Sri Lanka has a bright cricket future: Pakistan ‘A’ Head Coach

Monday, 15 November 2021 01:57 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • “I love the Sri Lankan people; they are very humble and down to earth”: Ijaz Ahmed

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq

Ijaz Ahmed had an ungainly stance that made him unattractive to watch



When the Head Coach of the Pakistan ‘A’ team Ijaz Ahmed says: “The players I have been watching in the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team have a bright future”, then you need to sit up and take notice, because it is coming from a player whose country is not short of outstanding young talent, but have it in abundance

Sri Lanka ‘A’ fought back from difficult positions in the two unofficial Tests to draw the two-match series nil-all with Pakistan ‘A’. The two teams are currently engaged in a three-match unofficial ODI series in Dambulla.

Ijaz is into his second year of a three-year contract as coach of the Pakistan Under-16, 19, 23 and ‘A’ teams. 

“My goal is to supply players to the national team. It’s payback time as well; the experience we’ve got, we have to transfer that into the national team.”

Speaking of the Pakistan ‘A’ team that is currently touring Sri Lanka, Ijaz said: “Winning and losing does not matter as long as the boys are getting experience about cricket and the different conditions. Before they go and play for their country, they should get the experience and everything from abroad.

“Most of the boys have been playing first-class cricket back home, some of the boys were with me two years back when we played in the Under-19 World Cup and are coming through. I mark those players and see their potential and I work on them. Players such as Qasim Akram, Abbas Afridi and Mohammad Haris almost played for Pakistan against New Zealand, but the series was cancelled. My target is they should play for Pakistan someday. 

“The rest of the boys have been through all the processes and they are doing well at the moment. Naseem Shah is an Under-19 player who has already played for Pakistan. He is here to get more experience and he is working on his fitness and also his fielding and bowling. I hope he will get back into the Pakistan team.”

Ijaz finished his cricket career in 2001 and then moved to coaching in 2007. He has been working with the Pakistan High Performance Centre for the past nine years.

A solid right-hand batsman, Ijaz has fond memories of the double century he scored against Sri Lanka in the final of the Asian Test Championship in Dhaka in 1999.

“That was one of the best innings because my dream of playing international cricket is that I should score a double hundred,” said Ijaz. 

“When I achieved that goal against Sri Lanka I was satisfied. Sri Lanka was such a good side, especially with spinners like (Muttiah) Muralitharan and (Kumar) Dharmasena. They performed at the highest level and also in the batting as well (Aravinda) de Silva, (Arjuna) Ranatunga, (Sanath) Jayasuriya they were all greats.” 

However, in that particular match, only Aravinda de Silva, who led Sri Lanka, played.

“I love the Sri Lankan people; they are very humble and down to earth. When I used to play cricket, I had a very good relationship with all the Sri Lankan players, we had a great understanding,” he said.

Ijaz scored 12 hundreds in his 60-Test career, and six of them were against Australia, which was no mean feat. He also represented Pakistan in 250 ODIs, scoring 10 centuries.

“If you look at my background, I started my cricket in Sialkot, known for the fastest pitches in Pakistan. I used to play under those conditions and that was the reason I was good against the fast bowlers. It helped me a lot while playing abroad and most of my good performances are abroad like in Australia, England, and New Zealand, where I scored hundreds. That is the experience I am trying to transfer to the boys,” said Ijaz.

As a batsman, Ijaz was not pretty to watch because of his stance, which was two-eyed.

“When I started cricket, I wasn’t like this. Basically, I was a back foot player, that’s why I was scoring runs in Australia and other countries, but in England, the conditions were different. The ball seamed around so I had to play on the front foot. I had to change my stance and I put my bat in the middle between my legs,” Ijaz said, explaining his odd stance.

However, he justified that change by saying: “Cricket is 80% in your mind and 20% talent. I can give you the example of (Shivnarine) Chanderpaul and Fawad Alam. They worked it out with their mind, not in their technique. A solid technique does help.”