Wasim Bari Talks to Late Cut
By Farhan Aziz

Wasim Bari, Pakistan's most celebrated wicketkeeper, a former captain, and a member of a distinguished and feared Pakistan unit during the 70's and 80's played 81 Tests, capturing 228 victims. His record of matches played by a keeper and scalps behind the stumps, still stands as a Pakistan record, two decades after he retired from international cricket. Wasim Bari's passion for cricket has not faded as he now assumes one of the most important roles in Pakistan cricket as the Chairman of Selectors. Wasim Bari took time out of his busy schedule to speak exclusively to Farhan Aziz and Late Cut.
Wasim bhai, have you ever been to California and do you know about the Southern California Cricket Association?
I have been a frequent traveler to Northern California as well as Southern California since 1968. My brother lives in San Jose, and my sister lives in Orange County. My last trip to Southern California was quite recently, in December 2005. I have heard about the cricket league in Southern California before and I am very pleased that cricket has a base in Southern California. Inshallah, I hope to visit Woodley on my next trip out.
You retired from cricket in the mid-80's. How have you kept yourself busy since retiring?
I have kept myself in touch with cricket through cricket administration. I have been involved in selection actively for the last eight years. I also work for PIA, the national carrier, as a senior executive.
You have played 81 tests and over 50 ODI's. What has been your fondest cricketing memory?
My fondest memory has to be my debut test match at Lords in 1967 (July 27) against England. It was special not only because it was my first match, but because it was at the most prestigious cricket center, Lords! I still remember diving to my right to get my first international scalp: Colin Milburn. In this same game, Hanif bhai (Mohammed) made a fantastic 187 not out.
And what is your worst cricketing memory?
During our 1976-77 tour of the West Indies, a group of us decided to swim along the Barbados coastline. We experienced unusually strong currents, and I almost never made it back as I was very close to drowning.
Which cricketer(s) has been your favorite to watch from the past? And the present?
There are a number of cricketers I have enjoyed playing with and against, but Viv Richards still remains one of my favorite cricketers of the past. Shane Warne is a warrior and I have enjoyed watching him play as well.
I am sure you get this question a lot, but how difficult is it to head the selection committee in a country where 9 out of 10 people have opinions?
It is a very difficult and thankless job. Luckily, I have excellent support from Iqbal Qasim and Ehtisham Uddin, both of whom are invaluable in our process. We are all committed to ensuring that this process remains impartial and every decision we make is a collective decision. With that said, we realize that not everyone will be happy with out decisions. I guess that headache comes with the job!
What is your relationship like with your selection committee? How do you handle disagreements?
I like to manage by consensus, and I would like to think that our collective decisions are honest, and free of prejudice. All three of us are pretty level headed and rarely do we disagree with each other. If there is a disagreement, then we utilize a veto-less majority vote.
What is your relationship like with Bob Woolmer and Inzimam?
We have a friendly and professional relationship. I have a lot of respect for Bob and Inzi. They are both doing a wonderful job.
Is there added pressure on you as the chief selector?
No. We are professional in our approach, applying reason/logic in our decisions. This helps keep our conscience clear.
What differences do you see between cricket today and back when you played for Pakistan?
Cricket is a lot more commercial now than when we played. It is like running a business, and is played all year round. The number of games being played in one calendar year today are easily more than double the number we played. Obviously, there are pros and cons to this, however the pros easily outnumber the cons.
What are your thoughts on the state of Pakistan cricket today?
While everyone is fixated on the World Cup, I and my committee have to plan beyond that date. We are at an interesting crossroads - the 2007 World Cup will certainly be a crucial juncture with perhaps a final hurrah for some of our veterans who may retire. Replacing seasoned veterans is never easy, but that is a challenge for us. Luckily, we have a talented pool of cricketers to choose from.
Currently, our system of developing players involves our first class competitions and our academy. Players moving from school and grade cricket levels, usually find a home with a first class team. Good performances at the first class level are usually rewarded with an invitation to our world-class academy and to side tours with the Pakistan A and U19 teams. While our current system is not perfect, and we recognize the need to emphasize proper coaching at the school and grade level, our talent pool has increased considerably due to increased first class competitions, as well as through our academy. In line with our strategy to enhance our system of developing cricketers, we must also improve our facilities (quality of grounds, and pitches) and the quality of umpiring. The PCB is progressing well in all its efforts, and I sincerely believe that the future looks bright.
We are very curious to know who you think are future prospects for Pakistan?
There are number of youngsters who are promising. Some of the names that come to mind are: Mansoor Amjad, Irshad, Tahir Khan, Rehman, Yasir Arafat, Ali Anwar, Imran Tahir, and Shahid Yousuf. They are all exciting young players that may progress to a higher level if they continue to work hard on their game.
Everyone wants to know what your thoughts are on Pakistan's preparations for the World Cup (2007)?
Over the course of the past 18 months, Pakistan has achieved favorable results against quality teams. This is certainly reassuring; however, we understand that we have weaknesses that must be addressed. Fielding, fitness, and a reliable opening pair are our weaknesses. The boys and the team management will work hard to rectify these areas of concern. I am confident that we will overcome these issues in time for the World Cup, Inshallah.
What do you think has been Pakistan's secret in achieving their recent successes?
A combination of factors including consistency and fairness in the selection process, and working closely with team management to identify needs, and weaknesses. Obviously, we cannot forget the hard work put in by our boys.
The current fad on the world cricket stage is 20-20 cricket. What are your thoughts on this form of the game?
20-20 cricket is fun and fast, which makes it exciting to watch for the fans. It truly is cricket designed for the fans.
Before I ask my final question, I want to thank you for your time and for your candid responses. Here's a question on behalf of our younger audience: What advise would you give youngsters here in California who are looking to make a name in cricket?
Discipline and dedication are key ingredients to achieving your goals on and off the cricket field. You should practice hard in the nets, listen to your coaches, and apply what you learn in the nets with conviction. Discipline and dedication will ensure that you don't repeat mistakes.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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