Raees Ahmadzai (left, in blue) listening to a batsman recount his game plan

With the national team impressing in the World Cup, and the U-19s already established as a force to watch, the next batch of Afghan national prospects is being sought out. Former national captain/national coach/national selector and current UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Raees Ahmadzai heads AYCSO (Afghan Youth Cricket Support Organisation), an NGO supported by Afghan Connection and MCC dedicated to boosting the positive impact of cricket across Afghanistan. He is currently engaged in training 112 boys aged between 16 and 19 years in Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan. "It is tiring, I am exhausted, I am also very happy to see the talent that is here," says Mr. Ahmadzai.

In December, there were two days of coaching for these school and college boys at Nangarhar stadium, and currently they are at an academy in Jalalabad for what Mr. Ahmadzai is calling “a practical in how to play.” A renowned hitter in domestic cricket who, as Afghanistan rose to play internationals, reined in his flamboyance in order to play a steadying role among his team of febrile strokeplayers, Raees Ahmadzai has just one firm rule for the batsman in front of him. “I tell them, if you hit a 6 then you are out. It is not the only way to score runs,” says the grizzled veteran with a stern-ness that must be bristling his beard at the other end of the phone line. Twenty school teachers were also part of the AYCSO camp, with cricket successfully established as part of the school curriculum in Afghanistan. Several national-team players who just missed out on selection for the World Cup were on hand at the camp to offer guidance and inspiration.

Some of the schoolteachers who’ve seen so much more than cricket traverse their land

“There are many good players here. I cannot promise them that they will play for the U-19 team or the senior team in the future but I feel that cricket gives them a good chance to enjoy life, to enjoy the success of Afghanistan in international cricket, to be a part of the good people of our country who want to live in peace and build up our future,” says the man who has already done so much for his nation.

Afghanistan’s Heroes Look for Others to Join Them
Afghanistan Cricket Profile
Raees Ahmadzai: Leading Afghan Cricket

Filed March 3rd, 2015