Shahid Aslam Interview
Scotland v Pakistan - May 17/19 2013
Exclusive interview with Pakistan Assistant coach, Shahid Aslam, by renowned cricket writer Neil Drysdale.
When Shahid Aslam arrives in Scotland later this month, as the manager and assistant coach of the Pakistan touring party, who will participate in a brace of ODIs against Pete Steindl's side at the Grange on May 17 and 19, he is relishing the opportunity to meet up with old friends and team mates from the time when he used to grace the Caledonian game.
It was back in 1992 when Shahid, a prolific wicket-taker and wily operator on any surface, first turned out for Trinity, as the prelude to embarking on a peripatetic trail, encompassing stints at Heriots, Dunfermline, Falkland and Dundee HSFP. And, although he has not been in these parts for the last decade, he told Cricket Scotland he had ample reason to be grateful to Scotland for reasons beyond sport.
"It is like a second home for me, because one of my [two] daughters, Fatima, was born in Scotland, so we obviously have a strong connection to the country," said Shahid. "She was born, three months prematurely, while I was still playing at Goldenacre, and the doctors and nurses who looked after her did a tremendous job, so I am very thankful about the way things turned out.
"Looking back, I have plenty of fond memories about being involved in Scottish cricket. The weather wasn't helpful, in terms of how often it rained, but the conditions usually suited me as a bowler and I saw how much the game meant to so many people, wherever I travelled, whether it was in Edinburgh or Glasgow, in Fife or further north, up towards Dundee and Aberdeen. I still keep in touch with how the game is developing there and I know a new generation of young players are emerging. I am looking forward to my return."
It's an important visit for Shahid's squad, who will also be tackling the Irish on their tour, as they gear up for the Champions Trophy, where they will lock horns with the leading Test nations. Yet, for the moment, with Steindl's personnel determined to record their first victory over an ICC Full Member on the 50-over stage, Shahid is both keen to avoid any shock defeats in Scotia and Erin and is committed to improving the consistency of the Pakistan ensemble, who can be inspirational one afternoon and inept the next day.
"I realise how much of a threat the Scots will be, because I' have kept in touch with how cricket is moving forward and I am fully aware that people such as Roddy Smith and Euan Mcintyre have gone about their business very professionally," said Shahid. "When I was in Scotland, you could always see there were talented guys around on the circuit, but it didn't help that they were just amateurs.
"However, now that the best players are gaining the chance to perform on a full-time basis, and more of them are joining [English] counties, it has definitely raised standards and we know we can't afford to take anything for granted. So I expect these matches to be keenly-contested.
"Ireland have similar ambitions [and famously beat Pakistan at the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean], and the Associate countries are making progress, so we have to be ready and hit the ground running. We are in a rebuilding phase at the moment, and introducing a lot of new, young players into the set-up, so they might not be used to batting and bowling on a chilly day in May in Edinburgh.
"But they will have to learn quickly. I hope the sun shines and we can put on the some great entertainment for a big crowd. But this is a serious tour, with the Champions Trophy on the horizon, and we are looking to our squad to build up momentum in the next few weeks.
"I wouldn't say we were worried about a banana skin, but nearly anything can happen in one-day cricket."
The Saltires almost recorded an unprecedented triumph when they met Pakistan at a sun-drenched Hamilton Crescent in 2003. On that occasion, the underdogs came within one wicket of success, despite losing Rahul Dravid first ball. So they have reason to be optimistic, if such individuals as Kyle Coetzer, Richie Berrington, Calum MacLeod and Preston Mommsen can prove their worth in the ODI milieu.
Shahid Islam will be doing his utmost to ensure that scenario doesn't materialise. But one suspects a tiny part of him would applaud the Scots if they managed to overcome his compatriots.