x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Khan helps Afghans look beyond frontiers

Kabir Khan, a former coach of the UAE, leads Afghanistan to promotion in the World Cricket League.

DUBAI // Kabir Khan, a former coach of the UAE, has led Afghanistan to promotion in the World Cricket League keeping their dreams of qualifying for the cricket World Cup in 2011 very much alive. Victory over Hong Kong in the final of the World Cricket League (WCL), led them to a clean sweep in the Tanzania tournament and leaves them contemplating a third consecutive promotion when they head to Argentina for Division Three in January.

If they qualify in Argentina Kabir faces the tantalising prospect of facing the UAE, his former charges, at the ICC World Cup Qualifying series in May. Khan, 34, who was capped four times by Pakistan, is confident his new team can progress even further and has compared them with the UAE team he formerly coached saying: "The team have the potential to be promoted. I was the national coach of the UAE and I don't see any difference in standard between our team and those players."

He is already looking forward to the six-team Division Three event, where they will be up against defeated finalists Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Cayman Islands, Argentina and Uganda. "We have time on our side now," added Kabir. "The guys have already started playing as a team. We need to raise our game and be a bit fitter and be more mentally prepared for the tournament. "We have options for our training camp. We could go to Pakistan or India. I would prefer to have a training camp with similar conditions to Argentina."

Afghanistan are the form horses in the chasing pack seeking World Cup qualification. Having previously not competed at ICC international events they were given a lowly rank when the WCL was formed in 2007. However, they have risen quickly through the ranks and are now genuine contenders to join neighbours Pakistan at the World Cup. Khan said that the strengths of the team were that "the standard of bowling and fielding is excellent, but sometimes the batting lets the side down". He also expressed a desire for the teams naturally aggressive instincts to be tempered with discipline and responsibility. "I talk with them about the match, stage by stage, telling them when to attack and hit the ball for boundaries. They had never had that side of the game taught to them before."

Khan was born in the north-west Pakistan frontier province of Peshawar, close to the border with Afghanistan. The team's links with their Test playing neighbours do not end there. Several splayers in the team have been gaining first-class experience in Pakistan domestic competitions. Strike bowler Hamid Hassan, who has registered deliveries in excess of 90 mph on a speed gun, has played at the historic venue of Lord's in London after being spotted by former England Test captain Mike Gatting on a tour of Afghanistan with the MCC. This experience helped him claim 17 wickets, making him the most destructive bowler in the tournament.

The story of Afghanistan's quest for World Cup qualification has been the subject of a documentary entitled "Out of the Ashes". But with the momentum of two tournament victories behind them, they will be hopeful of yet another historic win. tbrooks@thenational.ae