LONDON: England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Colin Graves has slammed former Pakistan captain-turned-Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan for â€œdisrespectingâ€ leading cricket stars Darren Sammy and Dawid Malan, who recently visited Lahore for the final of Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2017.
In an exclusive interview with Geo News in London, Graves said that Imran Khanâ€™s comments were â€œvery disparagingâ€ against Darren Sammy, Dawid Malan and other players as they did not deserve to be subjected to insults and racist remarks.
International players who came to Lahore for the PSL final last month, including Darren Sammy and England cricketers Dawid Malan and Chris Jordan, came under attack from Imran Khan and were called â€œphateechar (third-rated and disreputable) and â€œrailu kattayâ€ (loafers, good for nothing) from Africaâ€, triggering sharp criticism from across Pakistan and overseas.
In a video that went viral on social media, Imran Khan said: â€œI donâ€™t know even the name of any of these so-called foreign players. It seems to me that they have been caught from here and there, some caught from Africa to tell us that they are foreign players. We donâ€™t know who these people are.â€
Graves said that Imran Khanâ€™s comments â€œwere very disparaging against the players. I donâ€™t think Dawid Malan and Darren Sammy will take too kindly to being called third-grade cricketersâ€.
The ECB chairman strongly defended international players who were subjected to harsh and unfair remarks by the PTI leader. He said these players were world-class with a proven track record.
â€œDawid Malan is on the verge of making it to the England team, Darren Sammy has just won the T20 world cup as West Indies captain, they are international cricketers in their own right. They are top of the game. Dawid Malan, especially at Middlesex, is virtually in the top 20 in a 50 overs competition squad. He has performed well in matches. He is highly rated within Middlesex. At the end of the day, he is a big part of playing in the future,â€ he remarked.
The ECB chairman added that the players who decided to go to Pakistan despite security concerns deserved appreciation and respect, not criticism and insults.
â€œThose kind of players, you canâ€™t disrespect them. I think itâ€™s totally wrong to disrespect them. They made a decision (to play in Pakistan), they went and greatâ€¦thatâ€™s superb. They have received a lot of respect for going without a shadow of doubt.â€
PSL final in Lahore a â€˜fantastic occasionâ€™
Graves lauded the PSL final in Lahore and said â€œit was good to see players like Dawid Malan and Darren Sammy who played in the final and really enjoyed the fantastic occasionâ€.
The ECB chairman said holding the PSL final in Lahore was the right decision by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
â€œIn the world cricket, we are all very pleased that the PSL happened and went down very well. The reports that I have got show that it was done well. The security was superb. Everybody was delighted that it went without any problems. Everybody in the world cricket was pleased that it was played in Lahore.â€
Speaking about the English players such as Kevin Pietersen and others who refused to visit Lahore, Graves said that it was the personal decision of the players whether or not to play in Pakistan and the ECB cannot â€œforce players to go on any tour if they donâ€™t want to go to that particular country.â€
â€œThey did the same in the case of Bangladesh. When the decision was made to play in Bangladesh, two players decided not to go. Thatâ€™s their decision and itâ€™s a personal thingâ€, he pointed out.
The chairman hoped that with the evolving situation, international cricket will return to Pakistan. He further revealed that the ECB has been working with the International Cricket Council (ICC) for the return of cricket in Pakistan.
â€œWe take our lead by the ICC and they have really done a lot of work on the security issues in Pakistan. The ICC sent out a task force to report on the security issues and I have seen that. I believe that the ICC are now looking forward to sending either a world team or a Commonwealth team in September which will play in Pakistan some T20 matches and thatâ€™s good from everyone’s point of view if that happens as everybody in world cricket wants that to happen.â€
Colin Graves said the ECB has been the â€œbiggest supporter of Pakistan over the years and we still areâ€.
â€œWe are the ones who have been pushing the ICC to do all the security work to do whatever we can to help Pakistan. We all want to see Pakistan to play at home in their own country,â€ he said.
After Pakistani players Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were sentenced to imprisonment for their part in spot-fixing in 2010, Graves emerged as the biggest advocate of Mohammad Amir and ran a campaign for his rehabilitation in the cricket world.
â€œThe main thing when that arose then, I was approached to see what could be done to get Amir back into international cricket. We then raised voice to the government to make sure that he (Amir) got visa to come over here and play. Amir served his sentence, he committed a misdemeanour and that canâ€™t be held against him for the rest of his life. Thatâ€™s history, there is no point going about that. I am sure he regrets that happening and we all do. We are glad to see him back and play. A guy of his class should be playing international cricket,â€ he said.
About the arrest of three individuals in the UK including Nasir Jamshed and suspension of four players in Pakistan by the PCB, Graves said that those involved in corruption deserve to be punished.
â€œThose guilty should be banned for life as far as I am concerned because to me playing with peopleâ€™s money is totally wrong, fixing games within cricket is not what we want, itâ€™s totally against the tradition of cricket. And to me it needs stamping as soon as possible. All the action that the PCB took against players and here in the UK were legitimately done,â€ he stressed.
The ECB chairman said that he personally knows PCB chairman Shahryar Khan and praised him for putting the PCB in â€œgood shapeâ€.