Q: Do you think the ICC was too late to recognise your name in the ‘Hall of Fame’?
A: Sunil Gavaskar was also saying this but better late than never.
Q: We have heard when you used to play, they would tell you “Ab bas” (now enough, stop). Tell us the story behind it.
A: Amul butter had put up hoardings in Mumbai as a part of their advertisement campaign in which they wrote my name as Zaheer “Ab bas” (pun intended). These ads got very popular in those days. People still talk about those ads.
Q: You registered your name as the highest scorer in the Pakistan Test where you scored 274 runs and earned the title of ‘Asian Bradman’. How did it happen?
A: It was in 1971 in Boston. In an inaugural, I had already 111 runs. After which an English newspaper gave the headline ‘Meet the Asian Bradman from Pakistan’. I wondered why they said so because at that time I had not played any test and had not done anything. But when I scored 274 runs, I proved that the title was correct and I also proved that I was working with the same name that was given to me.
Q: You have scored 100 centuries in first class cricket — a record in itself. You were called a run machine in your time. Bowlers were scared of you and once only Sunil Gavaskar was able to get you out.
A: Gavaskar still tells this story to everyone that he was the one who took my wicket when I was close to my century. We both keep joking about this. I have known him since 1972 when both of us were selected for World 11 and went to play against Australia. We share a good friendship. Let me tell you one thing that when their team won at the Oval, I went to their dressing room to congratulate them. This is how you make friends by joining them in their sorrow and happiness. It was a happy moment for him. I congratulated him and our friendship from that time is till now.
Q: You have seen the time of Sunil Gavaskar, later Sachin Tendulkar and now is the time of Virat Kohli, Babar Azam and Rohit Sharma. How do you see batting has changed over the decades?
A: Virat Kohli, Babar Azam and Rohit Sharma are classic players. Rohit Sharma has already shown how a bigger batsman he is. He has played more matches and scored runs. But in Pakistan, players are told that they were big before doing anything big first. Sharma can score runs wherever his mind wants.
Q: Do you miss hitting cover drives when you see Rohit Sharma hitting good cover drives?
A: I could not hit cover drives the way Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli do in today’s time. I sincerely congratulate these two batsmen for their batting because it is the hard work of both of them behind such good shots. They seem to have worked very hard. As far as Babar is concerned, he is also slowly coming up. Whenever a Pakistani batsman does well, we start comparing him with Indian batsmen. I think India has the best batting line-up in the world today.
Q: Babar is now compared with the ‘Fab Four’ and Nasir Hussain equalled him to Root, Williamson, Smith and Kohli. What do you think?
A: Babar Azam has a lot of potential. He needs to learn a couple of things and he will learn those things over time. See, a big player is the one who makes fewer mistakes. Babar will not win the match alone. There should be at least two to three batsmen and there should be more runs in the team with Babar, then the time will start winning.
Q: It is being said that Virat Kohli will break the record of 100 centuries of Sachin Tendulkar in the coming time. Do you think it is possible?
A: See everything is possible and he is also young. He is playing very well. I think he will definitely do it.
Q: Now it is said that Pakistan’s fast bowlers’ factory has now shifted to India. What do you think?
A: Learning is an art. Our bowlers like Wasim Akram have taught Indian bowlers. Many have come to me as well to learn, which is very good. No doubt India has good fast bowlers. Now the combination is such that it can help the team to win matches. Apart from batting and bowling, India’s fielding has also improved.
Q: Do you think that India’s team is the best team in the world in ODIs and tests?
A: Yes, there is no doubt that India is one of the best teams in the world right now.
Q: How do you see the T20 format? Do you think this format has spoiled the test format?
A: Yes, because in T20, the match gets over quickly. The spectators come more in T20. But the test takes 5 days to get the result. The real skills of players come out only by playing the test format.
Q: Would you like to play T20? Is there any batsman like whom you’d like to bat?
A: I would like to play like me only. I too had many strokes to play. In the recent test series, batsmen were using T20 shorts there too. Crowd likes such shots.
Q: How to start cricket between India and Pakistan?
A: Yes, it should start right away because cricket is a game and it should be taken as a game. I feel very sad when India and Pakistan do not play with each other for so long and I think there will come a time when India will start playing back in Pakistan, there will also be a test series.
Q: Parvez Musharraf had praised M.S. Dhoni’s hair and when Dhoni retired, there was a lot of discussion about him in Pakistan. Ganguly did something similar. What do you think about such a captain in Pakistan, seeing that India got more than one captain, on the other hand, Pakistan did not find any such captain after Imran Khan?
A: See leadership quality is very important and India has got very sensible captains. I like Dhoni very much because he works on his own. He is a focused player and under his captaincy, India has also won the World Cup and lots of tournaments. It is true that India has got a lot of good captains while we got Imran Khan.
Q: How do you find Virat Kohli as captain?
A: Virat Kohli is a very good captain, he is also doing very well. He should control his anger a little bit. He is a very good captain.