x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Kabir Khan has shown UAE's youth cricketers the way of self-belief

Kabir had drawn up plans to boost the numbers of players, and was particularly enthusiastic about the development programme for the age-group teams.

Kabir Khan will move back and coach Afghanistan in a second stint from tomorrow.
Kabir Khan will move back and coach Afghanistan in a second stint from tomorrow.

The Scots ruined Kabir Khan's farewell party yesterday, but he can still leave UAE cricket a happy man, content with his efforts and with some fond memories, for he has had more success than disappointments.

In his first international engagement with the national team, the UAE were undefeated as they romped to the World Cricket League Division Two title. Along the way, they managed a tense, one-wicket win over Namibia with the final pair adding 33 runs.

"That shows the character of the boys, and how big their heart is now," Kabir said at the time. "We have been working on that mentally and physically, trying to get them used to pressure. I don't recall UAE sides winning matches like this in the past. It shows they are prepared for it now."

The triumph took the UAE back into the Intercontinental Cup and their psychological toughness came to the fore in the opening match against Kenya in Nairobi. Playing against one of the strongest Associate Member teams, in alien conditions, Kabir's side stunned the hosts by 266 runs despite conceding a first-innings lead.

It was the UAE's first win over Kenya in the format and it seemed to justify Kabir's earlier boast about his team.

"I have a strong belief that this team is not a Division Two team," Kabir said. "It is a Division One team and it should be in the top four places among associate nations.

"I always believed that this team has underperformed, I don't know due to what reasons. But talent wise, we should be in the top tier."

He also challenged his part-time cricketers to prove their credentials in the longer format of the game as they had not done well in past Intercontinental Cup competitions.

"We don't have a very good track record in the I-Cup, so we have a point to prove," Kabir said. "We want to show we are a much better side than the last few times we participated in it. With our potential, I believe we can do it."

Kabir, 37, had shown similar belief in his Afghanistan players. The cricketers from the war-torn country were not very enthusiastic about four-day cricket, but he guided them to the Intercontinental Cup on their maiden appearance.

Spending just under two years with Afghanistan, he had taken them from ICC World Cricket League Division Five, thorough Division Four and Division Three to one-day international status. When he left his post, after differences with the board, Afghanistan were I-Cup champions and ranked 13th in ODIs.

Kabir is back with Afghanistan now and will be leading their bid for the 2012 World Twenty20 during the qualifiers here in Dubai next month.

He has promised to be available for the Emirates Cricket Board, or the new coach, should they need any help or advice, but UAE cricket would have been in a better place had family reasons not forced him to return home to Pakistan.

He had drawn up plans to boost the numbers of players available for international duty, and was particularly enthusiastic about the development programme for the age-group teams.

The UAE are an ageing team, Khurram Khan, the captain, is 40, and Kabir was trying to groom the next generation, ready to "step into the shoes of the seniors in the team".

In his parting interviews, Kabir talked about the necessity of working on that, and also the need for a pool of full-time players, contracted by the ECB. The officials need to consider that seriously and also make sure the next coach is one who can take things forward from here.

Aaqib Javed seems like the perfect candidate. Let's hope the ECB can convince him to part ways with Pakistan cricket.