The ABC from Zed: Zaheer Abbas

You spoke earlier of how culturally things are different for youths compared to when you were younger, so is cricket still on the up in the subcontinent?
“To be quite honest, I think cricket has to slow down a bit. If they play too much and its always on television then the charm will go. Of course, in Asia people feel they would like to see more cricket, but what we have seen is that a different kind of audience is coming to the grounds. Less youngsters are there and if we don’t get them interested in the game then cricket will suffer in the long run.”

In Hong Kong the ACC have had some significant meetings with the Chinese Cricket Association who are very keen to start cricket in China. What do you think of China’s chances in cricket?
“China can go up like anything. They are quick and fast learners. If China could come up to the ACC Trophy level they could give people a serious game of cricket. The main thing is to have a team made up of locals. Then the public support will be there. They are fast learners of any sport if they take an interest, as we have seen!“

What can a coach contribute to a cricketer?
“I believe that when you’re in a senior team you don’t need a coach. Okay, if a coach is there he can tell you what is wrong technically but it is the player who has to perform. The coach cannot score your runs or take your wickets. If you are a good learner basically you will learn by watching.“

At what age would you start to coach a cricketer?
“This is different to what many think but I would not have coaches in schools. The main thing, first and foremost when you are young is that you learn things by yourself. If a child gets exposed to a coach early, he gets the idea that a coach is a very important man. And that will stop his natural ability to develop for himself.“

Isn’t that easier for someone like you to say, who was brilliant from a very early age?
“What I am trying to say is that you cannot teach some things, they are inside a person, a coach cannot make a cricketer. And a grown-up, I can assure you, will never learn.“

So what is the role of a coach?
“Going back to what I said earlier, society is different now to what it was when I was a young man. There are many more things which are taking a boy’s attention. A coach is a good point to arrange a practice and get the best use out of the time. They can tell you things you might not be knowing because they have an understanding of the game. But how to bat, how to bowl, strategy: every player knows because the game has taught him. If a player is clever he will keep cool under pressure, if a player wants to improve he will learn from his elders. Playing cricket is always an education. When you’re playing cricket, cricket teaches. You can never stop learning.“

Filed 11th December 2004