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Monday, November 24, 2008

‘India can help’

S. Dinakar

Chennai: Ramiz Raja believes the present scenario in Pakistan presents an opportunity for India to support cricket across the border in times of need. India is scheduled to tour in January and February next year but concerns over the security situation in Pakistan have put a question mark over the visit.

Said Ramiz speaking to The Hindu on Monday, “It becomes all the more important why India should tour Pakistan now. Cricket or sports have never been targeted in Pakistan. I just think you need to be a little brave for the tour to go ahead. The situation, to be honest, is not perfect in Pakistan but the Asia Cup was conducted without a hitch. Honestly, I do not think there is any threat to the players. Pakistani cricket needs to get out of the rut and India can help.”
No to neutral venue

The 46-year-old former Pakistan captain added if the tour two countries decided, due to unavoidable reasons, to call off the tour, then the series should be staged in India. “I am against holding the series in a neutral venue. You need to have cricketing culture in a place for it to stage Test matches,” he said. India is slated to play three Tests, apart from five ODIs and a Twenty20 International, in Pakistan.

“The Pakistani cricketers would love to test themselves against India, the most attractive and exciting side in world cricket now. You have great variety and contrasting players in the side. Australia is no longer the benchmark in world cricket,” he said.

Ramiz saw shades of Imran Khan’s leadership in Mahendra Singh Dhoni. “Players look for honesty and integrity in their captain and Dhoni has these qualities. Without imposing himself, he allows the players to bloom but steps in when the cricketer faces a crisis. He is largely an attacking captain but has been flexible with his methods. He is also adept in strangulating the opposition.”

Rahul Dravid, he felt, deserved an extended run despite not being in the best of forms. “Although he has peaked as a batsman, he still has much to offer to Indian cricket. And losing so many senior cricketers together would not suit the interest of Indian cricket. You still need someone like Dravid in Test cricket.”

Ramiz was disappointed that star batsman Mohammed Yousuf put a career in Twenty20 over Test cricket. “He had a glorious chance to surpass Inzamam-ul-Haq as Pakistan cricket’s greatest batsman. Instead, he opted for what is being termed as a rebel series. He has played for more than 10 years for Pakistan, is financially secure, but…”
Akhtar should retire

The former opener felt controversial paceman Shoaib Akhtar should retire from Test and ODI cricket. “I think Shoaib’s fitness levels would not permit him to play Tests or ODIs anymore.”

Although Ramiz agreed Shoaib Malik was evolving as a captain, he said the bigger question was whether he could make the Test XI as a specialist batsman who could also bowl.

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