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Behind the Scenes with Team Pakistan

Ramiz Raja makes a most profound impact

BRISBANE–February 28, 2015: Ramiz Raja had actually come over to the Gabba for work; he is on the rights-holding global broadcaster Star Sports’ roster as one of the lead commentators and presenters. Having done his little stint with Ahmed Shehzad, our much-in-demand star on the ascendant, as an impromptu add-on Raja got Mushtaq Ahmed filmed while purposefully making our entire attack bowl in a simulated match situation right next to the turf for tomorrow’s fixture.

And then, after a couple of free-flowing exchanges with manager Naveed Akram Cheema, he didn't need an invitation to make time for every Pakistani player and member of support staff who would want to partake of cricketing intellect and wisdom collected over three decades of playing, administering, commentating and sharing the mike with the very best of his generation on this planet.

All for free, and with passion, feel and selflessness that is so rare among those of similar standing, and in a colloquial laced with humour that makes the message unmistakably find the heart of the recipient.

Instinctively sensing Raja’s sincerity, members of Team Pakistan flocked towards him, much like moths to a flame. Some came in a cluster, while others patiently lurked around for a quiet hearing on the side. None was disappointed.

The Raja catchphrase of the day can best be summed up as: “Hold it by the scruff of its neck and turn it around”.

To the taciturn Mohammad Irfan, the first to come over along with the more expressive Wahab Riaz, Raja in chaste Punjabi urged to go flat out for a five-for. Irfan nodding his head, promised to give it his all, at that particular moment seemingly a couple of feet taller than his towering seven feet and a bit.

Umar Akmal had his own woes to share, but concurred to the advice from the stalwart: fifties are not good enough, aim for something more substantive.

Waqar Younis came back from the nets, and the two mates from the late 1980s to the best part of 1990s had a heart-to-heart.

On their way back from the practice nets, Shehzad and skipper Misbah stopped over for a rather longish chat, the conversation keeping everyone engaged.

Raja at this point also shared some of the so-far-unpublished episodes from the 1992 campaign, dilating on Imran Khan’s doggedness in adversity as well as sense of individual pride and self-respect that flows from within and makes the team soar as a consequence.

There was a bit of talk on no-holds-barred critics back home, a headline or three and thirty pieces of silver their reward. To which Shahid Afridi and a couple of young guns muttered something under their breaths. One would not want to quote them here. Suffice it to say the expressions were not overly friendly.

The tone and tenor of this informal yet highly informed Raja tete-a-tete seemed to have made most profound impact on key personnel in Team Pakistan.

(The writer is General Manager, Media, Pakistan Cricket Board, on assignment with Team Pakistan as Media Manager).