KARACHI: The Karachi wing of the National Cricket Academy (NCA) will prepare development programmes for youngsters of different age categories in order to groom them comprehensively for demanding international contests in the future, head of the project and former Test cricketer Iqbal Qasim said on Saturday.
“With the approval of NCA headquarters based in Lahore, we are going to prepare and implement various development programmes for U-13, U-16 and U-19 cricketers of our regions. This will help us identify and rectify technical shortcomings, which these players may have, at an early stage,” Iqbal said in an exclusive interview with Dawn.
“Removing, or at least reducing, game-related flaws at a tender age will equip players with enhanced skills besides enabling them to get themselves ready for testing national and international competitions in future.”
Located within the National Stadium premises, the NCA Karachi centre, officially named Hanif Mohammad High Performance Centre, will become fully operational very soon.
Giving a brief history of the centre, Iqbal said, “It all started during the era of ex-PCB chief Gen Tauqir Zia when a few practice pitches were laid here. Then players coming to the National Stadium over the years continued to use these pitches for practice. The PCB governing board eventually realised that the space should be utilised fully and endorsed the establishment of a full-fledged academy having a well-furnished building and a ground for practice.
“This centre was inaugurated by [previous PCB chairman] Shaharyar Khan in December 2016. It is still in its initial phase and will take at least a few months to become completely operational. I joined the centre as head around a couple of months ago. However, the process of hiring other staff like trainer, coaches, video analysts and administration personnel will be carried out by the NCA headquarters in due course of time,” said the 64-year-old Iqbal.
Talking about the facilities available at the centre, Iqbal said the practice ground has two blocks of nine pitches each, which have just been laid, plus the main square for the centre pitch.
“Among these 18 practice pitches, turf and cement included, there are two tracks of marble which have been put in specially to make our batsmen tackle extra pace and bounce when they compete on pace-friendly tracks, in Pakistan as well as abroad. Ball after being pitched on marble surface zips through with [extra] bounce which prepares a batsman for tough pitches,” left-arm spinner Iqbal, who featured in 50 Tests for Pakistan between 1976 and 1988, elaborated.
“By using the space for these practice pitches, we intend to prepare turning tracks as well as grassy pitches so that we have all kinds of surfaces where batsmen can practise and polish their skills.”
He added, “The building of the centre contains dressing rooms for players, gymnasium, swimming pool and dining space. Above all this, the centre can provide furnished air-conditioned accommodation to 40-50 persons, means two full squads.
“In the future, we may have the facility at the centre for systematic video analysis of players’ techniques. Using this facility, our players with the help of [video analysis] experts can identify, work and remove their technical flaws.”
Responding to a query on whether there are any specific plans NCA Karachi centre would launch, Iqbal said it would take time.
“Our centre is in its early stages and the work to make it fully functional from all aspects continues. Therefore, all plans will first be discussed with the headquarters which is working under NCA director and former-Test cricketer Mudassar Nazar, and only after their approval implementation on different activities will start.”
On whether he has been given appropriate powers to run the NCA Karachi centre as its head, Iqbal sounded rational.
“There is no such thing as authority; rather it is the progress of work [achieved by any figurehead] which decides how much powers he gets from higher authorities to carry out his professional task. You gradually earn your power or authority [for professional work] by improving your performance all the time,” he said.
Replying to a question whether the NCA Karachi would induct a professional who could work on the mental toughness of young players, Iqbal said that hiring of any employee was solely the prerogative of the NCA headquarters. “Yes, there can be a mental fitness trainer here in a couple of years time, depending upon our requirements and approval of the headquarters.”
Answering a query on how the city’s NCA centre would benefit the cricketers based in Karachi, Iqbal said the metropolis had every thing to gain from the facilities.
“Karachi, the country’s biggest city and a huge cricket nursery, can gain a lot from this centre. Other than Karachi, our centre will provide training facilities to Hyderabad and Larkana regions as well as the two regions of Balochistan,” he added.
Looking to the future, Iqbal said, “Hopefully after starting to function with its full workforce in a few months time, this NCA centre in Karachi by around late 2019 will complete its one year of operation. And Insha Allah by that time we all would start seeing the results.”
Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2018