(Clockwise from top R) Danny Morrison, Damien Martyn, Jonty Rhodes and Any Roberts gesture during their interviews with Dawn. — Tahir Jamal/White Star
(Clockwise from top R) Danny Morrison, Damien Martyn, Jonty Rhodes and Any Roberts gesture during their interviews with Dawn. — Tahir Jamal/White Star

KARACHI: A quartet of former international cricket stars were extremely pleased with the talent that showed up at Karachi Sports Foundation’s (KSF) ‘Kriket Superstars’, a coaching-based TV reality programme.

Expressing their thoughts in an exclusive discussion with Dawn late on Wednesday night, they pointed out the hospitality offered to them had been ‘exceptional’ and they were delighted to be in Pakistan for a cause that needed to be highlighted to the outside world.

For Andy Roberts, the legendary West Indies fast bowler of the 1970s and 80s, the time he spent in Pakistan for the show was “most memorable and enjoyable”.

“I must say that I very much liked a young fast bowler by the name of Nasim. He is just 16-year-old. I am sorry that I did not have at least two, three weeks’ time to work with him,” the 65-year-old Antiguan, who is also known as Sir Anderson after being appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of Nation by his country in February 2014.

“This fellow is very aggressive, he has real pace and he is so young. Once he has the passion and he maintains it, he will reach well. He is a very good prospect,” he said.

Roberts hoped the 24 aspiring cricketers who showed up at the talent hunt were as passionate as he was during his time on the field.

“What I am also seeking is someone looks after these guys so that they start earning a living but most importantly they have time to practise as well,” he said.

Roberts admitted that he did not have much to ‘actually coach’.

“I just passed on one or two tips,” he said, while adding: “They have been very nice, these youngsters. They listened and paid attention. Listening to somebody is totally different than hearing what they say.”

Meanwhile, ex-New Zealand paceman Danny Morrison, now known as a witty cricket broadcaster, said he was “blown away by the 24 lads who showed up”.

“In this part of the world, I think a lot of us, Westerners, are fascinated by how you don’t have to go to academies and you have unique batting styles and unique bowling styles — raw and uncomplicated,” the 50-year-old, who now resides in Brisbane, observed.

However, what Morrison did not like about the programme was the elimination process.

“The hardest part is to tell these young blokes to leave. Even if you look at those cooking shows, it’s a hobby for them but these kids are here to play their cricket. They are here to represent Pakistan,” he said.

Former Australian batsman Damien Martyn, too, agreed with the New Zealander.

“It was very, very emotional. We have coached kids before but not something of a show where you have to eliminate people. Personally, it was most difficult for me,” he said.

“As judges it was extremely tough for us to break [bad] news to 22 guys who won’t be part of the extensive coaching programme in Brisbane. We all feel for them,” Martyn, who turns 45 on Oct 21, added.

Jonty Rhodes, the South African fielding wizard, revealed how the cricketers were put to different drills to test their mental and physical strengths.

“We put them to the tests fielding-wise, fitness, batting, bowling, net situations, target-hitting, target-bowling and that’s interesting for me, something I have never done before. This is something great about Kriket Superstars, and its groundbreaking,” he said.

But Rhodes, now 47, admitted that initially it was difficult for them to adjust as they weren’t quite sure of their jobs.

“We came here, sat down and discussed are we coaches? Are we mentors or judges?” he said.

“We worked with the aspiring boys only for a short span of time. And I think if we had more time we would have done more.

“Hopefully, in the next season we would be involved in the project a bit sooner, spending more time with the boys to help them develop.”

A total of 24 cricketers — eight each from Lahore, Karachi and Balochistan — were recruited after open trials. The cricketers participated in a six-day camp at the Lawai Cricket Stadium in Naya Nazimabad, where they went through rigorous training.

The best two of the lot will fly to Brisbane for specialised coaching under the supervision of Australian greats Allan Border and Matthew Hayden.

KSF will reveal the name of the two lucky cricketers on a later date.

“Another aspect of this programme is that the cricketers who came here won’t be entirely lost. Two will be in Australia for a month and one of them will be part of the Quetta Gladiators in the PSL [Pakistan Super League].

“Moreover, another bunch of four cricketers would get jobs,” said Numan Nabi, chief executive of an advertising firm which is coordinating with the KSF on various sporting projects.

“This is just the beginning of an extensive programme that the KSF would be initiating. Motocross racing, hockey and football are the areas that we will be targeting next.”

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2016

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