ISLAMABAD - Former Pakistan cricket team skipper Zaheer Abbas has termed restoration of bilateral cricketing ties with archrivals India as a very positive step and good omen for Pakistan players. "I have always said that regular Pakistan-Indai cricket relations and ties also lead to improved relations at people to people and government levels," Zaheer said.

The former batting great, who has held key positions in Pakistan cricket, said he was happy to see Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif taking steps to encourage regular cricketing and sporting ties between the two nations. "At the moment the Indian team is better than us and there is no doubt about it. If we play against India regularly it will benefit our players," he observed. Zaheer said that the situation had changed over the years in international cricket and in Pak-India relations.

"What is sad is that there have been instances in the past when India and Pakistan have not played each other for years after one or two series even though Indo-Pak contests generate so much interest and revenues for the Boards and players," he said.

"I loved playing against India but unfortunately in my career I got to play just a few Test series against them. But we enjoyed good relations with some of the Indian players when we came across in England or in any other country in those days."

He said youngsters must be given top priority when it comes to selection of the national team, as they have the ability and motivation to excel at the highest level and it is the prime duty of the selectors to pose confidence into the youngsters and not only give them chances on regular basis but also back them.

He said one or two matches and that too in patches were by no means enough to judge the calibre of a player. “Youngsters should be given longer time and at least one year or so to settle down. I am dead sure if the PCB and selectors work on this plan, they would definitely get desired results.”

The former skipper said the selection committee must consists of top professionals, who had the basic know how of the game, as only a top professional could select a balanced squad. “It is my advice to interim PCB chairman Najam Sethi to appoint selection committee purely on merit. I am sure despite going through tremendous pressure from certain quarters, they would select at least 7 or 8 players purely on merit, which is in my opinion will be enough to take Pakistan cricket back to same heights, which we were once enjoying.”

Zaheer said selectors can give chance to ordinary or non-deserving players, but they can't bat or ball for them. “A top player immediately shows his class and his feet movement and reading the situation is enough to guarantee him a permanent slot in the national team. But on the other hand a player who doesn't know how to use his feet can't play longer despite all the under the table backing and unconditional support, his stance while facing a bowler will tell the entire story.”

“Zimbabwean tour is now the part of history, green caps must now look forward to new challenges and the most immediate and important one is to face the world's top ranked team South Africa next month at the neutral venues of UAE. PCB along with the selection committee and head coach must sit together and chalk out a comprehensive strategy to counter Proteas. They are not invisibles. Pakistani team has the players at their disposal, who could beat any top side of the world with their individual performances. The only need is to select a balanced squad, and recent performances should be the one and only criteria of representing the country.”

He said PCB and selectors have to act in the best interest of the team and country. “If they want to beat the mighty South Africans and then there is no room for error or complacency. Continuation of same policies might hamper Pakistan team’s chances, brave decisions are required.”

He said Dave Whatmore must focus on removing the minor flaws of his players as he is a reputed coach and had taste the success at the very highest level. “He just needs to address to the drawbacks, which would help him and the team to bounce back in style,” Zaheer concluded.