KABIR KHAN: ADVANCING AFGHANISTAN

Do you work with the age-groups as well as the senior Afghanistan team?

My contract with the ACC states that I should be involved with all cricket in the country, which I wanted too. The thing is if I work with only the senior side, then their current problems are very hard to correct so I prefer working with them at a younger age where the mistakes can be corrected by the time they reach the senior squad. I wanted to oversee all cricket so I could identify the talent and when we have senior camps we could bring along the future prospects and allow them to see the best cricketers and learn from them.

How are the senior team preparing for ICC World Cricket League Division 3. When you’re back in Kabul do you have a camp there or are you training in other places?

We are actually straight away going to have a camp with the ACC. We want to have a 15-day camp with 25 players after which we will reduce the number to about 14 players.

Doesn’t the team pick itself? It has been almost the same for the past two years.

Yes, but I want to bring competition into the team. When somebody thinks their place is rock-solid in the team then it is not good for the team. I want everyone to work hard to play international cricket. You can get away if you’re playing in the lower divisions but when you play at the highest level you need to maintain the optimum level of fitness as well. I have told some players I’m not happy with their fitness levels but they’ve already started working on it and the best thing is that they are listening and are keen to do things.

Who are the players who have impressed you the most?

Mohammad Nabi and Hamid Hassan are amongst the most talented in the team. In the Division 4 tournament I was surprised to see how many players changed themselves for the better. I was shocked at how quickly they adjusted and if you look at the scorecards you will see performances from everybody. Everyone chipped in with runs and it was nice to see the team were working hard to come back into games which they’ve never done before.

Hamid Hassan bests the ACC Trophy Elite 2008 Batsman of the Tournament Malaysia’s Suhan Kumar

Many perceive Afghanistan’s big weakness to be in playing spin. How do you overcome that?

It is a weakness. I am not denying it but it is not a big thing because it can be overcome. The problem is that in Afghanistan there are no turf wickets and domestic games are always played on cement pitches where there is no movement off the pitch. The ball comes straight onto the bat and there is not much to do. They now just need to practise against spinners on turf wickets and after a week or two they’ll be OK. I’m not saying that they’ll master the skill of facing spin but they will certainly play it better.

Many of the same then think Afghans have temperament flaws – they like to bowl too fast and hit only big shots when being more conservative might pay off, is that view justified?

It is the natural way to play in Afghanistan, yes, and it is what makes cricket popular in the country to play and watch. But I think the players, having been more exposed to international cricket now are much more capable of doing the right thing at the right time with bat and ball. We saw it in Division 4.   Their aggressive nature is natural. You just need to bring the positive aggressiveness out within the disciplinary boundaries and telling them to do the right things at the right time. In the Division 4, we didn’t win any of the games easily. In all of them we were under pressure and we came out the winners which shows that they’re mentally prepared.

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