42 women and 27 men in Iran have been the latest to go through an ACC Level I coaching program, conducted as ever by Development Officer Iqbal Sikander. “It wasn’t easy managing a class this size,” says Iqbal, “but through the three days of the course it was clear to see how dedicated they all were to learning about coaching and given the number of successful candidates one hopes that cricket will now reach hundreds of new athletes.”

Women coaches and umpires are a substantial presence in Iran’s domestic sport and girls play in increasing numbers. Even though they have played just one out of the five ACC women’s tournaments, they showed plenty of spirit and improved with every match. “Such is the passion and intensity among the lady cricketers of Iran I am sure that given more exposure and match practise they would be close to the top of the regional rankings and it is indeed a shame that they have not been able to take part in our international tournaments,” says Iqbal.

Being near Pakistan helps, two of the national lady coaches have been Pakistani and former first-class cricketer Umar Rasheed is the current national coach. The area near the Pakistan border, dry, scrubby, impoverished, is nevertheless where cricket is played with the most fervour and if ever Iran get round to grooming the youngsters playing there, they will have an endless supply of quality cricketers.

Iqbal meeting with Iran Cricket Association President Afshin Haidari (second from left)

During his time in Iran, Iqbal Sikander met with the new Iran Cricket President Afshin Haidari. “He seems very keen to take cricket forward and establish it on a firmer footing and I hope that all he wants to do for Iran cricket is achieved. It is indeed one of those countries of untapped potential and one is quite humbled by the dedication of those who play the game,” says Iqbal.

A new ground is being made at Gorgan in the north-eastern region of Gulistan. Cricket on astroturf with an earthen outfield is played there at the moment, the hope is that the outfield becomes at least turfed in time for the 2012 season. “The climate is perfect for cricket, never too wet or too hot and if all things are managed well, then Gorgan could be a great new centre for cricket and with neighbouring countries as yet unexposed to cricket nearby, who knows, it may serve as an inspiration to a whole new audience,” says Iqbal.

Iran remains one of those “if only” countries, the disconnect between requirements and resources, players and administrators, rawness and refinement still very large. These new coaches, this new President could be the turning point.

Cricket, Even Though: Iran
Iran Cricket Profile

Filed October 12th, 2011