KARACHI: Former Pakistan Test wicket-keeper Atiq-uz-Zaman has been named head coach of Cayman Islands but the negotiation process has been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 44-year-old from Karachi, who now resides in the English town of Bolton in Greater Manchester, told Dawn on Saturday that he has been offered a two-year contract during which he will also act as head of cricket development for the islands, which are part of the British Overseas Territory in the western Caribbean Sea.

“It’s a great honour for me to be working as the head coach of a foreign national team like Kabir Khan, Inzamam-ul Haq and Rashid Latif, who all were associated with Afghanistan in the past, as well as Aaqib Javed who was with UAE,” Atiq said. “After they [Cayman Islands] advertised for the vacant posts [of national side’s head coach in addition to cricket development chief] on the ICC website. I was shortlisted for the initial interview which was conducted by Northamptonshire, who have a partnership with Cayman Islands.

“Later their president conducted the final interview after which I was offered to become the national team’s head coach. Altogether there were 102 applicants from all over the world, including Mark Coles [former Pakistan women’s team head coach] and former USA coach [and ex-Sri Lanka wicket-keeper] Pubudu Dassanayake.

“However, the negotiations process will take place later because of the Covid-19 outbreak. But if everything goes well then I will be moving to Cayman Islands by either this September or January 2021, depending on how quick the work-permit is granted to me.”

Atiq, who played just one Test — against Sri Lanka at Peshawar — and three One-day Internationals in 2000, was previously shortlisted for the Pakistan Under-19 job.

“I was very keen in coaching the junior lads but the Pakistan Cricket Board had other ideas. Moreover, I had expressed a desire to be head of coach of the Pakistan women’s team but never got the chance,” Atiq lamented. “But I have no regrets because I’ve now got this golden opportunity.”

Atiq, who also served as the head coach of Sui Southern Gas Company, has already parted company with Lancashire where he was supposed to work for the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) as a scout until September this year.

Cayman Islands, who were admitted to the International Cricket Council (ICC) as an affiliate member in 1997, compete in the ICC regional T20 competition and are currently ranked 45th.

“My main target will be to improve that ranking by at least 10 places. Cayman Islands usually compete against the USA, Canada, Bermuda and Argentina and they need to finish at least second to qualify for the next T20 World Cup qualifiers,” Atiq further remarked. “My aim is to achieve that goal and install my coaching philosophy into their cricketing system.”

Meanwhile, Atiq expressed deep concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a very stressful situation across the globe that has badly disrupted everything, particularly for the kids,” he said. “So please stay safe in the confinement of your homes and engage in physical activities with your kids in places such as the backyard or the living room where you can always have options for physical activities just our Pakistan team players are doing back home. Just use your creative side of your brain. The only cure to avoid being affected is by staying clean, wash our hands constantly.”

Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2020