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Saturday, June 18, 2011

"County Cricket a Great Opportunity for Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan" : Mohammad Akram

This summer in England a number of Pakistani cricketers such as Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan and Saeed Ajmal have been provided with the opportunity to play county cricket. Speaking exclusively to former Pakistani pacer Mohammad Akram who himself played many years on the county circuit for the likes of Surrey and Northamptonshire spoke on what the players should look forward to and also how the players should be managed by the Pakistan Cricket Board. 

It is always great to get such an opportunity to play county cricket whether you are from India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka. It is a very good format, especially for young players. I recommend youngsters come and play here for at the most 2 years as they will learn a lot. As a youngster when you come into the Pakistan squad you do not know anything about ‘real’ cricket and how to deal with different cultures and different people in a new environment. It helps your cricket as well, and you become much more mentally stronger.

The big difference between county cricket and the Pakistani domestic cricket is that county it is much more organised. I liken it to Premier League Football. Every cricketer has a dream to play county cricket before or after international cricket. Not only is it more organised, it is more competitive and there is obviously more money involved for the players.

Looking at the quick young bowlers in Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan who have both recently joined the county circuit I would tell them that they have been given a great opportunity to learn cricket. At the same time it is a great opportunity to be ambassadors and show the world how ‘nice’ the people of Pakistan are. I am really happy several Pakistanis are playing county cricket, but they must realise this is a responsibility to enhance our image.

The other advice I would say is give your all for 1-2 years and learn as much as possible. Use what you have learnt and pass on this knowledge to your fellow Pakistani cricketers and developing young cricketers.

With regards to players perhaps revealing their secrets playing in county such as Saeed Ajmal who has come to play at Worcestershire, I do not think that there is anything to hide nowadays. Everything is revealed. There are so many cameras involved in cricket. With the case of Saqlain Mushtaq's career I would look at it from a different angle and would point the blame at the PCB. Myself, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed and Azhar Mahmood, we all played county cricket as well. In those times we used to earn 30000 Rupees per test match so we had to play county cricket. Had the PCB took the initiative to ask Saqlain Mushtaq to stop playing county cricket and asked him “You are our national asset, we will pay you as much as county,” he could have played another 4-5 years for Pakistan. PCB does not care about these things. 

I always say that recently retired cricketers should come on board the PCB. They understand these matters better. With Saeed Ajmal the PCB needs to speak with him and tell him that they will allow him to play for a year or two just for experience. They should offer him the money and say you should play for your national team as that is the pride.

I don’t have a problem with the central contracts and the way they are assigned to certain players based on seniority as this is the way it is done around the world. Now players are getting good money as compared with players from the 80s and 90s. As such what the PCB needs to impose is that you can only play a couple of years of county cricket. That’s it. They should not be allowed to play for more than 2 years as it especially takes its toll on bowlers. As a spinner you may be asked to bowl 30 overs in a day. That is a lot when you are playing 6-7 days of cricket every week.

I think moneywise players should be satisfied with what they are getting from the PCB. As far as I am aware of it, they are getting a lot of money and a lot of sponsorship. They should look to play for their country more than county cricket. County cricket should only be used for experience gaining.

On the batting front, apart from a handful we have barely produced world class batsmen. When you look at India, the batsmen are of a completely different mould. Some of our batsmen are only suitable to T20 cricket. You cannot rely on Pakistani batsmen in 4 day championship cricket. Counties would rather select Australian, Indian or South African batsmen than a Pakistani batsmen. We play our cricket in a completely different way which county does not require. We only have a few extraordinary cricketers of which Mohammad Yousuf is one of them or Younus Khan who is a very hard working cricketer. 

Again I would say that playing county is not that important. Playing for your country is more important. If you do play for a county, a couple years and that should be it.

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