ISLAMABAD - Former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif has rebuffed the claims that he was also involved in the selection of team management for the upcoming Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, saying he was just involved in team selection.

In an interview with The Nation, Latif said: “It is true that the PCB handed over team management files to Misbah-ul-Haq, Nadeem Khan and me but we returned them back and focused on just players. I admit that two or three names, which should have been in the teams, are missing and I immediately mentioned those names to Misbah and the PCB and I am sure they will be included.”

He said he is surprised to see some missing names from the team management. “Basit Ali has status of an institution and has tremendous record as a domestic cricket coach. He is like my teacher as after Javed Miandad, so he must be given respect. I also seriously feel sorry for Master coach Sabih Azhar and other master coaches, who were kicked out by the PCB.

“As far as team selection criterion is concerned, I just focused on emerging category and those players, who had been performing since long without getting into limelight. We assessed more than 350 players and selected 192 only. It was a tough and daunting task. I think the missing players must be accommodated in intra-city cricket. The PCB needs coaches, umpires, match referees, managers and they are going to hire around 50 plus persons. The PCB should ensure merit in that process,” he added.

When asked about NCA role, Latif said: “A number of cricketers are involved with the NCA but I feel the academy should be separated from the PCB. They have no working criteria and budget. I feel people working with NCA take it as personal property, which is wrong. The PCB has to look into it.” When asked why the NCA always bring people from England, why not from other countries, he replied: “Ehsan Mani and Wasim Khan are based in England, that’s why majority of professionals are being hired from England.”

He said Pakistan cricket is on downslide, which is an alarming situation. “We need to make a number of changes. The PCB should target club cricket, U-13 and U-16 cricket. Besides investing on grassroots level, the board should also make plans and then execute them. The NCA is high performance centre and its role is to educate players and coaches. Since 2003 till date, it did produce coaches, but some good coaches were sidelined,” he added.

The former cricketer said after Yasir Shah and Shadab Khan, Pakistan didn’t get a single quality leg spinner. “We bring back those players, who are performing well at domestic level and I hope by doing well this season, they will win places in the national team. Zahid is a leg spinner from Dadu while Shahzaib is another leg spinner with 100 plus wickets. They were not getting chances due to internal politics.

“I have sent minutes of meeting to the PCB and asked them to convene meeting with coaches. We need three to four years to streamline the things. The four-day matches must continue for four days, instead of ending in two days or less. The PCB has ensured Kokobora balls this season, which will help the bowlers. Now it is test of their skills and they have to prove their worth,” he added.

He said only three or four professional umpires are available in the country while majority are part-timers. “I think the PCB must make a pool of 24 top class umpires, who should conduct matches from first class to junior level, as it is the only way out to take umpiring standard to next level. A committee must be formed to monitor umpires’ performances and action must be taken against poor performing umpires. The curators should also be educated to prepare pitches, which suit both batsmen and bowlers. Their salaries should also be raised.”

Latif questioned the PCB’s decision of not allocating a single first class match to Diamond Cricket Ground (DCG) Islamabad. “In the past, it was unjustified to allocate so many matches to the DCG. I protest on that. The Diamond ground has the best bouncy pitch. The victimisation is not in the interest of cricket and internal politics must be shunned,” he concluded.