BASHEER STANIKZAI: MANAGING AFGHANISTAN

En route from Guyana to St.Lucia, April 2010

How do you make the administrative side of Afghan cricket as strong as the team?
That will take a lot of time. First of all, everybody should work for administration and not run behind the team to chase their own success. My idea is this – leave the team to the respective technical people and the administration has to concentrate on marketing and finance. These departments are currently weak and we should have big policies. If we have financial policies we can think about how much we can pay our players, where to invest the funds and the marketing policies should concentrate on sponsors and things like that like the one we just got from Supreme Group which was a very good contract.

Right now we have a very well known figure as our Chairman who is Dr. Omar Zakhilwal who is also Afghanistan’s Finance Minister and he has promised to take cricket to a very high level. Even Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has given his vote to build this game in the nation. There will be a lot of pressure on administration after this because the team have reached the stage where they want to be and they have played there. Now it will be up to the administration to give courage to the team to go above that level. The team has reached that very high level but the administration has a long way to go. It will take some work to develop that area. We must concentrate on developing the domestic game to find new players. If I was working in administration, I would make plans and strategies for the game in Afghanistan. If we work hard for three years on administration, even if we don’t get to the level of Bangladesh or Pakistan, we can make the game a lot better. We can have more grounds to play on and there will be more support for cricket. There is already huge support for the team in Afghanistan and every shop and home who had a television was watching our game against India.

Are you sure you will stay on in administration?
I am very happy that I work honestly for Afghanistan Cricket. It all depends on the cricket board if they give me a chance to continue or not. I haven’t asked for anything from the Board that gave me this post. They have put me in marketing, I have proven my abilities, they gave me team management, I have done well at this also. I was Director of the National Cricket Association as well. When I saw the nets and pitches, I did a marketing job and got practice sessions for the players. If you want to prove yourself, then you can do any job. Whatever they want me to work as, I will work for Afghanistan Cricket.

Presenting match tickets to the headmaster of a primary school in Barbados on the eve of Afghanistan’s game against South Africa in the ICC World Twenty20 2010

How will the team stay strong after players from the current team retire?
Unfortunately there are some of the guys who’ve played in the national squad might retire soon. We have some very talented players waiting to play in the national team. There is Shahidi who is only 15 years old. He is very talented and plays like Sangakkara. He will surely become Afghanistan’s Sangakkara in the future. There is Ahmadi as well who is a great batsman and also Najibullah Zadran who is a left-handed batsman. He is a very strong, positive player. There will definitely be changes in the current team and it will happen soon but there are good upcoming players. Currently we have very good bowlers in Hamid, Mirwais and Shahpoor and these three will be in the squad for a long time. Hamid cannot take rest because he wants to play every match. There are new bowlers also coming up so they can surely perform at the top level.

Right now in Afghanistan how many people do you think can play good cricket?
There are a lot of them. As I said there are a lot of upcoming players. Recently we had a tournament in Kandahar and Nangarhar provinces. There is a lot of talent in these places but unfortunately there is no development of the game. Every chance we get we try to train them and there are so many of them. Most of them who play cricket, we have to tell them to get certain equipment, even shoes at times. When we select the Under-15 and Under-17 squads, it is hard to pick players because there are so many of them who are good. They just need a little assistance and we have to give them a chance and then cricket will benefit from that.

Qualifiers for the ICC World Twenty20 2010

If you become the Marketing Manager, would you welcome the assistance from outside NGOs?
Yes I will appreciate the help. First I will make a strategy plan and marketing policies. Then I will look for a big domestic sponsor who can give title name to each of our tournaments to run our domestic cricket and then a special sponsor for our national cricket team. After that I will concentrate on marketing, which unfortunately we haven’t worked on. We now have a ground in Sharjah and we can get benefits from that. There are a lot of sponsors in Afghanistan, Dubai and in India. Maybe Afghanistan will be keen on Indian sponsors.

I will need a team to work on these projects. They will have to work very hard and honestly. If we get a sponsor for the national team for at least three years, then we can focus on domestic cricket as well. There will then be development and we can get sponsors for academies and other institutions like having one ground in each region so that it will help develop the game in Afghanistan.

How will you use the ground in Sharjah?
That is a big thing for us all. We have to make use of the ground. However, until now there is no contract between Emirates Cricket and Afghanistan Cricket on what conditions we can use the ground. The new administration is working on that right now so we are hoping something will happen. I have discussed with (ECB Administrator and ACC Executive Board member) Mazhar Khan this issue and am planning to invite teams to play against us. We will try to invite the ‘A’ teams from the Test-playing nations, maybe the UAE and even the Zimbabwe teams. This will bring a lot of sponsors and we can do a lot of marketing on this event.

Do you think people in Afghanistan like the team?
Back in Afghanistan there is a huge amount of respect for them. Even ministers ask about the team. Local people love the team and are supporting the team strongly in every single game they play. Even in the media, we can see how after playing against us even Dhoni said the team is good and in two years or so it can become a very good side. It’s a good sign for us that even the team we are playing against is happy for us. They are playing and also supporting us. In the supporters there weren’t just Afghans at the Twenty20 World Cup, I have even seen British people support our team. Some of them have come from London as well and brought the flag thinking that they’d be the only supporters of Afghanistan here. But they weren’t.

Related:
Afghanistan Cricket Profile

Filed June 3rd, 2010