How much of that success is due to the coach?
The coach Kabir has his part, of course. He is the first professional who played at the highest level and is now coaching the Afghan team. Apart from that, what happens inside the country, after each tournament they are given a warm reception back home and have even been invited to the presidential palace by Hamid Karzai. There is a lot more media coverage and also games played at each level, they’ve got more experience. So there are a number of things that have contributed to their success and personally I think they had the talent but lacked only the belief. Slowly they’ve got that belief and now they’re overconfident in a way in the sense that they think that they can even beat South Africa. Belief was what they lacked but they got that in the first few tournaments.

They would have had tremendous belief in the first place to get out of the refugee camps.
Definitely. Mentally they are very strong. When I looked into the eyes of these players, I was amazed. When you speak to Raees Ahmadzai – the way he talked to me, the way he acts, he is full of confidence and sometimes I don’t understand how he got that sort of confidence. Confidence not only in his playing career but as a person he is so confident, full of energy. This guy could demolish a mountain and some of the other players are so mentally strong. That certainly helped them. Because they believed in something that they had, they managed to come out of the ashes of those camps.

What more do they need to do to be the best they can be?
One thing I am afraid of is that if somebody doesn’t pay attention to the structure and to the next generation, they might go down like Kenya after 2003 (Associate nation Kenya were semi-finalists in that year’s World Cup) because this group is mature, talented and professional. For the next generation if no one pays attention they might lose and if few of them leave the game there might be a gap. The good thing is Kabir Khan and others have identified some new talent. For instance, I was told there was a new bowler who is a university student in Jalalabad in the eastern part of the country. This guy is supposedly faster than Hamid and Shahpoor and he is only 20 or 21. That is very good news. When there was training for the Under-15s, 400 kids were there to be trained and I was told the fast bowling department was excellent. A lot of them were very quick. The team needs more batsmen in the younger squads though. If there is more attention and help in the coaching department given by the ACC and some Asian full members, they could achieve more. Of course I’m not saying that they can get to the full member level because security is preventing that from happening and probably even if everything is OK, it’ll take some years for them to get to that level. I think, though, that they can retain the ODI status longer than some people think.

© Lucy Martens

What are the main problems faced by Afghanistan cricket?
I believe the lack of grounds is one of the main issues. We saw in the Twenty20 that the Afghan batsmen were struggling with the short-pitched balls. Though I’m not a technical guy in cricket, I believe it has to do with the concrete pitches they play on regularly back home. They don’t have proper pitches and in fact that have just one or two in the entire country. They also need stronger club cricket. They hold provincial tournaments but they are here and there and from what I’ve heard and watch, it isn’t that professional. They need to work on that aspect. There is a lot of cricket going on in Afghanistan even in provinces where there was no cricket a few months ago and now they’ve got five or six high standard clubs. There is a lot of interest in the game but the organisation needs more polishing.

Do you think the ACB is receptive to new ideas?
Being new is not a problem. The problem is that they don’t know the game. Those who started the game, they were at the organizational level for a while but they had other problems. I think the current board have a lot of good ideas but on how to get extra funds probably and help the current senior team. They may struggle in how to develop the game and they need support from ICC, ACC and other full member countries. They are also yet to grasp the idea how to approach others for help them. Once they get on track with that aspect, the current board can do well.

Afghanistan Cricket Profile

Filed August 2nd, 2010