Australian veteran cricketer Peter Anderson
is heading up the new National Cricket Academy in Afghanistan.
“It’s something different. A lot of people thought I was a bit crazy, and I had a lot
of weird comments, but you live one life and it’s another experience and I’m sure if you
do anything in the world, you can be at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“I’d rather be doing this than sitting in an office on the Gold Coast and looking out
the window, I suppose.” Anderson has played and coached cricket for
35 years. He spent the last two building up a programme in Papua New Guinea. He is impressed
by the local talent. “I’ve never seen a country in my short travelling
experiences that has a passion for the game. And I’ve had three sessions today, 200 people
per session. I don’t know where they’re coming from. It’s amazing.”
“We hope to create a club structure, a school structure. And ladies. I’m talking to them
about getting help with the women a little bit more — I coached the ladies’ team in
New Guinea — and having good clarity, so we have a system right through to the national
team, and everyone’s on the same page. That’s my biggest challenge.”
But the task at hand is training and evaluating hundreds of beginning and elite Afghan players,
from whom the most promising will be invited to join the academy.
“The funny thing here is that, I was here four days ago, and — due respects — everyone
was sitting around, waiting for a boss at each drill and I was like “hey, every group,
no more than six” because everywhere I looked, everyone was standing around. I think I’ve
achieved that in three days, we’ve got 200 guys here and 15 bases. And I’m sure they’re
going to go home very tired. ” “Give me ten push-ups!”
But near the end of the day Anderson seems to have energy to spare.
“I’m hyperactive, sir, I’m hyperactive!” While the coaching is hard work, the development
of the programme will also be daunting. Nine cricket schools currently being built around
the country will be under his care. And the national cricket team’s respectable international
ranking has set the expectations very high. “Afghanistan, well, the national team is number
12 in the T20 in the world, they can certainly improve again. We’ve got a head coach, so
I’ll just be doing the academy here at this stage, but I think there’s improvement in
all facets. Just introducing drills today will make a lot of difference. ”
Anderson plans to stay in the country for the next two years and is not overly concerned
about travelling in the troubled provinces. “Look, cricket is absolutely loved in this
country. I’ve even heard the Taliban support cricket. So from that point of view hopefully
everything is fine. You don’t worry about those things. You’re here to do your job.
And just be sensible, but, yeah, I’ll certainly be moving out and about at the right time.”
Jeff Holden, in Kabul, for NATOChannel.