Rashid Khan, 48, has been China’s national cricket coach since November 2006. Noted for his unorthodox ‘wrong-foot’ delivery, he played four Tests and 29 One-Day Internationals for Pakistan between 1980 and 1985 as a fast-bowler. Since retirement he has coached Pakistan U-19, the PCB Patron’s XI, PIA and Karachi Harbour sides with considerable success. He spoke to us in Chiang Mai, where he was with the U-17 China side, about what he sees as his greatest challenge yet.

"I’ve played with the greats, coached teams with great players and now I have a chance to do something really great."

What made you leave wife, family, home comforts and a successful career in Pakistan to coach in a country where cricket is hardly known?

“The call came in October 2006 from the then Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Mr. Shaharyar Khan asking me to go to China on Pakistan’s behalf as a matter of national duty. Such a request was hard to refuse coming from such a man and he said how close Pakistan and China had always been diplomatically and my work would help all that.”

Did you have any idea of the challenge you were facing?

“I was leaving a country where cricket is Number 1 to go somewhere where cricket is Number 100 but I thought that if I can help grow cricket in China then I will have helped to do a great thing and it will be something to make me even more famous than as a player. I took advice from senior people in the PCB and my friend Waheed Khan and they all felt it was a once in a lifetime chance to do something important.”

“The PIA side I was coaching, Saqlain Mushtaq, Moin Khan and Wasim Akram were playing in as well as some very talented boys, and there was a chance that I could be very active at the high level in Pakistan cricket. Hanif Mohammad and Zaheer Abbas helped me when I was a player and they inspired me to be a coach.  I looked at what I could do for a Pakistani player and that is maybe add 10% to them. It is important but it is 10%. To a brand-new player I can add 100% of cricket and that is what is the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity. It is about taking responsibility for a lot and as a man I wanted to do that.”

What struck you first on reaching China?

“How hard it was to get halal food! But cricket-wise I was pleasantly surprised. I could see that the CCA had big motivation from the ACC and ICC to develop cricket for some time and there were local coaches, facilities and a basic development strategy already in place. I just had to go out and find the players. The CCA had identified some former softball players in Beijing and Shenzhen because of the new local coaches who had themselves been softball coaches before learning cricket. The boys had good hand-eye co-ordination and fielding, next was bowling and batting! I had five weeks to get a team ready for the ACC U-15 Challenge in Thailand. We won our first game, against Myanmar”.

"I was not a good cricketer after twenty days of playing."

China always beat Myanmar but lose to other teams, and in this U-17 Challenge Cup the defeats have been quite large. How do you respond to criticisms of the team’s performance?

“I am the coach and when they do well it is their credit. When they do badly, I should accept responsibility but the real situation with this team is that except for a few players all the boys are new. So new they have only three weeks of cricket before coming to Thailand for the U-17. There is a cricket language that has to be learned by them and it is not something that can be of a high standard in such a short time. I was not a good cricketer after twenty days of playing but my first wicket for Pakistan was Viv Richards for nought. Even after one day these boys show me things which make me feel good to be coaching them.”

An U-15 Maldives wicket falls to China

“What was lost by CCA and me was the squad that had been together since 2006 – boys like ‘Mountain Man’ Du Jinlong, Chen Xiudong and Zhang Yufei who were really looking like they could be good cricketers. I think they are quite famous for their cricket but this time their parents did not let them come because the parents feel that cricket interferes with their studies and in China studies are important. In Pakistan they are too, but there are at least some opportunities with cricket to get some kind of money. In China these boys have to earn money as soon as they leave school or get good marks to get to a good university. There is always a pressure to be on a certain track in China.”

Explaining field-settings to China’s 2007 U-15 captain Du Jinlong

“As China’s national coach I need the boys to play a lot of cricket, I need the boys to experience as many of the things that can happen in a match if they are to be good. That is what needs to be my focus if China’s team is to do well in cricket. I think if we can find a way to encourage the parents to give the children to cricket because of all the extra things that cricket can provide: a chance to learn English, a chance to travel, a chance to play for the country, a chance to work for a multi-national company in China with a headquarters in Australia, India, Pakistan or UK then I think cricket will be looked on more positively. Cricket in the subcontinent was always seen as a passport to mixing with the right people so this is nothing new. If cricket can be presented like that in China then it will be supported more.”

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