By: Syed Mussarat Khalil.
Riyadh-All eyes around the cricket world are on Saudi Arabia, said Muhammad Kabir Khan, Director Cricket (Technical) and Head Coach of the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation (SACF). The International Cricket Council (ICC) is also keenly watching the development, giving much hope that top world teams will likely play in the Kingdom in a year or two, he added.
He said this in an exclusive interview with TN Media News Riyadh, which took place at the Riyadh Cricket Association (RCA) Sports Complex. Nadeem Baber, ex-first class cricketer and CEO of RCA was also present. Since 2021 when he was appointed as the head coach in the Kingdom, Kabir has played a major role in promoting cricket in Saudi Arabia.
“Saudi Arabia is likely to be the only country in the Gulf region that can have a complete team of its own in the next 8-10 years. Because it is a very big country. What we need right now is to develop the team in a proper way,” he said. Other countries in the region, he said, don’t have the benefit of such large-sized populations to form their own teams. They have been in the game for the last 35 years but are yet to produce even a single player of their own.
Kabir said professional cricket is being played in Saudi Arabia. “The structure of the domestic cricket league is very strong and the SACF has excellent plans in place to develop it. It extends all possible cooperation with its affiliated associations.”
SACF’s “strong financial position is also one reason why it has drawn the attention of the cricket world, including that of the ICC.” He said: “This gives us much hope that in a year or two, Insha’a Allah, the desert Kingdom will become a major ground for the cricket-playing world.
“My own interest and character are basically that of an all-rounder,” he said. “Along with professional and commercial cricket, we are making efforts to raise the Kingdom’s status as a cricket-playing country on the international cricket map both as a team and cricket sport.
Our aim is to reach the rank of Top 20 in the next 2-3 years and qualify for at least the ICC T20 World Cup. Our performance this year has been much better. We qualified on points, which was the 50-over pathway,” he added. Kabir exuded confidence that after 2024 his team will play in the 50-over World Cup qualifying round, making “progress step by step by showing their best skills, Insha’a Allah.”
Kabir has great experience in coaching cricketers in Afghanistan (2008-2010 and 2011-2014) and the United Arab Emirates in 2010-2011. Born in 1974 in Peshawar, he played for Pakistan’s national cricket team as a left-arm fast bowler in four test matches and 10 One-Day Internationals during 1994-2000.
After graduating from the University of Peshawar, Kabir was initiated into the cricket world by his elder brother Mohammad Amin and went on to win Pakistan’s test cap in 1994 by playing under-16 and under-19 from the Peshawar division. He retired from cricket in 2002..