x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Afghan cricket pioneer Karim Sadiq plotting World T20 exit strategy

Karim Sadiq wants to beat a Test-playing nation before he retires, ideally at next year's showpiece in Bangladesh, writes Paul Radley.

Karim Sadiq has fond memories of Dubai having clinched qualification for the 2011 World Twenty20 there with Afghanistan. Satish Kumar / The National
Karim Sadiq has fond memories of Dubai having clinched qualification for the 2011 World Twenty20 there with Afghanistan. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // Karim Sadiq has not exactly had his most auspicious day as a cricketer.

First there were the two catches he dropped in the field, one of which was the type of dolly he usually could take in his sleep.

Then he was out of sorts with the bat against a testing Fly Emirates bowling attack, posting a mere 13 runs.

Hardly the type of contribution Alubond, the aluminium company, had been expecting when they imported him from Afghanistan to play for their staff team in the KFC Emirates T20 Cup.

Yet the stocky Afghan was proudly snapping pictures of himself on his phone, carefully ensuring the steeply banked stands and high-tech floodlights of the Dubai International Cricket Stadium are in shot behind him.

He cherishes this place for a reason. "One day I was sitting in this exact dressing room at Dubai Sports City," he says of the 2010 World Twenty20 Qualifier.

"The UAE were all out for 102. The match reached a crucial time, [teammate] Asghar Stanikzai hit two or three important sixes and on the big screen the words came up: Afghanistan has qualified for the Twenty20 World Cup.

"This was the most unforgettable day of my life. I will never forget the day we qualified for the World Cup."

He may have had a rare off day while playing for his short-term employers last week, but the Alubond team made up of some of the UAE's top players and some imported talent from Pakistan and Afghanistan still won the match.

Life could be worse. Ten years ago, Karim was attending trials, along with his brothers Hasti Gul and Taj Malik, in Kabul for a newly formed Afghanistan national cricket team.

Back then, he was only just returning to the country of his parents, after they had been displaced by 30 years of war and Soviet occupation.

How his life has changed since. He has been one of the key protagonists in the extraordinary rise of Afghan cricket over the ensuing decade.

From learning the sport in refugee camps to participating in two World T20s, he is now a paid overseas professional playing for one of the leading teams in the UAE.

He was there at the start. Now he is making his exit plan.

"In the evening, we played the final against Ireland and a lot of Afghan people came to the ground and they were so happy," he says of that qualifier success three years ago.

"This was the biggest day in my 10 years of playing international cricket.

"Now I just need one more success, beating a full member [leading Test-playing nation], then I will leave cricket and retire.

"All our players are thinking the Bangladesh World T20 [next year] and about what they need to do beat a full member and reach the semi-final.

"That is the mission for every one of our players."

 

pradley@thenational.ae

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