Dubai: The leadership qualities of Indian skipper Virat Kohli got a major thumbs-up from Rameez Raja, a former Pakistan captain and a popular TV pundit now.
Answering a question if lack of distinctive leadership qualities had often seen Pakistan being the under achievers, especially in white ball cricket after their 1992 World Cup triumph, Raja felt the leadership of Imran Khan made a difference during that golden phase of Pakistan cricket. A key member of that World Cup-winning side himself, Raja said: ‘‘Yes, the leadership made a difference in 1992. The quality that I saw in Imran then, I am now seeing it in the way (Virat) Kohli is leading this Indian team with injecting a will to win.’’
Speaking in a programme called ‘Runyudh’ in India News channel, Raja - holed up in his house due to lockdown for the coronavirus pandemic - said: ‘‘Our team was not very great in that sense, but leadership makes the difference - especially in white ball cricket. A good, engaging environment is essantial for Pakistan team - which has never lacked in talent - but the role of captains are very important.’’
Incidentally, Pakistan has won two major ICC white ball tournaments since the ‘92 hurrah in Melbourne - the T20 World Cup in 2009 (under Younis Khan) and the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy (unirder Sarfaraz Ahmed).
They (India) always had a good batting line-up, though the middle order now shows some uncertainty if Kohli gets dismissed early. However, unlike in the past where they were reliant on spin, they now have a big arsenal of fast bowlers
Raja felt that the Indian team has now become one ‘‘for all seasons’’ and attributed it to the growth of a talented crop of fast bowlers. ‘‘They always had a good batting line-up, though the middle order now shows some uncertainty if Kohli gets dismissed early. However, unlike in the past where they were reliant on spin, they now have a big arsenal of fast bowlers,’’ he said.
Looking at the future of Pakistan team, Raja said the Pakistan Super League (PSL) is one of the best things that has happened to their cricket and hoped at least two to three genuinely quick bowlers - who can consistently bowl at 150 kmph - should break through in the international scene in the coming seasons. ‘‘Batting, however, remains a matter of concern as there is too much pressure on Babar Azam,’’ he said.
The question of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s retirement also come up and Raja said with a wry smile: ‘‘It’s a bit of a mystery, will he..won’t he. The timing to retire is very important, and I expect that there is introspection. Ultimately, one has to move on.’’
Incidentally, Raja - who has worn many a hat in his country’s cricket as well - was the CEO of PCB when India had toured Pakistan for a full-fledged series after more than a decade in 2004. Asked if it’s feasible to see the two arch rivals meeting in the field soon in a bi-lateral series, Raja was cautious: ‘‘The ice should melt at some point. Politics should be kept aside and let’s hope the teams can play - be it next year, or in two to three years.’’