? How would you rate Sarfraz’s chances as future captain of Pakistan, given that he has been Under 19 captain?
Moin Khan: Let me answer by taking my own example. I was told that since you have been Under 19 captain, you will also be captain of Pakistan one day. This was a great motivation for me and should be for anyone in that position. This is the culture we are trying to establish amongst our youngsters as well, where we are encouraging them to aspire to future greatness. Sarfraz is no different. Fawad Alam and Sadaf Hussain are two names mentioned a lot for their performances in domestic cricket. Do they have a chance to be included in future Pakistan squads?
Moin Khan: Yes and it goes without saying that anyone who performs in domestic cricket will be considered. We have to give due respect to this level of cricket as that is the only platform where players can perform and then be selected on that basis.


However, one must remember that we can only have fifteen members in a squad and eleven members in a team! What that means is that even if you are performing well at the domestic level, you cannot simply displace a team member in the senior side. All you should do as a domestic player is to stay fit and compete at high intensity. You never know when your chance could come. Never lose hope.


As for Fawad Alam, look he’s a good player but at the same time, you have to understand that this is a difficult decision for us. We have to make sure we have the right composition of players in the team. We cannot have too many similar players in the team. He should not lose heart. There is still some time to the World Cup and Fawad is a talented player and should an opportunity arise such as an unfortunate injury to any of the other players, he can easily make his way back in the team. How challenging has the job of managing this team been for you so far?
Moin Khan: I don’t think it’s been that big a challenge. The whole team is very professional and they are doing their job with responsibility so I don’t feel any extra pressure on me. However, any managerial assignment is tough as there are always quite a few things involved in managing the team. However, let me repeat that this assignment has far from been a challenge. There have been no controversies and the guys have been very disciplined. I am really enjoying being with them and am very proud of their performances as well as their professional conduct. You must be very pleased with the overall performance of the team during the series against Australia and New Zealand in the UAE?
Moin Khan: Overall we have seen a very good performance from the team so far. Yes, there have been ups and downs along the way which is to be expected and of course, to be the best you need to have consistency in your performances. Having said that, you will note that of the 25 days of Test cricket we played in the UAE, only two or three were dominated by the opposition. We had records broken with centuries scored by this team. To be honest, we were a little concerned about our inexperienced bowling attack, especially our spinners, being able to tackle the top team in the world. However, they all performed well and exceeded our expectations.


I must add that I was really impressed by the attitude of our bowlers and the manner in which they progressed during the series. In particular, Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar, were both really impressive and represent the big positives to come out of these series for us. Add to that the centuries scored by our batsmen, with Sarfraz scoring two at the number seven position. I have to admit that I have never seen such performances from any Pakistan team in my career. It is unfortunate that we lost the ODI series against Australia although, we could have been the winners in the final ODI. We also came close to a good result in the final ODI of the New Zealand series but all that matters now is to take the positive momentum forward.


(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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