Kolkata: Ramiz Raja, the new chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), struck an upbeat note about his team’s chances in the T20 World Cup - which gets underway in Oman and the UAE from October 17.
‘‘There are a number of players with X-factors in this team, though I would not like to name anyone individually,’’ said Raja, a former captain and celebrated media personality who was formally elected as successor of Ehsan Mani less than two weeks back. ‘‘T20 is an unpredictable format but as long as they can fight, the team has the potential to upset many a calculations,’’ he said.
Speaking to Gulf News during an exclusive interview over phone, Raja felt that the World T20, which will take place right after the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) in the UAE, will be one of the most open tournaments in recent times. The last edition was played more than five years back in India in 2016, with the West Indies winning it in a thrilling final, but a lot of transformation has taken place in the composition of the teams since then.
‘‘See, it will be one of the most open tournaments but I see teams from Asia doing well under the UAE conditions and our boys are extremely well versed with the conditions there,’’ said Raja, a member of Imran Khan’s World Cup winning squad in 1992.
Pakistan, champions of 2009 edition under Younis Khan, and India - winners of the inaugural edition in 2007 and finalists in 2014, also have Afghanistan, New Zealand and two qualifiers from Round 1 to contend with in Group 2 while Group 1 comprises England, Australia, South Africa, the West Indies and two qualifiers from Round 1.
The UAE, which had been the home venue for Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for more than a decade in 2009, had been an all-too-familiar turf where apart from the international fixtures, past and present Pakistan players often play in domestic cricket as well. “For Pakistan, the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 is like a home event as the UAE has been our venue for more than a decade. We have not only nurtured our talent and developed our side in the UAE but have also beaten the top sides in these conditions to peak to No.1 in the ICC T20I Team Rankings,’’ Babar Azam, the current skipper, said after their team was announced last month.
Speaking at his opening press conference, Raja said that he wanted the Pakistan cricket teams to play the kind of fearless cricket which they were famous for and conquered the world in the early Nineties. Asked how he wanted to go about his task, Raja said: ‘‘Obivously, it’s not going to happen overnight but my message to the boys is you have to put the fear factor in the backburner. It’s with this idea that we have decided to add the likes of Matthew Hayden and Vernon Philander as mentors with the World Cup-bound team as they have played this format till recently across the world.
‘‘Hayden had been a champion player and a multiple World Cup winner for Australia. He will surely be a huge positive influence in the team,’’ said Raja.
Incidentally, Raja had a brief stint with the PCB before in 2004 when he served them as the Chief Executive for a few months. Can Pakistan cricket now expect him to play a long innings - the ones he was famous for? Admitting that he did quit after a short while, Raja said: ‘‘The difference is I am in a decision-making position right now. As a former player, my constituency is cricket and my vision will be to create an environment in PCB where right from the tea boy to the chairman, all should be proud to be part of a world No.1 team.’’