The Man Behind The Afghan DreamGraham Brown |
Taj Malik Aleem revels in his role as the General Secretary for Afghan cricket. It would be no great exaggeration to lat much of his nations meteoric rise through the rankings at this man’s feet. The somewhat unconventional nature of the cricket set up in the war torn provinces amplifies his achievements even more.
From being a refugee, to brushing shoulders with all the other national coaches in the West Indies the blistering climb in world status will have surprised many, but seemingly not Malik, A proud and confident Afghani who expects high standards from his players, and so far has not being disappointed.
So Taj, what is your role in cricket and how did you become involved in cricket in Afghanistan? .
I am the assistant coach for Afghanistan for the Twenty20 World Cup and I became National Coach in November 2001, stepping down in September 2008, I also work as General Secretary for Afghan Cricket. I discovered and learned cricket in Kacha Garhi refugee camp in 1987 after the ’87 World Cup.
I see you recently won the ACC competition, how popular is cricket in your part of Asia? .
Cricket is the number one sports in Afghanistan everybody likes and loves the game.
How big is cricket in Afghanistan, compared to other popular sports in the country? .
In 2002 to 2005 football was the popular sport after the Afghan Under 15’s got awarded runner up in a competition between all of Asia. Then our national team won so many championships, cricket became well ahead of any other sports in the country, it’s currently the number one sport.
What are the security risks like in Afghanistan and how long until the new stadium Nangarhar will be your home ground? .
We don’t care about our security we’re just focusing on our game and in two years time there will be 3 mega grounds in Afghanistan. These developments are coming because there is lots of interest amongst the youths of the nation.
The world cup T20 will be great for exposing cricket in Afghanistan, what is the next step? .
I personally launched the cricket academy in Jalalabad where we have turf wickets and we are trying to make it recognised by the international standard cricket board. Also we have plans to make academies in the provinces to make the game even more popular. The aim is to get the full membership in the ICC in the next 4 years and to play test cricket. Against the top sides, at the beginning we will have some problems, with the really big teams. However, as we play more of the games at a high level, we will adjust ourselves and will beat them.
You feature in the BBC film Out of the Ashes, which shows your game against the USA, how was that experience? .
We did not visit the USA but we did play with USA in Dubai in the World Cup qualifiers, we all enjoyed playing against them.
Noor Ali mentioned the games been covered on Afghan TV, will the players enjoy being celebrities on their return?.
Yes, Local Television Station, Lemer TV, will telecast the game. Karim Sadiq, Mohammad Nabi, Hamid Hassan, Noor Ali and Shezad Mohammadi are the star players and will play well against the top sides.
If they play well they will be big stars in Afghanistan.
Who is your own personal cricketing hero?.
My cricket hero in current cricket us Chris Gayle and former cricket players, I like Imran Khan
You need 12 runs off the last over of your last group game to win and qualify for the super eights, a new batsman is going in to face Dale Steyn for six balls, as a coach, what advice would you give him?.
I will tell him respect the good bowlers and only punish his poor balls.
With the warm up tour cancelled due to the chaos caused by the volcanic ash, there could be a fear that Taj Malik’s men go in underprepared, however after being used to not taking the easy route that this is something the players will take in their bowling stride. One thing is for sure, no matter how far the Afghans get in the tournament, it will not be the pinnacle of their journey in world cricket.