DateLine: 24th July 2010
We are delighted to present an Exclusive Interview with the Pakistani Chief Selector Mohsin Hasan Khan. In a detailed, forthright and honest discussion with PakPassion.net, Mohsin Khan discusses key moments in his own career, all the upcoming and current players in the Pakistan squad and his approach to selection.
PakPassion.Net: Let’s begin by talking about the 1982 Lord’s test between Pakistan and England. What was the atmosphere within the dressing room when you and Javed Miandad chased down a total to win the test?
Mohsin Khan: There was one important quality of that team which needs to be highlighted. The Pakistani team/squad during that tour was built on the foundations of having a fighting spirit. The lads were being led by a fighting captain in Imran Khan and this flowed into the play of each individual on the team. We had lost a test prior to that match and were eager to get back up and win the next one. This fuelled our passion for victory even further and helped us along the way in that match.
During that time period – my form was patchy. I was scoring 30s and 40s, but I was not able to get over that hump and score big. So, I was awfully eager to get out there and finally get a big score for the team. I was fortunate enough to get a huge score in the first innings  and it led to a declaration – which shot the team’s morale up a few notches higher. I was praised heavily for that innings – when I came back to the pavilion, but I told them I would only be happy after we win the match because at that time my innings was just part of an ongoing process within the test match.
After we knocked over the England tail – we had to play an ODI style innings to wrap up the match, since the overs were running out on day 5. Imran Khan decided to send in Javed Miandad with me and it worked out well as both of us went not out and won the game in 13 overs or so. It was one of the most pleasurable moments of our careers – there is no doubt about that.
During those years of 1982 to probably around 1986 – our team was a proper unit. We had tremendous self-confidence in our abilities and it showed when we went out on the field. We had full confidence in the fact that we could go out there and beat any team that was put in front of us. It was an excellent spirit to have within the dressing room.
PakPassion.Net: Next question is regarding the 1984 match against England – where you were dropped for the following series during an ongoing tour. In the second innings, you played a masterful innings – do you feel the PCB should have waited until the end of that series before releasing the squad?
Mohsin Khan: Where did you find this question [chuckles]? It's an excellent question and I would like to thank the member who brought this question up. Well, the fact is that any player [selected or not selected] will always go out and play for Pakistan without any qualms. I was the same and I would never have let my performance dip regardless of what the PCB was doing. Although, I honestly did not know that I was dropped for the next series until some point in the middle of the match. I knew that I had to perform and show the selectors that I was good enough for a spot in the squad. It was the only way I could prove my worth and in the end I was able to perform remarkably well in the second innings.
After I came back into the dressing room – I was praised by everyone around me. A few individuals told me that the squad was supposed to be “officially” released to the media after the match and it was held back after my innings. A PCB official came up to me after the match and told me that he was extremely pleased with the way I played and was hoping that I would play in the same manner during the next series. I simply told him “ Kya aapne mujhse poocha hai ke main agle match ke liye available hoon ya nahin?” [Have you asked me whether or not I am available for the next match?!]. I have no interest in naming that selector who spoke to me because I still feel he acted unprofessionally and insulted me with his antics.
He told me that he was not sure why I was talking to him like this and that he felt I was an important part of the team. I told him that he could keep his rubbish to himself and that he was fooling no one. After a little while, I told him that I would decide in an hour or so about my availability and that he could wait if he wanted. It was an interesting exchange for sure.
PakPassion.Net: Now let’s get back to present times and your current job as chief selector. During a recent press conference – you stated that the selectors would be focusing on letting youngsters get proper chances within the team. After having said this – why was Fawad Alam dropped from the test squad even after doing so well previously?
Mohsin Khan: I would first like to get one thing out of the way – Fawad Alam was made a “bakra” [lamb] during his debut test by making him an opener. It was commendable that he scored 168 and poor management by the team to place him in such a situation. Fawad Alam is a very talented cricketer, but at the moment he should not be forced to open the innings or even come one down as it’s not his favoured position.
PakPassion.Net: You are spot on, however what about a spot in the middle order – his favoured position? He was regarded as the future replacement of Yousuf/Younus in the middle order, yet he has been dropped now?
Mohsin Khan: Excellent question and one that should be answered. The selectors [including myself] are keen to back youngsters and we have done so with the selection of the test squad. Umar Amin and Azhar Ali were the two players we felt deserved to be selected for the test squad at this point in time.
Also, I think it would be important to let all fans know and the member of your website/forum that as chief selector I believe it’s vital for the captain/coach to have an input. I can guarantee the fact that the skipper and the coach had complete say in the selection of this squad and these were the players we all agreed upon.
Fawad Alam is an important asset to our cricket and there is no doubting that. He is mighty talented and will always be in the names to be selected. However, I will never let him or any other youngster become a “bakra” due to them being in a vulnerable position within the unit. It would be tremendously unfortunate for us to select him or any other player only to see him being thrust into a position he’s not comfortable with. It would ruin the team chemistry and the lad’s career as well.
I can assure you though that Fawad Alam will be considered for the ODI squad in England and will be heavily considered for future series as well. Like I said before, this squad was selected with the input of the captain and after those meetings – it was accepted that Azhar Ali/Umar Amin were going to be selected.
PakPassion.Net: The next question is about Hammad Azam – he was regarded as a top three talent within the nation after his remarkable performances in the under-19 world cup that was played. Even after such high praise from pundits – he was not even in the top 35 players that were selected for the England tour & Asia Cup – what was the reasoning behind this?
Mohsin Khan: This is another solid question – the team that was selected for the tri-series in Sri Lanka has Hammad Azam in it. The captain and coach did not have confidence in Hammad Azam during the T20 world cup, thus he did not get a chance to play. After that, the 35 players that were chosen did not necessarily have to be the best 35 players in terms of talent/potential. These 35 players according to us were those that had the best chance of making the squad for the England tour.
The second reason for not including him in the Asia Cup/England tour squad was that both skipper and coach felt he was young and needed more grooming at the domestic level. Plus, I have stated a few times before – the captain and coach have a major say in the selection of players and they did not find Hammad Azam as someone they wanted to take along and it was fair of them to say that.
We have our eye on Hammad – he has serious talent and through appropriate grooming – I do feel he will emerge into a suitable all-round talent for this nation. We will be sending him to various tours in the recent future and will further assess his value to the team and how he is progressing as an athlete. The tri-series coming up will be a tough series and if he performs in that – his chances will increase dramatically of getting a call into the senior team.
PakPassion.Net: Almost every single fan was pleased with the selection of the Pakistan “A” squad and that is certainly something you should be proud of. However, there was a slight concern regarding Raza Hasan not getting a spot in the squad, instead he was placed on the reserves. What was the reasoning behind this?
Mohsin Khan: Raza Hasan is an extraordinary talent and someone we have our eye on. This was something we had to think really hard about when putting together the squad for this upcoming tri-series. A positive problem arose with Zulfiqar Babar’s performance over the past year or so and he did so well that we had to choose him over Raza Hasan.
Transparency with selection has to be kept and with his performances, it would have been highly unfair to drop him for the sake of Raza Hasan. Also, most of the selectors feel that Zulfiqar Babar is on the cusp of getting selected into the senior team. He has all the tools to become quite successful. Raza Hasan is a future talent for the nation and he will be closely monitored – however, it was appropriate to select Zulfiqar for this tour.
When selecting such squads – you have to consider those players that are on the verge of getting selected to the senior squad. Yes, youth deserve a chance as well and there are plenty of upcoming youngsters in the squad – however, other talented individuals like Zulfiqar Babar also warrant a chance.
The goal with youngsters is always to ensure that once they are selected for the senior team – their selection is not wasted. This is why it’s necessary to make sure these players are well groomed and nurtured properly, prior to pushing them into the senior squad. He will get his chance soon, though.
PakPassion.Net: Did you get a chance to speak to the reserve players such as Raza Hasan in regards to their future? Did you give them the reasons for why they were not selected into the actual squad?
Mohsin Khan: I’ll be honest with you – calling players and letting them know why they were selected or not selected is not in my duties. However, I always call every single player [selected and non-selected] and tell them the reasons for them being selected or dropped and what is expected of them in order for them to be selected again. This is something I take pride in and will continue to maintain as communication between selectors and players is vital.
I let the players that are dropped know that they are not out of the running and they are always being considered for future endeavours. Also, it’s important giving these players confidence that they still do have a healthy chance of being selected. Nothing positive comes out of just listing the squad and leaving it at that because no one knows what to improve in order to get selected next time.
There is a simple criterion which is followed when selecting squads – discipline, performance and fitness. If players meet all of these requirements, then they have every chance of making squads whether it is at a lower level or the senior level.
When I was recently at the NCA – I was always talking to the players participating in drills over there. These were not simple chats – they were lengthy discussions talking about what needs to be improved and how they feel about their cricket right now. All of these things were discussed and they helped me form an opinion about these players. This sort of contact is always important otherwise the selections being made will not be fair.
There is a lot of talent to be found in Pakistan, but sadly you can only choose 15-16 players in the squad each time around for the senior level. This is why selectors have a job, we need to weed out those players that are the best of the talent there is and this is what we get paid for. I always explain to the players that keep performing because the wait might feel long, but if you maintain performances you could stay in the national team for a long time and become a great player. The idea is to always stay positive as a player.
PakPassion.Net: The next question is related to Taufeeq Umar – he has an average of 40, yet he still was not even in the 35 man squad. Why was this?
Mohsin Khan: Taufeeq Umar was considered for the selection of the 35 man squad that was compiled prior to the England tour. However, after sitting down with the captain and coach – it was decided that players like Imran Farhat and Yasir Hameed were required in England, instead.
The idea with selecting Imran Farhat was simple; he has been doing well recently and has formed a good partnership alongside Salman Butt. However, we still wanted security for the opening position and we decided to go with Yasir Hameed – who we felt was in a better position than Taufeeq Umar and other choices at this point in time.
We needed balance in the test squad and it would not have been viable to select another opener alongside Farhat, Butt and Hameed. This is why Taufeeq Umar and the other candidates we had in our list were not chosen for the England tour. Yes, if Taufeeq Umar can progress with his performances at the domestic level, he will be given every chance to prove himself and get selected for the senior squad. However, we are going in a certain direction right now and we have chosen accordingly.
PakPassion.Net: Let’s put our focus on Imran Farhat. His career pattern in terms of performances has a redundant feel to it; he always gets in and then gives his wicket away.
Mohsin Khan: You are completely right and this has not been overlooked by the selectors. We have noticed this pattern in his batting and we made sure to tell him that he had to up his performances or he would be sitting out next time. This goes for any player, not just Imran Farhat – a player should be scoring big scores once they get in – getting out on low scores all the time will not guarantee anyone’s selection regardless of their position in the team.
This is the view of the selection panel, though. The captain can at times back the player and state that they feel he will give good performances in the upcoming matches. If this is the case – the selectors have to go back and contemplate whether it might be viable to give the lad another chance. However, if the performances continue to decline – there comes a point where the player has to be dropped regardless of what is said.
PakPassion.Net: The next question is regarding – Mohammad Irfan. There was the announcement of having Mohammad Irfan including in the T20 squad that was announced alongside Waqar Younis. However, for some reason he was dropped by either Ijaz Butt or yourself even after you were convinced by Afridi. What was the reason for his random dropping?
Mohsin Khan: Yes, I think the word you used “convinced” is appropriate because the selection policy has always been that if a coach/captain feels he requires a certain player he has to explain why in order to convince us. This goes both ways of course – we have to convince the captain/skipper as well when making certain selections.
I will assure you that I was completely convinced by the coach/captain that Mohammad Irfan was the right player to be selected and that he was required by the team. However, unfortunately Ijaz Butt did not approve of the selection simply because Mohammad Irfan’s name was not in the list of 35 players that the selection panel had selected previously.
PakPassion.Net: Yes, the reason you are giving was stated previously – however during the T20 world cup in England – Abdul Razzaq was called up even though he was not in the preliminary squad, was this not the same situation?
Mohsin Khan: Absolutely – we were well aware of this ICC regulation as well. However, the reason Ijaz Butt did not allow Mohammad Irfan’s selection was not because of an ICC regulation. It was because of logistics because after all there is always a reason for naming 35 man squads. The reason was that these 35 players would have their visas made before hand in order to not have any problems later on. Thus, Ijaz Butt told us that it would be extremely tough to get Mohammad Irfan’s visa processed and accepted prior to the world cup and it would be best if we selected someone from the 35 man squad we had selected.
He had no personal problem with Mohammad Irfan’s selection – he even told us that we could by all means include Mohammad Irfan in the next series if we wished, but it was not possible to include him at that point.
PakPassion.Net: For the last five years – Kamran Akmal has been having serious keeping problems including the Sydney debacle. Yet, he continues to be selected in the test squad – why is this?
Mohsin Khan: The first reason is his impressive batting in comparison to other keepers in the domestic circuit. Yes, his keeping has been poor over the past little while – but, it has to be remembered that his keeping is improving. In the recent matches that were played, he did extremely well behind the stumps and barely had any mistakes.
However, the selectors have constantly kept tabs on his performances and he is not getting a free leash. He knows that if his performances continue to dip – he will be dropped immediately. A camp was held recently that was focused on upcoming keepers and it was simply done so that we knew what type of talent we had. It is always important to have a backup keeper in and around the squad.
Backups are not only reserved for keepers of course. The selectors are constantly making sure that there are efficient backups for each and every first choice player because problems can arise at any time. These problems can be related to performances, discipline or sadly even injuries. Yes, it’s always difficult replacing players like Mohammad Yousuf/Younus Khan – however, they are such great players because they have played so many matches and even they were youngsters once upon a time.
PakPassion.Net: You just spoke about Mohammad Yousuf and Younus Khan – What is the future of these two players in regards to tests and ODI cricket?
Mohsin Khan: My personal opinion on both players is that they are greats of Pakistan cricket. They still have three to four years of cricket left in the tank and they could easily continue to produce for the team. However, I have to stick to my selection criterion of discipline, fitness and performance. If both of them want to come back into the team and pass the criterion set – they have all the chance to make the team.
We have to remember that Mohammad Yousuf has taken retirement and it would only be possible to select him if he takes back that retirement. You cannot consider a player that has not even made himself available.
PakPassion.Net: Do you feel these players – if they were to come back would have a chance of playing in the 2011 world cup taking place in Asia?
Mohsin Khan: Yes, they would have a chance of making the squad for the 2011 world cup in Asia – if they maintained their performances. If they pass all the points listed in my criterion then they can continue to play for as long as they wish. If a player is performing and is completely fit and disciplined – it makes no sense to drop him because of his age. It would be highly unfair of me or the other selectors to list the player’s age as a reason for dropping them from any tour/tournament.
PakPassion.Net: Suppose if these players were to be selected and ended up not performing in two or three matches. Would they be dropped immediately or would they be given a longer leash? No player can maintain performances all the time – so would their age result in a shorter leash in comparison to others?
Mohsin Khan: Every single player that is selected is always given a complete chance before they are dropped. This includes youngsters and seniors – no player will be put in such a position where they do not perform in one match and they are sitting out for the next series.
We have chosen a few youngsters such as Umar Amin and Azhar Ali – they will be given appropriate chances and will hopefully perform for the national team. No one will be able to say that they were discarded unfairly and were not given a proper chance of proving themselves. This goes for any youngster that is in the team or will be selected in the future under my panel.
PakPassion.Net: Speaking about Umar Amin – he played quite well in the second innings and seemed like a compact player when he scored 33 runs.
Mohsin Khan: Yes, both Umar Amin and Azhar Ali looked like they belonged at the test level and they will continue to be persisted with in the upcoming matches. They were chosen in the squad because they had proven that they would be able to perform at the highest level due to their technical abilities with the bat.
PakPassion.Net: Pakistan has a serious problem with proper all-rounders at the moment. We need a young all-rounder that could come into the team – do you know any that are in the domestic circuit?
Mohsin Khan: Well, a major one would be Hammad Azam – who we were speaking about in a previous question. There are two or three other lads in the team that are also being closely monitored. However, I do not like stating two or three names because it disheartens the other talents within the system. These views can change based on performances and thus it is foolish to just name a few players just for the sake of it.
We have good talented players coming in all departments such as batting, bowling, keeping and all-rounders. These players are being groomed and are being properly prepared for the next level of cricket and will hopefully be seen in the upcoming years.
PakPassion.Net: In terms of keeping – are there any players that have really caught your eye?
Mohsin Khan: There are many keepers that have caught my eye. There is obviously the national keeper, Kamran Akmal. There are also keepers such as Zulqarnain Haider and Sarfraz Ahmed who has been around the team for a while.
I have met most of the upcoming keepers and they are all fine young men. Sarfraz Ahmed has been performing well in domestic cricket and is always in the reckoning for a spot and Zulqarnain Haider was selected in the T20 squad that was in England.
Every single keeper that is being considered knows that their performances will the basis of them being dropped or selected. Kamran Akmal has been told the same thing and if his performances drop then he will be dropped as well. The key is to develop this competitive spirit within the players/keepers and once it’s developed the performances of these players start increasing in stature and we have better players to choose from.
PakPassion.Net: The last question/comment is regarding the criticisms you are receiving from the media in regards to not selecting players from Karachi. These players were guys like Faisal Iqbal, Mohammad Sami and many others. It is very pleasing to see a selector not bundle under pressure and stick with his selections. Faisal Iqbal did not deserve to be selected and you did not select him. The hope is that the same will be done for Imran Farhat if his performances continue to decline.
Mohsin Khan: Of course, if players do not perform then they will be dropped and they know this as well. Faisal Iqbal is a middle order batsman and his performances were not up to par in comparison to other player, therefore he was rightly dropped.
Imran Farhat is an opening batsman and we made sure that he was given competition in the squad in the form of Yasir Hameed. I would like to clarify to all fans that Yasir Hameed was selected as an opener not as a middle order batsman.
The opening slot is a position that is a specialist position. This is why those players get more chances then other players. It takes longer for openers to get accustomed to their spot and perform in comparison to a middle order batsman. However, this does not mean they keep on getting selected if their performances continue to decline.
Also, due to opening spots being specialist positions – we’ve selected those players that are experienced and have played international cricket before instead of young openers that can also be found in domestic cricket.
As far as the middle order goes – there are three names that have an immensely bright future. Asad Shafiq – who was recently selected, Aamer Sajjad and Naved Yasin is another one. These players are extremely talented and are being considered.
PakPassion.Net: Thank you so much, Mohsin bhai. This was one of the best interviews that PakPassion has had the honour of doing. We wish you the best of luck with your job as Chief Selector.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2010 PakPassion.Net)
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