Former Pakistan international Kabir Khan, 34, has been coaching Afghanistan since October 2008. In that time, they have won ICC World Cricket League Division 4 and the ACC U-17 Challenge. He spoke to us on the eve of his team’s departure to Argentina for ICC World Cricket League Division 3, where a top two finish will take Afghanistan to the verge of qualification for World Cup 2011.
“It is raw talent because there is no real infrastructure back there.”
When did you first become aware of Afghanistan as a team worth coaching?
They approached me four years ago when I was playing cricket in the UK. At that time I was doing the different coaching levels and had just retired from first-class cricket. It did not work at first because I did not know much about the team but when I joined the UAE team in 2007 I heard a lot of good things about them. After I left the UAE I left for Scotland to coach Stirlingshire. After I finished my stint there I was approached by the ACC through Iqbal Sikander and he asked if I was interested in the opening with Afghanistan Cricket. We speak the same language and have the same customs, my home Peshawar is the nearest big Pakistan city to Afghanistan so we have been able to build up a good relationship very quickly.
When did you start getting your coaching qualifications?
I started my Level 1 and Level 2 in 2003 and then did my Level 3 in 2005.
Did you always think that after your playing career that you would be a coach?
I love cricket and I was a good teacher to start with. Coaching is something you can’t read, it comes naturally. It is something like being a primary teacher with your ABCs. A doctor or a MBA holder may not be able to teach you so the teaching is the quality itself and doesn’t come with the courses. I believe that it really should come naturally.
Are the coaching courses around the world different or similar in their content and styles?
Cricket is not really rocket science. There may be different ways of teaching it or looking at it but at the end of the day, it’s still batting, bowling and fielding and people are just looking at it from different angles. So there is a difference between Australian courses and English coaching but at the end of the day it’s cricket.
If you had the modern technological help that is available to players today, do you think it would have been an advantage for you as a player?
All of those things help but looking at it in retrospect, we can see how many superstars were produced before and after the technological advances. Back then, you can see videos of how strong and perfect their action was and as time passes you develop yourself and then we knew what was best for cricket and now we think we know too. It just progresses from day to day. There are things that we would have liked to have in our playing days in the fitness areas though.
If a boy is an effective pace or spin bowler but is going to be prone to injury in the future due to his action, how would you coach the player to get the best out of him?
I think most coaches would agree with me you don’t do things all of a sudden. If I have a boy who is bowling well with a wrong action but it benefits the team, I would let him continue. But then in the longer term if he is a future prospect, I would start working with him and gradually correct the action to get the best performance.
How does a boy start to play cricket in Afghanistan? Is there a school or club system?
It is raw talent because there is no real infrastructure back there. They are just coming up and love the game and you can see them playing on the streets, the same way it is played in Pakistan and India. In Kabul, there was an Under-19 trial where 165 boys showed up and from there the team was selected. There is a problem because we don’t have a system where we can confirm their ages and that was a headache. We had to leave behind some really good talent because we thought they were over-aged. If we had the facilities, then we could’ve confirmed their ages and maybe have brought an even stronger team with us.
How do you make the transition for boys into the U-19s and then the senior team?
There are some boys I am really impressed with. They have really good potential and there is space for them in the senior team but it depends how they mature themselves and get used to the atmosphere of cricket. The people and the country has been through a lot over the past couple of years and for all this equipment I would personally like to thank the ACC and the Pakistan Cricket Board for all their help. Things are getting better in the country, they may not be perfect, but it is definitely better.