Sportstar Archives: Why Zaheer Abbas skipped tour to NZ and Australia

In this 1985 interview, Pakistan batsman and skipper Zaheer Abbas reveals why he opted to sit out the tour to New Zealand and Australia.

Pakistan cricketer Zaheer Abbas.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Pakistan's most prolific run-getter Zaheer Abbas rocked the BCCP boat when he announced his
non-availability for the New Zealand and Australian tour. Zaheer had successfully steered Pakistan in two home series against India and New Zealand.

He was a certainity for the twin tour. A shocked BCCP had to revise its strategy due to Zaheer's surprise withdrawal. After deliberation it named Javed Miandad as Zaheer's successor for the tour.
This correspondent met the batting genius to find the reasons for his decision.

Question: Your decision not to lead Pakistan in New Zealand was a big surprise for all those associated with the game. What were the reasons behind your decision?

There are multiple reasons for my non-availability for the twin tour. You are well aware that I have been playing continuous cricket for the past eight months. I need rest physically and mentally. It is not strange for a cricketer to skip an overseas tour. Players have done it in the past and I am no exception.

lan Botham declined to tour India and is taking rest. Players like Fred Trueman, Geoff Boycott, Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Imran Khan and scores of others have withdrawn from an overseas trip. All of them had their own reasons. Besides rest, I want to spend as much time as possible with my family.

I have been playing first class cricket for the last 15 years, and it has kept me away from my family for long periods. Now I want to spend more time with them.

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It is reported in a section of Press that you are willing to join the team in New Zealand for the last Test and later for the Australian tour without any reservations. What are your comments?

The report is correct. If I am required by the BCCP for the last leg of the New Zealand tour and the Australia one-day tournament, I will be available to fly and join the boys. I have never demanded preferential treatment and that goes for future, too.

By declining to go to New Zealand you have relinquished the leadership of the national team. Are you willing to play under the new captain?

When I decided to opt out of the New Zealand tour it automatically barred me from captaincy. Playing under different captains has never worried me.

Don't you consider it strange for a winning captain to decline an overseas tour? Many people think that fear of losing prompted you to back out.

No, the thought has never crossed my mind. Winning and losing are part and parcel of the game. You win some and lose some. My reasons for not going to New Zealand are purely personal. I have led Pakistan in India and the Asia Cup. Had I been afraid of what people think then I would never have accepted the captaincy. I would like to point out that many winning captains in the past have declined to tour abroad for one reason or the other. I am not the first one.

Javed Miandad ... His brilliant batting shut out the Kiwis. - THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

Record books show that Pakistan easily won the home series against New Zealand. The visitors and our own fans had little doubt that partial decisions cost Kiwis the series. How do you react to the accusations?

Our victories in the Tests were by the imposing margins of six and seven wickets. By any stretch of imagination you cannot call these wins close ones. If it were by small margins, say, one or two wickets, then partial decisions could have come into reckoning. I have been playing Test cricket for over a decade and it is not unusual to blame home umpires for the defeats. Allegations by the New Zealand captain were in bad taste and counter productive to healthy sportsmanship.

Suppose, we lose in New Zealand and put the blame on umpires how would the Kiwis feel, then? To me Coney's statement was made to hide his own team's shortcomings which were obvious in the series.

Do you agree with the players and administrators who favour neutral umpires?

Neutral umpires could very well be the answer, in the end. Surely if neutral umpires are to officiate then there will be less accusations. I have always accepted the umpire's decisions and
believe that it all evens out in the end.

How would you rate Pakistani umpires?

I have already made my feelings known on this sensitive subject. I am convinced that our umpires are as good as the English or the Australian. Of course, they are human. They have often made mistakes like their counterparts in other countries. It is all too easy to criticise umpires. I have never criticised umpires although like other batsmen I have been at the wrong end of the umpire's decisions on numerous occasions at home and abroad. The only time I spoke on the issue was at the end of Hyderabad Test and that too when specifically asked by the news media to comment on Coney's statement.

Azeem Hafiz is not an Imran or Sarfraz. He needs support at the other end," says Zaheer. - THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

Under your leadership Pakistan won the series against New Zealand quite convincingly. Could you pinpoint the major factors in the success and the individuals who played key roles?

Several factors, including home advantage as the biggest, helped us to beat New Zealand but our
trumpcards were spinners Iqbal Qasim and Abdul Qadir. They were too good for the New Zealand batsmen.

Others who contributed towards success were Miandad, Mudassar Nazar and Saleem Malik. I was extremely pleased to see Saleem and Raja frustrate New Zealand on the last day of the third Test to save the match. It proved that our batsmen are learning to play under pressure. Above all, the victory was a team effort and everyone played his part.

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Despite facile victories, our experts were not impressed by the team's overall performance. They rate our bowling modest and batting inadequate to cope with genuine fast bowling. Do you agree with these assessments?

To a certain extent, yes. With Imran out and Sarfraz retired we lack new ball fire, essential to win matches. Azeem Hafiz has made tremendous strides as a new ball bowler but he is not an Imran or Sarfraz yet. Azeem also requires support at the other end. The batting is adequate on slow wickets but will be stretched on green tops. We will have to produce fast wickets at home to overcome these handicaps if we are to beat the best abroad.

Wasim Raja ... that lazy elegance and that inimitable timing in his shots are back. Signs that are good for Pakistan cricket. - THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

What are our team's chances in the forthcoming New Zealand tour and the one-day tournament in Australia?

Obviously in their own surroundings the Kiwis will be a different proposition than they were in Pakistan. In recent years they have humbled England and West Indies in their own backyard. They will also have Richard Hadlee and Geoff Howarth to strengthen the team. This will make a lot of
difference. But I am confident the boys will put up a good fight and might surprise their detractors. Our record in New Zealand has been very good. We have never lost a Test there. In Australia, our chances are not all that bright. It will be a fine achievement if the team could make it to the semifinal.

You are 37-years-old. What are your future plans? When do you think you will say farewell to Test and first class cricket?

I know the age factor is taking its toll. At the moment, I have no intention to quit. All will depend on how I maintain my form. If I continue to make runs at the top level I see no reason why I should not carry on. Clive Lloyd after all is over 40 and is still going strong. I regard myself good enough for a couple of more years.

Your contract with the English county, Gloucestershire, expires at the end of 1985 season. Will you honour the commitment or have you played your final innings of the English county cricket last summer?

I am still undecided. I will cross the bridge when I come to it. One thing is sure;1985, in any case, will be my last season in English county.

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