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THE BIG INTERVIEW
Nain Abidi: Changing Hearts And Minds In PakistanFollowing their encounter at the recent ACC Women’s Twenty20 Asia Cup in Guangzhou, Hong Kong’s captain Ishitaa Gidwani, who made her international debut against Pakistan in 2006, engaged Pakistan’s star batter Nain Abidi in conversation in order to find out what makes a professional cricketer tick.
“We are not just playing cricket in Pakistan we are changing hearts and minds.”
Ishitaa Gidwani: Spirited CricketerThere are many cricketers who impress with their talent, there are some who impress with their character, there are a few who impress with both. Hong Kong’s Ishitaa Gidwani, 19, is one of them.
A first-year student of Sports Science at Hong Kong University, Ishitaa spoke to us directly after a national team training session, a couple of days before Hong Kong’s women took on China’s at this year’s Hong Kong Sixes.
“Playing in the Asian Games was huge.”
Cassim Suliman: Reactionary And VisionaryCassim Suliman, 56, Chief Executive of the Africa Cricket Association has for long been committed to the cause of cricket as a vehicle for social transformation. Capable, colourful and a man who can get pretty much anything done in the vast continent thanks to his immense charm and leverage, he spoke to us in Kuala Lumpur during the most recent ICC Development Staff Conference.
“You cannot play normal sport in an abnormal society.”
Iran's First LadyNarges Lafooti, 31, was the first lady to officiate in an ACC Tournament, the U-19 Women’s Championship in October 2010. The event also marked the first time Iran sent a lady official outside the country unaccompanied by any team, for an international tournament. Involved in sport since university either as a player or official, Ms. Lafooti has been a rugby player at university, then a referee and head coach of the national women’s rugby team. She also has lifeguard qualifications and has played varsity baseball. A calm, authoritative presence on the field, off the field she adds to her steeliness with considerable charm and a readiness to laugh.
Ms. Lafooti spoke to us in Singapore, with the assistance of an interpreter.
“I am very glad that Iran’s women players are well thought of.”
Emal Pasarly: Tracking Afghanistan's RiseEmal Pasarly, 37, of the BBC Pashto service has been following Afghanistan's cricketing success longer than anyone else. His informed insights have shaped his countrymen's understanding of the game and he has played a significant part in building support for his country's greatest export.
We spoke to him at Bush House in London.
“I have to pinch myself to believe it.”
Dawlat Ahmadzai: Afghan OriginalAfghanistan opening bowler Dawlat Ahmadzai, 25, speaks of his epic journey from war-torn Afghanistan to the ICC WorldTwenty20.
"Some players used to walk one or two hours across mountains at night just to play cricket."
Bashir Stanikzai: Managing AfghanistanBashir Stanikzai, 25, is a veteran of Afghanistan's campaign to achieve ODI status. Active in Afghan cricket administration for six years, he has been with the team through all its successes and soul-searching setbacks. Hard-working, capable, and thanks to his financial and social independence, seemingly above the pull of tribalism and malfeasance which has muddied his country's progress in certain arenas, he has won the respect of many by doing his job well.
He spoke to us after the conclusion of Afghanistan's matches at the ICC World T20 in Barbados, where he was Team Manager.
"It was very, very hard to get to this stage but we are here now."
Khurram Khan: UAE ChampionUAE captain Khurram Khan, 38, is one of the classiest players on the circuit. On and off the field his immaculate and unhurried style has made him stand out from all his peers. His performances with bat and ball for the UAE national team are laced with fine performances from the day he started playing for them and for long he has been the wicket opponents have prized the most. He spoke to us in Kuala Lumpur, a few hours after signing off from his duties as purser on an Emirates flight.
Afghanistan: The Doctor DiagnosesChief Executive Officer of the Afghanistan Cricket Board Dr. Aimal Shinwari, 30, is a young man in charge of a young sport in a country with a long-standing combative pedigree. Active in Afghan cricket since November 2009, he has spent his time studying and observing his cricketers, and as many of those in the rest of the world as possible. His goal: to keep Afghanistan cricket healthy on and off the field.
He spoke to us in Dubai as his team qualified for the World Twenty20 2010.
"The Afghan cricket team is working tirelessly to make the Afghan nation proud."
Afghan Star: Mohammad NabiMohammad Nabi, 24, is not only one of Afghanistan's best cricketers, he is one of Asia's. An off-spinning all-rounder he takes wickets and scores runs with an ease and grace that makes the game look very simple. Soft-spoken and modest, his calmness belies an intense competitive temperament. Invariably, when he does well Afghanistan does well.
We caught up with him in Dubai, on the eve of 2010's ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier.
"I watched Saqlain's doosra. Then I did it until I had it."
Harnam Singh: Then And NowHarnam Singh, 67, is a fixture of the Singapore cricket scene. A former national player, taking in two ICC Trophys for the country and currently Vice President of the Singapore Cricket Association he is a man of wisdom, good humour and considerable energy, carrying his years and accomplishments with an easy grace.
He spoke to us in the UAE, where he was manager of the Singapore team at the ACC Twenty20 Cup.
"Cricket is very much alive in Singapore."
K.T. Francis: The DoyenSri Lanka's K.T.Francis, 70, is a legend among umpires, having been officiating in one form or another for over 40 years. An ICC Elite panel umpire before he retired from the international arena, after standing in 25 Tests and 56 One-Day Internationals from 1982 to 1999, starting with Sri Lanka's first home ODI and Inaugural Test. His career was marked by a steadiness and diligence throughout, along with an uncompromising adherence to the highest umpiring standards. "KT had the kind of temperament which helps an umpire to succeed at the highest level," says ACC Development Manager Bandula Warnapura, who captained Sri Lanka in that 1982 Test.
His most recent assignment was as Umpires Assessor during the 2009 ACC U-19 Challenge in Chiang Mai, where he was also called upon to act as Match Referee in the Final. He spoke to us there, while looking not only as dapper as ever but healthier than he has been for a long time, as a result of giving up pipe-smoking seven months earlier.
“You can't just walk onto the field and umpire a match and expect to do well.”
Michael Moosajee: Myanmar's ManMichael Moosajee, 54, first started playing cricket in Myanmar (Burma) in the 1970s. Myanmar’s subsequent isolation from the world meant cricket faded into obscurity along with many other games, but he and some hardy souls played on. He captained Myanmar in their first international tournament after becoming members of the ICC, the 2006 ACC Trophy. A one-time chicken-farmer, since retirement he has dedicated himself to developing cricket in Myanmar and is joint-secretary of the Myanmar Cricket Federation, having also served as national coach.
He spoke to us in Chiang Mai during the recent ACC U-19 Challenge.
“People say Myanmar is getting better.”
Hong Kong’s Brothers in ArmsBrothers Nadeem (22) and Irfan Ahmed (20) of Hong Kong are among the regions’ finest all-rounder prospects and would surely feature in an Asian Associates and Affiliates representative XI. Having played ODIs already, they are on the brink of further success as professional cricketers in Hong Kong and abroad. Their rise to maturity coincided with a strong series of performances by Hong Kong as they won the 2008 ACC Trophy and 2009 ACC U-19 Elite Cup as well as completing a fine run in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League.
Irfan is likely to feature strongly in ICC U/19 World Cup 2010 currently being played in New Zealand.
They spoke to us in Sharjah during the recent ACC Twenty20 Cup.
“I want to play in the IPL.”
Ashfaq-ul-Islam: Coaching MyanmarAfter being involved in Bangladesh cricket all his life, 35-year-old Ashfaq-ul-Islam (Bappy) is now embarked upon a new challenge. Having been appointed national coach of Myanmar in October 2009, Bappy's first test in charge was the ACC U-19 Challenge Cup in Chiang Mai, Thailand. During a game against Brunei, which Myanmar won by 188 runs, Bappy spoke of his cricketing past and Myanmar's cricketing future.
"I've taken up coaching Myanmar in a positive way and it has started working."
Dharmichand Mulewa: Singapore's All-RounderDharmichand Mulewa, 25, is in the unique position in ACC member-countries of being both a leading player and administrator. General Manager of the Singapore Cricket Association as well as as being an off-spinning opening bat, he works full-time on and off the field. Ideally placed to comment on the challenges facing contemporary administrators and players in the increasingly meritocratic new world order of developing nations’ cricket, he reflects on an intense past ten years of cricket, and looks forward to the next ten years and beyond.
The interview was conducted by phone and e-mail.
“Being the top-ranked ACC country makes us very proud.”
China: Can Do WangWang Meng, 21, was China’s captain during the 2009 ACC Twenty20 Women’s Championship where she impressed with her grace under pressure and steady bowling. Initially a volleyball player who was good enough to represent Liaoning Province as an undergraduate, she has been playing cricket for the past two years.
Wang Meng spoke to us at the Chinese Women’s training camp at Shenyang Sport University.
“There is pressure on us, but we can do it.”