x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Kabir Khan's choice between UAE and Afghanistan a difficult one to make

The UAE coach may be genuinely unsettled in family life, but a chance to take Afghanistan to glory will be a big lure.

Kabir Khan insists he gives 100 per cent.
Kabir Khan insists he gives 100 per cent.

There are a raft of jobs in the world of cricket which are a lot cushier than that of the head coach of the UAE.

Given what Kabir Khan had come from when he took up the role at the end of 2010, though, the job probably seemed about as comfortable as an eight-year-old sofa and a pair of fleece slippers.

He even said as much when he first arrived for his second spell in charge of the game in this country.

But he warned that a comfort zone is rarely conducive to progress.

By his reckoning, the UAE's leading players could learn a thing or two about desire from his previous charges on the Afghanistan national team.

Kabir had forged a fine reputation as the Afghan coach, piloting their charge up the world rankings and overseeing their qualification for the 2010 World Twenty20 in the Caribbean.

Sure, he had a talented crop of players at his disposal, but work conditions were rarely easy.

The fact he had a volatile board to answer to - which did eventually lead him to leave the role - was the least of his troubles for most of his time there.

To attend training at the team's bases in Jalalabad and Kabul, he commuted via the mountain pass from his home in Peshawar, often sneaking across the border without the requisite visa or even his passport.

On the surface, living and working in Sharjah in his latest post in charge of cricket in the Emirates should be a doddle by comparison.

It came as a shock, therefore, when the former Pakistan bowler revealed this week that he is likely to leave the country next week because he is unsettled here.

Kabir says he cannot find a suitable school for his children to attend, and so he wants to move back to his family home in the North-West Frontier Province.

His departure would be a significant loss for cricket in this country. The Emirates Cricket Board have been crying out for some long term commitment from a coach for years.

They have made six different coaching appointments since Syed Abid Ali ended his three year term here six years ago.

Most of them only served temporary, three-month stints, and large stretches of that time were spent without a coach at all.

In the meantime, the likes of Ireland and Afghanistan have left the UAE standing in the world of Associate cricket.

Kabir himself was here for one such brief spell, at the end of 2007, before heading off to complete his coaching certificates in Scotland.

However, when he returned at the end of 2010, he insisted he was here for the long haul, set out a three-year plan, and took on all age-group cricket as well.

"It might have just seemed like I was saying those sorts of things when I came here, but you can see from results since that I meant it," he said this week.

The evidence does suggest it was not just lip service. By the end of 2011, his enthusiasm for the task had seemingly doubled, especially after the national team dominated his former side in two wins in the new World Cup qualifying league.

"This a clear cut message for anyone in the world among the Associate countries that UAE is back, and we mean business," he said after the wins against Afghanistan in Sharjah.

"On the first day I came to the UAE, that is what I wanted, to send a message across the world that the UAE can do it."

However, his enthusiasm was probably dulled soon after that, when one route to the top stage was closed with unexpected haste.

The UAE headed to Nepal for an Asian 20-over competition which should have been a given on the path to qualification for the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka later this year.

But they crashed out, after just a single defeat. Yet again, the baggage handlers, bank workers and technicians who make up the national team will be looking on enviously when their rivals from the Associate sphere play the world's best in Sri Lanka.

There is no reason to doubt the fact Kabir's wish to leave is solely rooted in the upheaval working here has caused to his family life.

However, the incentive provided to him by the chance of taking a side back to a major global tournament must be a lure, too.

Afghanistan would welcome him back to a role in which many have been tried, but few have succeeded since he left. They could do with him, too, for the World T20 in March, as they have appeared to be a disunited shadow of the side which he helmed of late.

And for all the long-term plans he has made since he has been here, he remains impatient for recognition. "I am never satisfied, I always want to improve, I always want better," Kabir said.

"I was like that as a player and I am like that as a coach.

"I give 100 per cent and I want 100 per cent in return. Players sometimes don't like more for that, but that's the way I am."

 

pradley@thenational.ae

 

@ For more on UAE CRICKET, visit thenational.ae/topics