What did Ramiz Raja say about Sarfaraz Ahmed?

Former PCB chief also comments on his returning to commentary box

M Muzamil Asif
Former Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja (left) with wicket-keeper-batter Sarfaraz Ahmed. — Reuters/File
Former Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja (left) with wicket-keeper-batter Sarfaraz Ahmed. — Reuters/File

Former Test cricketer and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ramiz Raja cleared the controversy surrounding his one-sided views regarding Sarfaraz Ahmed, however, refrained from commenting about his performance against New Zealand in his comeback series.

During Raja's tenure as the PCB chief, a perception was created that senior cricketers including Sarfaraz were sidelined.

Young wicketkeeper Mohammad Haris was preferred over experienced Sarfaraz while Mohammad Rizwan remained the first-choice for the national team.

After Raja's departure, Sarfaraz was given an opportunity in Test cricket after almost four years and he scored three back-to-back 50s before scoring a match-saving hundred against New Zealand in Karachi.

During an interview with GeoSuper.tv, when Raja was asked about Sarfaraz's performance on the comeback, he refused to answer the question while saying: "I don't want to do politics."

He added, "There is no need for this question. If he has performed, it's good for Pakistan cricket. Let's move on."

'No plans to return to commentary box'

Raja, who proved himself as a fine commentator after retirement, made a surprising entry into the administrative role after ex-prime minister and then-patron of the PCB, Imran Khan, appointed him as the chairman of the country's cricket governing body in September 2021.

Raja's arrival as PCB head brought a lot of challenges for the cricketer-turned-commentator who had often criticised Pakistan's performance on his YouTube channel before chairmanship.

Having the experience of playing cricket and remaining in this field for so many years, Raja made some quick and bold decisions, starting from the removal of the coaching setup appointed by previous management to introducing the first-of-its-kind Pakistan Junior League (PJL).

However, his stay at the PCB was cut short to almost sixteen months after the current PM and PCB patron Shehbaz Sharif appointed two-time chairman Najam Sethi and his 14-member management committee to enforce the 2014 constitution. The 2019 constitution was repealed as a result.

After his removal, he took a dig at political influence in the cricket board in a series of interviews with different local channels.

Meanwhile, his fans hoped to see him back in the commentary box but the cricketer-turned-administrator looked unconvinced when he was asked about his return in commentary during the interview.

"If there will be any plan to return to the commentary box, I will share it myself," Raja said.

Raja's analysis of the Pakistan cricket team's performance on his YouTube channel before chairmanship has always been the talk of the town. During his tenure, people often compared his views as chairman and as a cricket analyst on YouTube.

In response to a query about any difference in making a point of view in two different roles, Raja said he doesn't agree with what people say.

"No difference. It's your assumption. I feel I have always talked openly about everything," he asserted.

Pitch controversy

Since taking charge as PCB chairman, Raja remained vocal about local pitches. He gave the idea of drop-in pitches and Australian soil, but later on, the surface in Karachi and Lahore were prepared with local soil.

During the home Test series against Australia in March 2022, Rawalpindi's stadium was awarded one demerit point for a "below average" pitch. Later in December, Pindi Stadium's pitch, where the first Test between Pakistan and England was played, received another demerit point.

Following the pitch controversy during his tenure, Raja was asked about this issue and his input in pitch-making. "Neither I made pitches nor I gave instructions, you do your homework first," Raja replied aggressively.

"I talked regarding the betterment of pitches. What type of pitch was made in Karachi after I left? I shared solutions, if you think there is no solution then stop talking about pitches," he added.