AR Hemant

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Somewhat of a contrarion.

Afghanistan ready for Test cricket: Captain Nabi

Afghanistan are the babies of international cricket, but have made rapid strides in ICC’s qualifier tournaments. At the Asian Games, they upset Pakistan and narrowly lost to Bangladesh in the gold medal match.

Recently appointed T20 and ODI captain, Mohammad Nabi thinks they are ready for Test cricket. Excerpts from a revealing interview with Yahoo Cricket:


You came mighty close to winning the
Asian Games gold. What were your thoughts heading into the final overs against Bangladesh?


We had trained well for the Asiad. We went
there a week in advance and got used to the conditions there. Against Bangladesh
if I had one more fast bowler we could have beaten them. In the last three
overs I gambled by bowling Karim Sadiq. He had given away just 10 runs in two
overs. I discussed with Nowroz and decided to let Karim bowl, because we had
finished the quota of other quickies. Aftab Alam bowled an over too then and
gave away just six-seven runs.


It was all down to Karim but he gave away
17 runs and the match turned on its head. Hamid then bowled with just two
required. We knew if Karim bowled well, Hamid can restrict Bangladesh but
it did not pan out that way. Hamid was in good rhythm. It was a match we had in
our grasp but lost in the end. We needed to have picked a 16-man squad instead
of 14, that would have given us more options. We needed a left-arm spinner who
would have made a huge difference to the squad.


Afghanistan has seen armed conflict
for a whole decade now. Where does cricket fit into this larger scheme of
things? How easy or difficult is it to concentrate on the game, against the
backdrop of all else that is going on in your country?


Cricket has shown a new way to the country.
We try and have camps in our country before tournaments to show that everything
is fine. There is no problem now, people need to come over and see us play. Now
cricket has brought new hope to the nation. When we go abroad, people are
surprised to see an Afghanistan
team. They say we never knew Afghanistan
had a cricket team. We only know of Afghanistan as a country at war.
Then we tell them that it is an image scripted by the media. Hopefully it will
all change.


Do you feel cricket has a role to play
in bringing peace to your country?


Yes it does. Youngsters are learning to
play cricket all the time. There are more opportunities to play cricket.
Cricket has shown in Afghanistan
how sports can also bring peace to a country.


You were born in a refugee camp where
you were initiated to cricket. Could you describe your experiences in the camp
and how that helped you reach where you are now?


Around the Russian war in Afghanistan we moved to Peshawar as a family. I was brought up there
and I went to school there. We played a lot of street cricket there. Then I
started playing soft ball cricket at home. I have a huge family in Peshawar. There are
around nine uncles there and all of us cousins grew up together.  One day one of the club cricketers spotted me
playing street cricket. He was impressed and then he asked me to come over to
play for the club. Around the same time Afghanistan
team came over to Peshawar.
We had a trial session for under-17 team. I was selected there. Thereafter I
got into the national team in 2002 and since then I have not been dropped even
once in all these years.


Given the constant threats to life, how
do Afghanistan’s
players motivate themselves to focus on cricket?


Cricket is our job. There is nothing else
on our mind. We are focused on it all the time as a team.


You have played domestic cricket in Pakistan. What
prompted you to represent Afghanistan?


I played for Pakistan Customs in 2007-08.
This was after I had represented Afghanistan. It was a very good
experience. That was the first time I played four-day cricket. The wickets were
green. There are some very talented players in Pakistan. Some very good players
too. It was a very big experience for us.


Under Nowroz Mangal, Afghanistan
gained ODI and T20 status in the ICC. Where do you hope to take Afghanistan
cricket under your captaincy?


Nowroz is an experienced captain and a very
senior player. He started playing in 1999 for Afghanistan. He has gained a lot of
experience. To become an ODI and t20 team was a huge achievement for Afghanistan
cricket. I have played a lot of cricket under him for four years now. My goal
is to take the side even further upwards in ODI cricket. We have a lot of
talented players who have good technique. Now we also have a good coach in
Rashid Latif. So we can only improve from here on.


Published reports, and even a recent
documentary, talk of the difficulties of finding the right infrastructure for
cricket in your war-torn land. What in your opinion is lacking, and how do you
think the international community can help Afghanistan focus on attaining its


All boards should be helping us. ICC, BCCI, CA,
ECB have all got money. One ground or academy in Afghanistan will not cost much for
them. We are building grounds of our own especially one in Kabul. Hopefully we will have grounds all
over Afghanistan.


Rashid Latif says Afghanistan will be ready for Test
cricket soon. What is your view on that?


We are ready for Test cricket. You saw the
I Cup and we reached the final of what is a first-class tournament. We beat the
three-time champion Ireland,
Scotland, Canada, Kenya and took lead over Zimbabwe
XI. It was a big achievement for us. This shows we are ready for Test cricket.
If anything we need more grounds and academies back home. We have a lot of
talent but no grounding for the players. If we can have that we will be set.