2008 ACC U-19 Challenge Cup winners

The Saudi Cricket Centre is celebrating the tenth year of its formation with a talent hunt program in the Kingdom. And Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi will be on hand with ACC Development Officer Iqbal Sikander as a judge. The event will take place in Jeddah, Riyadh, Damman and Yanbu over five days and SCC CEO Nadeem Nadwi says, “The best cricketers in domestic cricket have dreamt of competing for the national squads of Saudi Arabia and now their dreams are coming closer and I hope that they will chase their own dreams.”

Twice winners of the ACC U-19 Challenge Cup, most recently in 2011, the aim of this non-idolatrous event is to create the ideal conditions for the discovery of fresh talent in the country. The distances between the cricket-playing cities of Saudi Arabia are vast. And thus, the cricket activities of the 120 teams in the six regions of the Kingdom are localised. “The cricketers of Riyadh don’t compete against the cricketers of Medina or Yanbu or Jeddah so there is no real chance to improve beyond a certain level and it is very hard to create a sense of national team-spirit,” says Iqbal Sikander.

Moreover, a teenager isn’t going to be able or motivated enough to convince his parent or guardian of the need to attend a camp miles away from home if there isn’t an attraction of the stature of Shahid Afridi waiting to be met. Chances are that as many parents will bring their sons to the talent hunt as sons will bring their parents. “The fact of the matter is, Saudi Arabia do well up to a point and then go back down again, as has happened in the senior and U-19 levels in the past few years. A country can’t begin to perform and develop if it keeps playing lower-level cricket,” says Iqbal. “Full credit to them for taking the initiative of bringing Shahid Afridi to Saudi Arabia, cricketers are going to want to be at their best in front of him, and with that motivation – once you want to be the best, why stop? – a real pool of talent is going to be created,” says the former Pakistan international.

The 2011 ACC U-19 Challenge Cup winners
Picture by Peter Lim

The next ACC U-19 Elite Cup is in Malaysia in May, and is an ICC U19 World Cup 2014 qualifier. If development is to be about anything it has to involve new teams bursting through onto the world stage. Iqbal Sikander has already played a significant part in Afghanistan’s youth and senior team development over the past ten years, guiding Saudi Arabia to the top will be an even more momentous display of expertise. 1200 have already signed up for the try-outs, with more expected.

Saudi Arabia Cricket Profile
Saudi Cricket Centre

Filed January 11th, 2013