Nepal’s Gyanendra Malla Afghanistan’s Hasti Gul

Afghanistan's Hasti Gul and Nepal's Gyanendra Malla have achieved much for their countries on the playing field, now they're trying to do more off the field. Both have started academies in their home towns, with an eye to creating their successors in the national teams of the future. "Of all the things I have done, this is what makes me feel the best," says Hasti Gul.

Swing-bowling, hard-hitting Hasti Gul, 26, was one of the players on Afghanistan’s epic charge up the world rankings which took them to the brink of World Cup 2011 qualification and though out of the national team at present, he retains his immense popularity in a country in which cricket is increasingly being established as the most popular sport. “160 players daily come to my Academy in Jalalabad,” says Hasti, “we have four turf wickets and two cement pitches and a coach from Peshawar Mr. Saad Muhammad. My dream is that 10 of these boys go on to play for the national team in five years and that many more will come and enjoy cricket in our country.”

Nepal’s Gyanendra Malla, 19, is softer-spoken than Hasti Gul and is a player still performing at the highest possible level for Nepal. A middle-order batsman of grace and distinction who can bowl spin and throw with either arm, he has a maturity that belies his years. He has been playing for the national team since 2006 and is a major talent. There is no doubt that his 40 or so young charges, who come after school when they can but almost always on Saturdays weather permitting, respond well to Gyanendra’s gentle encouragement and teaching. His pupils are as young as 5 and he has two of the national women’s squad also enrolled in his Academy.

Gyanendra Malla: Laying the track for others to follow

“It’s more of a Training Centre than an ‘Academy’” says Gyanendra modestly of his work in a vacant residential plot in the suburbs of Kathmandu. “Everybody has different needs, for the young it’s mostly a matter of getting them to enjoy the game, to realise how much they can achieve if they just try. For the older ones it’s just working with them on small things to make sure they keep doing the right things,” says Gyanendra. “We don’t have huge expectations here, we are just starting but I know that without someone to encourage you in the right way you can’t really be a good cricketer. Cricket is popular in Nepal but it is also hard to play for a number of reasons but its something that can really help the young have access to cricket. So few schools have teams, there are so few tournaments and the children who want to play don’t get enough chances. Here it’s about just playing and giving parents the confidence to send their children here.”

Hasti Gul and Gyanendra Malla met on the playing field a few times themselves in ACC and ICC tournaments, in the future players they have helped develop may well do the same. “I will not play cricket forever but I want to help make cricket forever big in Afghanistan. I am saying 10 players for the national team, I also hope to have 10 teams from the Academy in domestic competitions in Afghanistan. And then international,” says Hasti Gul.

He and Gyanendra have achieved, are achieving, much and developing cricket in a vital and necessary way. They have already inspired quite literally hundreds of thousands, such is their appeal in their native lands. They are also directly helping as many as they can along the way.

Hasti Gul on the ACC website
Gyanendra Malla on the ACC website

Filed April 26th, 2010