Prabhakar revelling in role as Afghanistan coach

Armed with a realistic style of coaching, Prabhakar concentrates on the batsmen’s footwork when teaching the bowlers the art of snaring the opposition. In Prabhakar’s opinion, it is the commitment from the Afghan players that convinces him of their ability to do well in international cricket.

Manoj Prabhakar is lending his experience to mould Afghanistan cricket.

This is a new role but one that Manoj Prabhakar has been enjoying with Inzamam-ul-Haq as company. Both are lending their experience to mould Afghanistan cricket. There is a common thread between Prabhakar, Inzamam and Afghanistan team – the streak of fearless approach to the game.

A fine all-rounder, Prabhakar loved a combat. He would irritate the batsman, the bowler and the fielders around him. He was basically a player who thrived on a challenge. He did not win them always but was the first to appreciate the opponent. “Javed (Miandad) ko ball daalne mein mazaa aata tha (enjoyed bowling to Javed),” he would confide.

Prabhakar and Inzamam played mere two matches against each other – one at Sydney (1992) and the other at Sharjah (1995). The mutual respect they share becomes an asset for the Afghanistan players who promise to bring a distinct brand of exciting cricket. The kind that made Prabhakar and Inzamam trusted match-winners.

Armed with a realistic style of coaching, Prabhakar concentrates on the batsmen’s footwork when teaching the bowlers the art of snaring the opposition. “It is important to watch the batsman’s feet, not his bat. His footwork will tell you his strong areas and we need to exploit the weak ones. His footwork tells you the shots that he likes to play. The Afghan boys have been picking the lessons fast because they want to learn honestly.”

The former India seamer raves about the spin talent in the Afghan ranks. “Some of them are amazing. There is a chinaman bowler (Zahir Khan), very crafty, very daring. He would be a very successful bowler in the IPL. Wish some franchise takes a look at him. He is not even 18 and is just brilliant.”

Shane Warne, says Prabhakar, is the most inspiring figure for Afghan spinners. “They love Warne. They watch his videos and want to bowl like him. Basically they are wrist spinners and are good. There are no less than five spinners in Afghanistan who have modelled themselves on Warne. Strong shoulders mark their style and I am sure we are going to hear a lot of leg-spinners from Afghanistan.”

In Prabhakar’s opinion, it is the commitment from the Afghan players that convinces him of their ability to do well in international cricket. “All these guys do is play cricket. They can go on for hours and hours in the nets. They know cricket can give them a good life but it is also true that their love for the game is genuine. Football is hugely popular in Afghanistan and cricket is not far behind. I am amazed at their confidence.”

The natural aggression that shapes an Afghan life, the struggle for space and recognition, also brings an element of excitement to their camp. “They fear no one. They like Warne because he loved a fight. They are huge fans of Virat (Kohli), Shikhar (Dhawan) and MS (Dhoni) for their positive and aggressive way of playing. Their batsmen are least shaken by a bouncer. I have seen them just swat away a bounder on the front foot because they are fearless. They are different cricketers.”

The Afghans are different cricketers indeed – fearless and natural. They would do wonders with some polishing of their technique and introduction of patience. Who better than Manoj Prabhakar to make them understand. He began at No 11 and ended up with an ODI century as an opener.