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The winning formula

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Growing up in the Afghan refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan, Raees Ahmadzai never expected cricket to take him so far. During his short but successful international career, the right-handed batsman also captained the national side. After retiring in 2010, he began to coach the Afghan A team and became a chief selector for the Afghanistan Cricket Board. Nepali Times caught up with Ahmadzai before his team defeated Nepal in the ACC T20 finals in Kathmandu.

Raees Ahmadzai

How do you explain Afghanistan’s remarkable rise in the game?

Like I said the early years were very difficult. We had very little experience and exposure so we lost a lot of matches. But our players were extremely professional: they devoted all their energy to the game and learnt quickly. Also the government has provided us tremendous support. Almost every school today has a cricket team or coaching classes. Out of 34 provinces in Afghanistan, at least 31 have official teams that play in domestic leagues and local competitions are encouraging younger players. We have good grounds in Jalalabad, Kabul, and Kandahar. When we started in 2001, we ranked 87 out of 122 on ICC’s ODI rankings and today we are in 12th position, so I think it’s gone quite well.

What are your thoughts on Nepali cricket?

It was incredible to see thousands of Nepali fans coming to support their home team. Like Afghanistan there seems to be a lot of local cricket going on and the players will definitely improve from this experience. However, there is still a long way to go before Nepal can start playing with top international sides. Improving current facilities and infrastructure and building better cricket grounds outside Kathmandu should be a priority for cricket authorities. We visited an academy near Tribhuvan University, but were very sad to see its state. Also, school-level cricket needs more attention. Our players are playing regular, professional cricket day in day out. Nepali players could do very well with the same.

For the full interview, please check the upcoming Nepali Times issue.

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