Speaking exclusively to the Asian Cricket Council from his Kabul home, the Afghanistan Cricket Board’s Domestic Development Manager Dawlat Ahmadzai outlines his innovative plans to develop cricket across Afghanistan.

“It starts with regional offices controlling their related provinces.”

“The key is to develop provincial cricket. For a long time cricket has been based in Jalalabad, near the Pakistan border, which has been good for the start of cricket in Afghanistan, but now, if cricket is to truly represent the whole of the country and if Afghanistan is to find the best possible players for the national team then cricket has to reach into the provinces and manage them and help them play with the highest standards possible,” said Mr. Ahmadzai directly after performing an afternoon prayer during the month of Ramadan.

“When we play against Ireland and Scotland and India and South Africa I do not think that their team’s players only come from just one or two parts of their country, they go and find as many good players as possible from everywhere. I think if we develop provincial cricket in Afghanistan in the following ways:
  • School cricket
  • Facilities
  • Academies
  • Age-group cricket
  • Regional administration
“With a strong standard of domestic cricket I think that at least one in four cricketers that play for the top teams in the provinces can be good enough for the national team. Then there will be good competition for international cricket.”

Work on a new ground in Kabul to be used for an Inter-Provincial T20 in September

The circumstances which led to the formation of Mr. Ahmadzai’s generation of cricketers, with so many of them learning the game in Pakistan as their families were forced to leave Afghanistan in the wake of the Russian Wars from 1979 to 1991, will not be repeated. And this generation of stars; Asghar Stanikzai, Hamid Hassan, Karim Sadiq, Mohammad Nabi, Nawroz Mangal, Samiullah Shenwari Shapoor Zadran, Mohammad Shahzad etc etc etc of whom Mr. Ahmadzai was one just a few months ago, before his retirement, needs to find other players to join them and surpass them. Of the current national squad, only Noor Ali Zadran and Mirwais Ashraf are Afghans who have learnt the game from scratch from within Afghanistan.

Mr. Ahmadzai wants cricketers in Afghanistan now learning the game to reach a sufficient standard to one day soon, beat Pakistan. “Pakistan is our friend and it is our biggest target. If we can play well against them, beat them, then it will be great for the country. The gap is getting smaller, I wish that it is a genuine 50-50 when we meet them,” he says.

“In school cricket there should be enough coaches to just guide and encourage the players to do the basics with a soft ball. As they get older they can use the hard ball. Softball cricket will also suit the youngsters as there will be few good grounds for a while. I want there to be a school tournament in the regions. And then age-group cricket. Women’s cricket too. The ACB will fund development through the regions. There will be first-class facilities for every region but not every province.”

Dawlat Ahmadzai rallying his charges

The Domestic Development Manager has placed his country’s 34 regions into five regions: North, Central, East, South east and South and has appointed regional officers in each. “Managing Afghanistan may be difficult, managing its cricket I hope will be easier,” he says. “I expect monthly progress reports from the regional managers and twice a year we will have workshops to discuss different issues.” Mr. Ahmadzai held his first meeting for provincial representatives at the end of August, where he stressed the need to keep cricket in the regions fair and free of politics. Strict criteria have been established for the managers under him. The ACB also plans to hold a coaching and umpiring technical course with assistance from the Asian Cricket Council in October 2010.

Dawlat Ahmadzai takes an Irish wicket in Sri Lanka, February 2010
© Thusith Wijedoru
“Being a former cricketer gives people confidence in me but what it means to me is that I understand how hard one must work to become a good cricketer. It is that knowledge that I have worked hard which I want people to understand. Through the ACB many more cricketers will have the chance to play cricket for Afghanistan and I hope to help them in every way I can,” affirms the former fast-bowler.

Dawlat Ahmadzai: Afghan Original
Afghanistan Cricket Profile

Filed September 7th, 2010