Ramiz Raja Outlines His Vision as PCB Chairman

The former cricketer and captain spoke at a press conference after being elected as PCB Chairman for a 3-year term.

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Statements

Opening Remarks

I would like to thank Prime Minister Imran Khan. I have a couple of teammates from the 1992 World Cup sitting here, and for us, it’s still a fan moment when we speak to Imran Khan or see him. When you see that he has confidence in your abilities and you get acknowledgment from such a great leader, your heart really opens us. Your desire to do something in cricket increases. This won’t be an easy job, and we will all be tested and challenged.

I would like to thank the Board of Governors for electing me. We’ve had discussions about the direction we’ll be going in. I’d also like to thank Misbah-ul-Haq and Waqar Younis. They worked hard and put in the effort, and many thanks to them.

In PCB’s 73-year history, only a few cricketers have been Chairman. I find this strange because this whole business is regarding cricket, but very few cricketers have reached this position. Perhaps there was a perception that they don’t know much about management. It used to be the same with commentary, but the myth eventually broke, and now cricketers are all over the commentary box. I hope that there will be a pathway in the future for cricketers to come through and govern the game.

Aims

One major question for me was, what am I coming here for? This position is like a firing range. Everyone has their views about cricket, and we make a bond through cricket in the whole country. Such challenges come in front of you rarely, and when you encounter such challenges, you grow as an individual no matter your age. It depends on your skills and temperament. Leaving an easy position such as the commentary box and coming here is a challenge. Cricket is my constituency, my subject. You will see a lot of improvement going forward.

I would like to tell my 1992 World Cup teammates here that there is no official or unofficial capacity. Open up and give your feedback. Often, when you go into the cricket board, you become quiet and don’t get opinions from the outside. Through you, I will remain grounded, and I will get training and reality checks. This is very important, and it applies to all cricketers. We have a small cricketing fraternity. Your welfare is paramount for me, and your suggestions are very important.

Vision

What is our vision? To me, it’s very clear-cut. I always thought that if I ever got a chance in this role, I would reset the vision a bit. Our cricket compass, direction, or GPS – whatever you want to call it – needs to be reset. There are some long-term and short-term goals. One thing that is clear and obvious is that a cricket board’s performance relates to a cricket team. A cricket team’s performance relates to the infrastructure, age cricket, the work that happens at the lower levels that we don’t see, etc. We have to work at all these tiers, and we have to reset direction.

Resetting direction means, for example, revisiting coaching. We don’t have targeted coaching. If Pakistan need three wrist-spinners and four openers, for example, we don’t have those options at the moment. Going forward, we need to grow and groom talent. We have a huge canvas, and if we’re not getting outstanding talent out of it, we’re falling short somewhere. So most importantly, we need to revisit our coaching.

In the same way, our age cricket hasn’t been working. We were busy making the Cricket Associations, so the school and club cricket became non-existent. There will be a push toward making First Class cricket more vibrant. There’s an uncertainty in First Class cricketers because they don’t know how long they’ll play for. There’s a new system, and they don’t know if they’ll keep getting paid and how their performances will count. What things do they need to improve themselves? There’s confusion at the First Class level, and there’s still a debate about organization cricket, departmental cricket vs. the rest. The jury is still out on what system is better.

I spoke to the Pakistan cricket team, and we discussed the model of Pakistan cricket. Pakistan cricket’s DNA has a fearless approach, aggression, some unpredictability, which perhaps makes us watchable because we can do anything on a given day. But until we haven’t described the model, confusion will remain, and we’ll keep wandering in the dark. We’re resetting the GPS; we know we want to reach a destination, but the transport is not working, so how will we get there?

My wishes are numerous, and I wish Pakistan could suddenly switch on and become the world’s most attractive cricket team. But until we don’t improve our skills and techniques, our wishes will remain wishes. Improving technique and following our DNA, we need to aggressively overcome the challenges we face. This is the story of the Pakistan team and our system. Until you don’t have a fearless approach and good coaching, with no consistency in selection and how we move forward, it will be hit and miss, with more miss than hit, which hurts.

Leadership is very important because when leadership is convinced about a model, only then will you select players and execute in the same way. We also need to work on our skills. Our pitches are in a very bad state. I haven’t taken any briefing on this, but I have an idea that you can’t wear spikes and bowl in club cricket. Pitches are essential for your cricket, and we don’t talk about them often. We need to work on this relentlessly. I have spoken about drop-in pitches, and insha’Allah, you will see some execution regarding that.

Regarding the World Cup, there are lots of views on social media regarding the selection, our players, and their potential. In a World Cup year, everyone needs to be responsible. Back the selected players.

In the 1992 World Cup, we had these stars, and many of them were 20/21 years old, and they played a crucial role in the World Cup. We had Inzamam-ul-Haq, who was around 20 years old. At some point, we need to take a chance with youth. Youth doesn’t have baggage, and expectations are also less. If leadership is strong, then the half player becomes a 100% player, like Imran Khan did. Inzamam-ul-Haq was regularly failing, and that’s always a great reference point for me. He had been identified as a match-winner (and he delivered), and that’s great leadership.

If you look at the potential of the 1992 and 1999 World Cup teams, the latter might have defeated the former by ten wickets; that’s how much talent they had. However, there’s that undying effort and honesty and clarity of purpose. That’s spirit, leadership, and also luck. We won the 1992 World Cup with 3.5 bowlers. There are many things that count in this. There’s nowhere in the world that there’s so much argument about selection and the team as there is in Pakistan. Thus, we must back the team. It has a direction for the future, and it also has experience. The results will be good, and even if they aren’t, the attempt is there. As long as your GPS is correct, you’re on the right track. I have a bit of background and knowledge, so I’ll speak about this when I can; otherwise, there is no point in me being Chairman.

Announcements

We have 192 players who are playing First Class cricket. We are increasing all of their retainers by 100,000 rupees. Now, they will receive almost 150,000 to 250,000 rupees as a monthly retainer. As a result, that debate about departments offering security and money should come to an end. I don’t think departments would give that much money to players. Additionally, it will build confidence in the system, and the uncertainty will reduce. This is our duty; as a cricket chairman, I think that our money should go where it’s good for the cricketers and the system. We need to spend money on our cricket and cricketers.

For the T20 World Cup, we are bringing in Mathew Hayden and Vernon Philander as (consultant) coaches. Hayden is an Australian, and he can bring some aggression to the team. He was a world-class player and had World Cup experience. He occupied the Australian dressing room, which can really benefit this team. We want to help the team so that they win the World Cup; they just need a 10% improvement. The one who makes 18 needs to make 28, the one who makes 28 should make 38, the one who goes at 8 RPO should go at 7/7.5. We just need some fine-tuning. I know Vernon Philander, and he understands how to bowl. He has a good record against Australia, and he’ll provide some excellent input.

The best thing is that we have a strategic partnership with Bank Alfalah, and they will pay their fees. Going forward, I would like to see us spending more through strategic partnerships. If we bring in drop-in pitches, they are expensive, so we should find 1-2 sponsors for it.

The third announcement is an Under-19 T20 World League. We’ll plan this next year. In our age cricket, we do not see that development, and we’re not creating an environment where they can become professional. It will benefit the Pakistan team and the PSL franchises, who search for young cricketers. This will create a ground where you bring professionalism into the system. If we create six teams in this, we’d like six ex-greats to be with them. Under-19 players will keep changing, but the best contribution our ex-cricketers can make is at the Under-19 level.

Goals

We need to have data for all our pitches, the pitches where all our club cricket is happening. I’m hoping that at our club cricket level, we can do a three-month summer and winter league and somehow get that on television. In the same way, we’ll attach schools with club cricket because schools don’t have grounds. If we leave it to the local administration, we don’t know how long it’ll take. I live in Model Town, and each block has a cricket ground. There are 7-8 schools, but they are in homes, and children can’t go out. So, we’ll make arrangements with clubs. That will also help us to see how clubs function and what they need.

If any club produces even one international cricketer, PCB will bear all the expenses of that club, including nets, rollers, balls, coaches, etc. These are our unsung heroes, and we need to look after them. This is our missing link. If club cricket falls, the same happens with FC cricket, and then your international team has problems.

Like I mentioned the retainers for First Class cricket, we’ll also have a look at women’s cricket. I’ll take a separate briefing for that, and we’ll take their scale upward.

Since I’ve come to this position, I will take decisions. That’s what I’m here for. It’s a tough job; everyone has opinions about our performance. I don’t want to be talking too much. Ideally speaking, I want there to be a lesser projection of the Chairman and more of the team and captain. In the whole world, no Chairman is given so much importance as in Pakistan. I want the team to perform so well that their performances are highlighted.

I also want all the players in the national team to understand their responsibilities. I spoke to them about breaking the barriers and achieving excellence. If you stay in a cage, even a lion looks ordinary. When he comes out of it, you see its demeanor. I want the Pakistan team to avoid being scared and thinking about what will happen in the future. If they follow the model and work on improving skills in all three facets and execution, they don’t need to worry about failure. Eventually, after some setbacks, they will stand up.

When people are surfing cricket on the television in the world, I want them to stop to look at the Pakistan team. That used to happen; our cricket had life and great performances, with world-class performers. We still have that. Other teams have 2-3; Pakistan has 4-5 match-winners. For most people, 90% of the team is the same, and there are disagreements about a couple of spots. That’s not a big deal. I would say that people should be responsible and back the team.

Closing Remarks

With our policies, you will hear some good news every 7-10 days about cricket.

I’ve come here to fix cricket and take decisions. I will make mistakes; that’s part and parcel of such a thing. There’s a funny saying: God give me patience, but please hurry up. I want to do a lot of work, and I want to show you results in six months.

Criticism is easy, but I hope you understand what I’m here for. I’ve not come here to hear abuse. My brother and I have an enclosure at the Gaddafi Stadium, so I’ve done something to be here, and I’m here for a reason. I will listen to suggestions, but just for the heck of it, I won’t listen to criticism, and you’ll also get a reply for it. A good, constructive reply – I don’t want to create a threat perception! I know you all well.

I’ve seen many cricketers’ careers, and the same goes for journalists. Many are here who were with me when I was playing, and they are still going. The scenario has changed a lot now. This is a golden opportunity for Pakistan; very few cricketers have been Chairman. There will be accountability as well, and as long as we work on improving cricket, the team and system can go great places.

Media Interaction

Strong Leadership

I played in the era where a captain was 10-in-1. The point is that if your team remains mediocre at #6, #7, and #8, multiple eyes come on your selection. Imran Khan built a top team, so when I was playing, I didn’t know who the Chairman or Selector were. He (Imran Khan) said you’ll play, so you’ll play. I want that to happen, ideally. The game hasn’t changed in 100-150 years. The captain is the boss. There’s nothing that can’t be solved. The important thing to see here is that if your performance is good, the sky is the limit. But you have to earn that (stature) through performances.

Cricket Associations

I got to learn that while making the 6th team, we struggle. The talent isn’t there to that extent that we can even sustain six teams – frankly speaking. Going forward, we are trying to make sure that provincial associations have players from their own region, like most players in Balochistan should be from Balochistan. Currently, for Balochistan, that figure is around 50%.

On my wish list is the desire to create High Performance Centers in Interior Sindh and Balochistan. We’re getting outstanding talent from there, so we have to encourage cricket there. We can do it through scouts or coaches. I will go into more detail on that later on.

Selection Process

If you give a job to an individual, he’s going to do it. I accept that an eye for talent is important, and gut feeling is relevant. However, this subject has become analytical and statistical. You have to keep oppositions and conditions in mind while doing selections. You also have to look toward the future.

I’ve said that we shouldn’t worry about winning and losing. We have this big problem where we think that a result defines a performance. I think the process you put in place is also very important, and that takes time. Results will be up and down, but we have to start a process.

There’s no confusion in my mind that the captain should be the strongest individual. We need to forget about a 2nd or 3rd party coming and interfering. The captain will play the players, and he’ll win the match – provided that selection goes according to a certain plan, and the captain also buys into it. When I speak about leadership and changing direction, I’ve spoken to the team about it as well. It’s not easy. When you take someone out of their comfort zone, they struggle. But when you don’t do that, you won’t get an idea of your overall potential.

Coaches

People talk about local coaches and foreign coaches. I have a clear mind. I want domestic coaches who are outstanding in their field to be uplifted. I haven’t come with any preconceived ideas that this is only the job of a foreigner. The World Cup event is big, and there will be a Pakistani coach alongside these two (Hayden and Philander). This isn’t a magic solution, and it can backfire. A coach won’t make all these players Viv Richards in 20 days. But at least we should try, and that’s what I’m here for. What I understand, I’ll do.

Domestic Cricket System

We want these associations to be self-sufficient. They should create their own model. I am close to everyone here in the cricket board, and I’m thinking of making the official dress a tracksuit. This is a sporting organization, and we need to get out of the offices and do work. All these people at our association and club level are our unsung heroes. We need to respect them because they are running our system. We will guide them as well because their connection with PCB’s coaches is important.

Bilateral Cricket Versus India

There’s no chance right now, literally speaking. Our sporting event has become spoiled due to politics. This has become part of the status quo. We’re in no hurry either; we need to think about our local model. We have a lot of problems at our domestic, club, and school levels. We’re going to put more emphasis on that.

Misbah and Waqar’s Departure

The previous board did that. Frankly speaking, if you ask me, I’d speak along similar lines (asking them to move on), even though I had nothing to do with this decision. We have two options. Either we keep sitting on the fence and let something keep happening when you know its success rate is maybe 70%. The other option is to take a risk and do some work properly. Maybe you’ll get 100% or 10%. There’s risk in it, no doubt. However, I think Pakistan needs to take a new direction.

The coaches we’ve hired (Hayden and Philander) are only for the World Cup. Going forward, we need to do a proper exercise to determine who fits within our model. Still, we can make whatever model we want, but until your batting and bowling aren’t refined, your model will fail. It’s good to talk about all this, but practically, much work has to be done. We’ve tried to cover the mental aspects of cricket (with these appointments). We’ve put some great minds with this team throughout, and Pakistan has been consistent, with most of them completing their contracts. It’s not like we’re making knee-jerk reactions and removing people mid-way. We’ve given chances, and our job is to make the best platform to bring the best out of everyone.

Chairman’s Powers

I am sitting here and speaking to you on some base; otherwise, Wasim Khan would be sitting here in my place. There are two things on which I don’t believe I can go on the backfoot. One is cricket, and the other is broadcasting. I have a thought process of 40 years behind all this. You won’t see me on the backfoot. I’m not a Chairman who will deflect responsibilities to save himself.

I haven’t come here to sign autographs, nor am I fond of pictures. This is a different type of challenge. The fun of a challenge is that you have the authority to do those things that weren’t done before. Time will tell what went right and wrong, and you can have a discussion about it. But I think that if we can do what we’ve planned, you’ll see Pakistan cricket’s direction changing.

Cricketers as Chairman

In 73 years, there have been only four cricketers who were Chairman. I say give it time. There’s a myth that we can’t manage cricket, and it’s only for management gurus. I’ve come here to clear that perception. The Prime Minister has given me such a big position from a cricketing point of view, and it was obviously also a challenge for him. A lot of boxes had to be ticked for me to come here. Credibility, knowledge of cricket, take on the game, everything matters.

Lower Levels of Cricket

The scheduling has to be a lot better for club cricket, in particular. Right now, no one knows which matches are happening when. I know that you can’t wear spikes while bowling in 90-99% of club matches. That’s how bad the situation is. We have to give importance to club cricket, and pitches have to be a lot better. I would like to call all club people here and talk to them about the challenges they face.

The coaching that is happening is of very poor quality. I saw some shows on television, and they don’t know how to hold a bat or bowl, and then we expect the Pakistan team to go and become #1 for ten years. Until you don’t have development at the lower levels, it won’t work at the top level. Thus, school, club, age, and FC cricket will be the most important subjects in my tenure.

Wasim Khan and PCB Employees

I can’t share anything with you. This is an internal matter for the organization. If we go by the scrawls, then 90% of PCB should be fired. Maybe even Sami-ul-Hasan shouldn’t be here! That’s the situation.

Application of Vision

I am not looking at my tenure as being for three years. I’m thinking about taking action right away, and I need people for execution. I was speaking to the Board of Governors about this. I have 10,000 ideas and wishes, and I need a team to carry them out.

Captaincy Across Formats

It’s hard to assess this (whether the captain should be the same across formats) at this point. It’s important for me to understand the leadership role and to know Babar Azam personally. I don’t know Babar Azam that well as an individual, which is why I did a couple of long sessions (with the team). If we don’t have 400 autograph hunters for Babar Azam at the National High Performance Center, then his purpose in cricket has failed. If the Chairman stays in the forefront and the players stay at the back, the point of cricket has failed.

Nowhere in the world does the organization receive so many eyeballs as PCB. My thought process is the opposite. I have no need for recognition; you know my background. I don’t need to bring myself in front of the media. I have interviews lined up, but I said I’m not going to give interviews. That’s not my job. I will speak through my actions and speak after that. In the era that I played, there was fantastic leadership. My expectations are those Imran Khan ones. But that will take time. However, hopefully, we will get there. If our purpose is the same, then how will Pakistan not move forward?

India-Pakistan Cricket

These matches are showstoppers; there’s no doubt about that. When I spoke to the cricket team, I told them that our full effort needed to be on the first match. This time, we need to turn the tables. We can’t not be warmed up, like when a car sometimes doesn’t start in winter and needs a push. We have to operate at 100%; this is a very important match, and it will always remain that way.

Senior Players

Who am I to end the careers of senior players? They have leagues and other opportunities, and they can keep playing. Having such players in our system, whether it’s First Class or Twenty20, is important. They can guide the new generation from the dugout, and their experience will be useful below the levels of the national team. They can also make a comeback; there’s no statement regarding it written in stone.

Importance of Data

I have discussed this, and we have a data system that is being developed. With that, we’ll be able to able to analyze all our First Class and even club-level cricket. Secondly, I also want to conduct case studies. For example, show the Under-19 team a match for 30 minutes, and ask them what they saw was right and what was wrong. This will help train cricketers’ minds, and they will understand how to not repeat mistakes that they see.

The game is analytical and data-driven, and I spoke about a few things with the captain and Chief Selector. I said we need to find pairings that can create relentless pressure throughout. We can’t just have one operating slow and the other fast. The best teams create relentless pressure in pairs. Yes, that needs a lot of work, and we may not be able to do it right away. But that is the aim.

Fearless Cricket

I am speaking clearly as a cricketer. We will make mistakes, we will lose matches, and we will be criticized. However, if we take a stand, our cricket will rise. If we put the gear back after 2-3 matches, there will be confusion, which has been happening. The cricketers said this too; we get told to bat fast, and then we’re thrown out. I told them to forget about winning and losing. We don’t have to keep our thinking borderline. We need to have security to follow this model, and there are chances of failures.

However, we need to develop techniques. We’re not doing that, and we think we’ll make the best batsmen and bowlers. When I speak about targeted growth, we need to have a technical hand at the First Class and Test level. You have the T20, 50-Over, and Test tiers, where you have to train and change mindsets at the lower levels.

Women’s Cricket

We have a lot of progress to make. We’re behind the rest of the world. We have a separate wing for that as well, and we’ll uplift it. Right now, 35 players are in our circuit; that should be 135. We’ll try to increase the numbers.

Moin Khan and Aqib Javed

They (Moin Khan and Aqib Javed) are also like Chairmen. That’s why I called them here. They are cricketers. What I mean to say is that I don’t have any misunderstanding about myself, nor do I have job insecurity. There are many players of great caliber who I’ve played with, and their suggestions will always be valuable. The players with who you share the battlefield and dugout, you always respect them. If the aim is Pakistan Cricket, then nothing else is of importance.

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