"Batting is not only about footwork and technique but also about thinking - cricket thinking." Geoff Boycott

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AFTAB HABIB: COACHING AND WINNING

Aftab Habib, 37, a former England international, started coaching Hong Kong in November 2007. Since then Hong Kong have won the 2008 ACC Trophy Elite, the 2009 ACC U-19 Elite Cup and the 2009 ACC Women’s Twenty20 Championship and put up a strong showing in the 2007-2008 cycle of the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League. A dedicated, passionate coach, he has impressed many with his ability to get the best out of his players and is definitely a talent to watch.

He spoke to us in Kuala Lumpur, during the recent ACC Women’s Twenty20.

“You need to put in hard work to make use of talent.”

The key to success is a lot to do with having the right-work ethic, with the players prepared and working hard. Hong Kong does this very well at Associate level. In a way we’re forced to as we have no facilities at home so we use facilities abroad in advance to ensure we are at right level.

A lot of people ask ‘What is it that Aftab does so well’? – a lot of it is to do with passion. In my playing days I’d work so hard, I’d hit balls, more than anyone else. As an Asian growing up in England, I felt I had to if I wanted to get to where I wanted to go.

A typical day coaching is getting up in morning and preparing myself for practices. I do two sessions a day, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. I like to do hands-on work. Skill work, fitness work, making sure that players are ready for big tournaments Work starts three to four months in advance every time.

I think the main thing is having the intensity and working very very hard. I work with juniors to senior players to women’s team. I’ve got (former national player and Level II coach) Sher Lama with me. The players need to understand what the coach is trying to do, understand match situations and put training into match situations.

Chaired by the team after Hong Kong won the 2008 ACC Trophy Elite in Malaysia

As an English professional cricketer I had drive and I had standards and I want to bring them into the Hong Kong team.

It’s important for the other local coaches to realise they’ve got a job to do as well and then hopefully they can go and further their coaching skills by learning off a top coach.

I started playing in the era of the early 80s, which was ‘old school’ and then in the 90s when technology started coming in so I know how to balance both. In Hong Kong, with so many Pakistani players around, with so many different backgrounds to the traditional Hong Kong set-up, speaking their language makes a difference – Punjabi, Urdu – the main thing is I can actually communicate with them. Some of the guys don’t come across so well, so it’s important to understand them and get them expressing themselves.

The most important consideration with lots of players in Hong Kong is that the players themselves think they’re very very good players but that’s only in the context of Hong Kong. It’s when they go out to face the world that they have to be very good and that’s where they can struggle. They can’t play the same way as a club match in the ACC Trophy or ICC World Cricket League. Here the grounds are small, so they can get away with batting recklessly.

Next Page | “The rewarding thing for me is producing cricketers.”