With Australia back in Pakistan for the first time in 24 years, I took the opportunity to ask him about the importance of the visit:
How much does it mean to Pakistan to have international cricket back in the country and how significant is this Australian tour for the people of Pakistan?
Pakistanis are a cricket-loving nation and because of the war on terror they have been deprived of cricket for many years. They have been awaiting the Australian team’s arrival here with great anticipation and excitement as it is a team that is admired.
The Pakistan Super League has been a great success, but how important is Test cricket for Pakistan in particular and world cricket generally?
T20 is great entertainment with innovative stroke play and brilliant fielding, but the true test of a cricketer will always be Test cricket.
How difficult was it to convince Australia to tour Pakistan? What kind of treatment will they receive from fans and from a security perspective?
Every military action has unintended consequences. I believe in diplomacy and dialogue.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan
The issue was about security and our government has improved the overall security within the country. The Australian team is being given Presidential-level security and our people have been waiting with excitement for this series. Apart from the dead pitches, nothing can dampen the cricket fans excitement.
Will you be able to attend any of the Test matches and what kind of atmosphere do you think there will be?
no. Unfortunately, my days of watching cricket for the time being are over.
How do you think the series will play out? Are you prepared to make a prediction?
I am unable to watch. I follow the matches in the papers but unless the pitches are more responsive we won’t see results.
Which players are you most looking forward to seeing from Australia and Pakistan?
Pat Cummins and Steve Smith; Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi.
What are your favorite memories of playing Australia in Test cricket and in particular in Pakistan? (You averaged 43 with the bat and 16.57 with the ball from five Tests in Pakistan against Australia.)
The 1976 tour of Australia when I was barely 23 years old. This was my favorite tour of Australia. In Pakistan, it was in 1982, the match in Lahore when I took 8 wickets on a dead pitch.
Which Australian players were the toughest to play against?
In my time the Chappell brothers and Dennis Lillee.
Are there any lessons from your playing days that have helped you in your political career and especially as PM of your country?
Yes. The ability to take pressure; the ability to learn from every setback; to fight to the last ball.
You are clearly very busy on the International stage (including a recent meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin), do you have any message for the people of Australia, Pakistan and the world?
I do not believe in resolving conflicts through the use of military force. Every military action has unintended consequences. I believe in diplomacy and dialogue.
What can be done to bring bilateral cricket back between Pakistan and India?
India right now has a racist Hindutva regime preaching racial superiority and hatred for minorities, especially Muslims. So, there is no forward movement in our relations and cricket is also affected – has become collateral damage.
What role did you personally play in bringing international cricket back to Pakistan and in assuring Australia they would be safe there?
Since our government has been in power the security situation has improved and that was the main stumbling block. As I said in response to an earlier question, presidential-level security is being provided.
What is tougher, facing the West Indies pace attack, or negotiating the diplomatic bouncers as PM?
West Indies pace attack plus pressure of international cricket gives you mental strength. The more you put yourself under pressure the stronger you get mentally.
Given the international instability, how closely will you be watching this series? Do you get the chance to watch much cricket any more?
As I said earlier, I do not get time to watch cricket right now. The international instability hits developing countries directly because of rising oil and wheat prices, which pushes more people below the poverty line.
It’s been said that fast bowlers can’t be Test captains. You put that lie to bed and went on to lead your country brilliantly. From your experience, what will be the greatest challenges facing Pat Cummins as a fast-bowling Test captain?
Theoretically, fast bowlers should make better captains. A good captain must have the ability to judge when to use a particular bowler, when to change the bowler and assess the field placings accordingly. Fast bowlers have an edge in making these assessments.
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