"A coach puts an exercise to a player that he has to find the solution to. If the exercise is too easy, or too difficult, he will not learn. And he has to find it out for himself." Arsene Wenger

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BASHEER STANIKZAI: MANAGING AFGHANISTAN

Basheer 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."

How long have you been with the Afghan team?
I have been involved with the Afghanistan cricket team since June 2003 and I have worked at different posts in the Afghanistan Cricket Board. This time I’m the Team Manager at the ICC World Twenty20. I was appointed as the Assistant Manager of the team at the 2006 and 2008 ACC Trophy and World Cricket League Division Five. I was then the Team Manager at the World Cricket League Division Four and the ACC U-17 Challenge Cup in Thailand that year.

How do you explain the rise of Afghanistan cricket?
There were a lot of things the team has been working on. It was not for money or to become famous, they were playing for the nation. The good thing about this team is that they don’t like losing matches. One loss in a tournament may be good because it will keep them in check and they won’t take it easy. When they keep winning, they may take it easy so it is good once in a while to lose.

ICC Division Five in 2008 was a very hard tournament because the conditions were not favouring the batsmen but the team worked hard and we won that tournament. In Division Four when we got a new coach Kabir Khan, he worked mentally on the players.The team plays with a lot of honour and pride for Afghanistan and it was very, very hard to get to this stage but we are here now.

When did you first start getting interested in cricket?
In Pakistan I was playing cricket with all my friends. Actually my father was in Kabul and in 2001 he asked the entire family to come there. I finished my class 10 and came to an English language centre in Jalalabad and finished my class 11 and 12 . Then around 2001 and 2002 I went to Kabul and was very upset there because I didn’t have any friends. My friend then told me that there was cricket in the city. I went to see and it was (national player) Khaleqdad Noori’s club and I asked about the fees. He said it was 300 Afghani and then I said I’d pay 500 Afghani because I wanted to play a lot of cricket. I didn’t get any batting or bowling in the first 15 to 20 matches but just fielding. One day I caught a very good catch and from then on they gave me a chance and I got even more interested in the game.

Afghanistan captain Nawroz Mangal lifts the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier trophy

Did you ever think of trying to play for the national team?
Actually I would love to play for my nation but it was difficult to have top fitness and Taj Malik, Karim Sadiq and other players trained hard. We do not have any experts in cricket but Taj and I used to practice but it would be a big moment for me to even play one game for Afghanistan.

Next Page | “We must concentrate on developing the domestic game to find new players.”