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MANCHESTER: New Lancashire women’s team head coach Atiq-uz-Zaman poses at Old Trafford.
MANCHESTER: New Lancashire women’s team head coach Atiq-uz-Zaman poses at Old Trafford.

KARACHI: Former Test wicket-keeper Atiq-uz-Zaman has made history by becoming the first Pakistani to be appointed head coach on the English county circuit.

The 43-year-old — who played just one Test and three One-day Internationals in 2000 — will be with the Lancashire women’s team on interim one-year contract for the upcoming domestic season in England. Atiq’s first match of the season with the county will be an away game against Hampshire at Ageas Bowl in Southampton on May 5.

Atiq succeeds Dan Atkinson who has stepped back from the position for 12 months to focus on his coaching duties with a college team after being with the county for past six years.

Speaking exclusively to Dawn from Manchester, the Karachi-born Atiq said on Tuesday that he aimed to make Pakistan proud by helping Lancashire win at least one trophy, while expressing his delight over his appointment.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for me to work with Lancashire in the coming season because I feel very proud to be the first Pakistani working as a head coach in the English County Championship,” Atiq said.

“It’s a godsend opportunity because I was starving for exactly this sort of opportunity back in Pakistan. Fortunately, it has come in England because it would give me huge experience of working with a talented group of ladies since we have three current England women’s team members in Sophie Ecclestone, Kate Cross and Alex Hartley.”

Atiq, who was also involved in the coaching set-up for the Lancashire U-19 side that won the ‘Six Counties Championship’ last season, added: “The hard work has already started ahead of a busy season and it has been great to work with such a highly talented squad because I am very familiar with the Red Rose, having already coached with the under-13 and under-19.

The England-based Atiq, who has been the head coach of Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) for the past few seasons and has also coached Punjab, expressed the hope the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) will give him a chance to work with the national women’s team.

“I always have a burning desire to work with the Pakistan women’s side but sadly a foreigner [former New Zealand first-class player Mark Coles] was brought in after I was interviewed for the head coach role last year,” Atiq lamented.

“I have the experience of coaching because of my time with the SSGCL in the national tournaments in Pakistan for a few years now. An overseas coach was preferred over me just when I was looking forward to the challenges of coaching our own women’s team.

“Moreover, I also worked at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore last December as a wicket-keeping consultant with the Pakistan junior age-group sides.”

Meanwhile, Atiq — who has also worked as a fielding coach with Lahore Qalandars — was elated at the successful conclusion to the Pakistan Super League season 4 and congratulated Quetta Gladiators for winning the title for the first time.

“I felt very proud of being a Pakistan here in England when the PSL was on, particularly during the last leg in Karachi. The way our people welcomed all teams and the manner in which they supported the league was simply amazing,” Atiq commented. “I was itching to be in Karachi to enjoy the festivities in the city where I grew up and later played cricket. Honestly speaking, I was extremely disappointed at not being part of PSL this season.

“I think Quetta Gladiators are worthy champions. They thoroughly deserved the accolades they have been receiving since Sunday night. I want to offer heartiest felicitations to the entire team members, especially to Sarfraz [Ahmed] for his inspiring leadership and proved wrong those critics who had wanted him removed as Pakistan captain. [Gladiators team owner] Nadeem Omar also deserves a pat on the back because he is a true supporter of cricket and I know him since my playing days as a true gentleman.

“But importantly, the spontaneous response from the Karachi crowd was electrifying. We can’t thank the foreign players enough for making the trip to Karachi and entertain our fans to the core. I really missed the enthusiasm and all the buzzing scenes at the National Stadium where I have played a lot of matches during my career,” Atiq concluded.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2019