Former India cricketing great Mohammad Azharuddin thinks cricket is on the right track in Bahrain but stresses that the sport needs better infrastructure and facilities if the kingdom’s cricketers are to be able to compete consistently with the best in the world.
“I’ve seen the practice facilities,” Azharuddin told GDN at an iftar dinner hosted by Bahrain Cricket Federation (BCF) advisory board chairman Mohammad Mansoor. “They look okay with the lights and all, but astroturf pitches are not enough. You need to have a proper cricket ground if you really want to improve and compete at the highest level. Actually, you need to have at least two grounds. More would be even better.”
Azharuddin, who captained the Indian team through the 1990s, is in Bahrain for a three-day visit at the invitation of the BCF. Now 59, Azharuddin played 99 Test matches and 334 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) over a 16-year career, which started with a century on Test debut against England at Calcutta (now Kolkata) in December 1984. Renowned for his languid, wristy strokeplay, the right-handed batsman captained India in 47 Tests and 174 ODIs.
He complimented the recent successes achieved by Bahraini men’s and women’s teams, where the men’s team just narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2022 ICC Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup and the newly-formed women’s team set a plethora of world records in a T20I against Saudi Arabia, including the highest team total and the highest individual score in an innings.
“Kudos to them,” Azharuddin said. “Really commendable for both the men and women, since they hadn’t even been able to play on proper turf wickets until they went into their respective tournaments. The Bahraini teams of the future could really improve with proper infrastructure in place.”
Promoting the game to the local Bahraini populace would also help it grow, he added.
“It’s not going to go forward, not going to grow unless you promote the game to the local people,” Azharuddin stressed. “There are many expatriates who play it here, but it’s only the locals who will help the game grow.
“Also, the game needs the government’s support. The aim of the BCF should be to eventually become a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and, with government support, which will result in proper infrastructure being put in place more rapidly, that dream could possibly be realised more quickly than people can imagine. And, at the end of the day, it is the name of the country that will be going up in lights.”