Dubai: Former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif, one of the best wicketkeepers their country have produced, reserved high words of praise for former Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Speaking to Gulf News about the current practitioners of his trade, Latif — who is here as the Director of Cricket Operations of the Karachi Kings for Pakistan Super League, said: “Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a very good ambassador of the game not only for India but for all over the world. A cool guy and that’s why India had lot of success under him. He is a very good human being too.” Though Latif respects Dhoni as a cricketer, his pick for the best wicketkeeper in the world is South Africa’s wicketkeeper Quniton De Kock.
“I feel De Kock is the best wicketkeeper after Jeffrey Dujon,” remarked Latif, who has played in 37 Test matches and 166 One Day Internationals before turning a coach and set up his own cricket academy in Pakistan.
Latif’s role as the whistleblower on match-fixing in cricket in the late ‘90s had shaken up the establishment and his career too as it had upset many officials. It was a delight to watch him give tips to young wicketkeeper Saifullah Bangash on how to dive to his right and left and how to anticipate a catch.
Latif believes that fitness is vital in cricket and passes on this message to everyone, be it a future wicketkeeper or batsman or bowler. “I believe strongly in fitness. Cricket is a skilled game but you need fitness. Awareness of the game is vital for success in international cricket. By fitness I don’t mean that as a cricketer one has to be as fit like legendary runner Usain Bolt. In cricket you also need to have mental strength.”
Latif wants everyone to sharpen their skills through hard work. “I believe that if you have skill one can handle the pressures. It applies to every person, even a banker or any employee of an organisation. You have to strengthen your knowledge of the game.”
Latif was not only the wicketkeeping coach of the Pakistan team but also the head coach of Afghanistan. Speaking about Afghanistan team, he said: “Afghanistan is totally a different team. They don’t need coaching. I feel they are very skilful players and very strong mentally. All that they need is good motivation.”
Latif candidly admitted that he never played Twenty20 but knows what it takes to win matches. “I have not played T20 cricket but as I qualified as a coach, I tell the boys that winning is all about game awareness.”
Latif then went on to give his view on what needs to be done to win in T20 format. “Twenty20 should be divided into three segment — one to six overs power play then 10 more overs and during last over you have to rotate the strike. One must pick two overs after power play — the ninth or 10th or 12th or 13th in which you must score 15 to 20 runs per over and that should change the game.”
When asked as to how he analyses the game so sharply, he said: “I enjoy cricket, be it India playing South Africa or any country playing each other and also watch Under-19 World Cup and even domestic cricket. I am a diehard fan of cricket and that is why I enjoy every moment of action.”