Kuwait Cricket - A Sense of accomplishment: Herschelle Gibbs

Deepika Nambiar; Photo: Anwar Sadath Thalasserry
Sunday, May 6, 2018


In the recently concluded ICC World Twenty20 Asia Qualifiers ‘A’ , the Kuwait's national cricket team take the third qualification spot by beating Saudi Arabia in a stunning match at Doha Entertainment city ground. For the first time in the history, Kuwait claimed third spot in the ICC World Twenty20 Asia Qualifiers ‘A’. The master architecture for this splendid performance was none other than the South African Legend Herschelle Gibbs - the national coach for Kuwait Cricket team. His immediate challenge was to head the Kuwait team in the ICC World T20 sub-regional qualifiers and he proved it!. In an exclusive chat with Indiansinkuwait.com after the successful completion of the tournament, the national coach Herschelle Gibbs and Kuwait Cricket Director General Mr Sajid Ashraf opens up their mind on the recently concluded tournament and their future road map.

IIK - Congratulations to you and the Kuwait Team for qualifying for the second leg of ICC world twenty 20 qualifiers in Australia 2020. How do you feel about this achievement?

Gibbs - A sense of accomplishment, certain degree of satisfaction.

IIK - You have been appointed as the head coach of Kuwait’s national cricket team and have been here in Kuwait for almost two months. Can you brief your experience with Kuwait team?

Gibbs – It was a great experience for me. I had only two months to pick a squad for the tournament. I was presented with 25 players whom I have never seen them playing in any domestic matches so it was not quite easy for me. My first objective was to bring it down to 15 and it worked out well in the end. Basically I had to give them a sense of what is required from the mind-set point of view. First I wanted to look at their physical state. There were many older players in the Team. I got them on a Diet plan to get them efficient enough for the tournament in these two months. Lot of them made their sacrifices, stuck to their diet plan. They lost as much as 12 KGs within these two months and at the end all their sacrifices have paid off.

IIK - What were the challenges you faced as the coach of Kuwait National Team

Gibbs - It wasn’t challenging as much. I left it on to them. Only issue was the language barrier. My Assistant coach, who was their coach for long time, in fact like a father figure for them did a great job and helped me to interpret my requirement to the players. I am very thankful to him. We had a lot of facilities in Doha ground to utilise for these 2 months. I just had to put my stamp of approval for the cricketing side. To deal with the 15 that I had chosen, it was a very satisfying one and never the less a challenging one. Now the end result is a history



IIK - Tell me about some challenging situations faced during the pre-qualifier tournament and how you could overcome them?

Gibbs - Basically you need to look at the temperament of the players, the skill, how they deal with pressure etc. The home supporters were good for them. As a professional, I know exactly what the team is going through. It’s a big event, a big tournament. How they deal with pressure is first thing that comes to our mind. As far as skill was concerned, in these two months we went through different game situations so that when opportunity presented, they were ready for it. We got off to a good start. First game with Maldives was quite a convincing win. Second one was with pressure, then I could see that they got into a great position to win the game and the pressure over took them ended up losing with Qatar. We could see a lack of skill. This we had to go through. Then I told the team that we need to be calm in these situations. It’s like giving them a movie script and they have to act it out. Going into the last game, basically my biggest decision was whether they have the capability, the mental strength to overcome the pressure if we are batting second or make a decision to bat first with the thoughts we had in the previous game. It’s important to get runs on the board. I don’t think we have the capability of the mental strength to chase the runs scored even if it’s a small total. Sat with the captain and said that it’s better to bat first whether we get 100 or 120 runs, we know its runs on the board and it turned out that way. We tried to defend 105 and we made it. The opposite team in the last few overs we could see them panic as there is runs on board and pressure to win. I had 3 senior players who in the experience point of view were good during pressure and last few overs were bold by the oldest guys in the team and this was required for that particular moment. The Team that I chose was perfect and this got us through to the finals. There was a lot of relief, jubilation and emotion that was over come as a lot of sacrifices were made in the last two months. Probably not only two months, going back where Mr Sajid(Director General of Kuwait Cricket) is concerned of his hard work for the last couple of years makes a lot to him and also to the board members.
It’s been very satisfying. We have got positive feedbacks from the other teams. Mission one accomplished. It was a well-organized tournament.

IIK - Kuwait Cricket successfully hosted an international tournament by ICC. My Question to Mr Sajid Ashraf as the Director General of Kuwait Cricket, what were the challenges you faced in Kuwait and how you could overcome these?

Sajid - Challenges were immense. First and foremost in a country like Kuwait to secure and procure visas of 160 delegates coming from 6 participating nations Saudi, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Maldives was a challenge but our Kuwait Cricket president pulled all the strings and we could overcome the first challenge. In terms of hospitality for the participating teams, specially UAE that has got a lot of international exposure to be able to meet up with their expectation, such as hotel, logistics, operations, transportation, catering, etc .. it was immense and I think it would not been possible without this crazy team we have in Kuwait Cricket at the moment. The volunteers, ground staff, managers, marketing team gave their massive efforts to get the things. The passion for the game in this country is such that we have got around nine hundred thousand Indian's, 150 thousand Pakistanis and other nationalities who loves cricket, it will be around 1.5 million cricket loving expatriates living in Kuwait. They have a great passion for cricket. The biggest challenge for me in these years is to bring this passion forefront. There are so many multi nationals in Kuwait who are ready to spend a lot for this game. We have overcome this challenge now. We had Commercial bank of Kuwait who was the trophy sponsor for the ICC twenty20 tournament qualifiers, Kuwait Swedish company who provided with us the entire security and cleaning services, Al Hafiz Company which provided us with entire print solutions, Grand Hypermarket was one of our co-sponsors, Al Maha sports was our exclusive sports equipment partner. Palms hotel became our official hospitality partner and many more that supported us. The real challenge was to bring everyone together under one roof, follow one vision, one path which could take Kuwait where it belongs. The feedback that we got from ICC when they were here is tremendous. They have rated this tournament in terms of country and hospitality. We have got feedback for improvements as well and we definitely will improve. There will be new challenges with which we will be moving forward.



IIK - How many Indian players are there in the Kuwait national team?

Sajid - We have three Indian Players in the current squad - Arjun Makesh, Mohmmad Farook and Sajid Kalam, We also had Ghayour Ahmed, Indian who is the assistant couch to Mr Gibbs and Deepak Murali, official trainer. Also we had 2 more Indian Physios. A total of 7 Indians in the whole 20 member delegations in the team.

We also had 2 Kuwaiti players Fahab Bestaki and Abdula Bestaki. It is very important for us to keep on pushing Kuwaitis into the game. We need to get the game introduced in the grassroots level and those are the ideas that we have discussed with the National couch Gibbs. Having an academy being launched as soon as possible is very important for us. We need to penetrate into Government schools and Indian Schools. Market is very huge in terms of potential and talent, it’s all about identifying and nurturing that, giving them the right facilities, services, support and pushing them to achieve their goals which will help us achieve our dreams.

IIK – As Kuwait Cricket is concerned, what are your future plans?

Sajid - Any organisation or any team cannot grow day by day, you need to have a plan for at least 5 years. The vision that we have for the next 5 years is that we have under 19 world cup qualifiers happening at the end of this year and we have got very strong bunch of players. We also have got ACC T20 cup tournament organized by Asian Cricket Council which is happening in October. This is given by ICC and ACC , but what our plan and vision is we need an academy running as soon as possible. We are going to introduce franchise model of cricket because talking about demographics of Kuwait we had thought about this Idea 6 months back and we already have 6 to 7 franchises come forward and confirm their participation . One was Calicut, the other is Mumbai, Colombo, Lahore, Karachi and Kabul, also keeping Kuwait in mind Salmiya is also another franchise. Real high performance program which will be focused on top 20 to 35 players in the senior, junior and women's category and Gibbs will have an integral role to play. If we focus on these 2 - 3 elements right away then our future is going to be quite bright for the Kuwait Cricket.



IIK - For the 2020 ICC Qualifier tournament, how do you rate the current Kuwait team? What is your special advice for the Kuwaiti team players?

Gibbs - The long term vision is that I need to start dealing with a lot more younger players, to mould them into a complete package. All these players who have played in this tournament have been good enough to get us through this stage. But going forward, if I come back then I will need to deal with younger generation as ultimately they will be the ones representing Kuwait at the national level. So the earlier I can get the hands around them better for their cricket.

I have met the under 19's team and they looked very determined. The most pleasing thing was that they could speak English which is a huge help. It is very important that they understand what I am saying. In cricket, you need time. The reason you become professional is because you play for a long time, understand the game, its requirements on and off the field. Me dealing with kids or players two months before the tournament is not going to bring any long term relief or success.
For a long term growth of Cricket, you also need to invest in it. We need to pitch in investors also for the game. It is an investment that you can have for the next many years.

Sajid - Being Cricket the second richest sport in the world, having a footfall of 30 to 40 thousand people at a stadium in Kuwait, there cannot be a better place to market yourself or your brand. Going back to the challenge you asked, I would say we are half way there. The first half did not have much returns but the second half that we are going to achieve now is going to be the game changer.

Gibbs - If we do not have the facility like an academy then how can we blend the youngsters? Everybody would like to see Kuwaitis in the team. This is the first objective or Goal, to get more Kuwaitis into the Team. If we have the facilities then Kids from the age of 6 years can be trained. I was told that government would have funded more if there were more Kuwaitis in the team. I feel Boulevard in Salmiya is the ideal location to train Kids. It’s not been utilised to its potential. I have dealt with some kids of age of 10 -11 yrs, I have seen the passion and hunger to learn cricket. They enjoy the game. You give them that opportunity to understand the game.

Sajid - We have had a dedicated Squad of Kuwaiti Nationals that participated in the Asian Games in 2014-15 which was held in South Korea. When we play under the Olympic flag you have to be a national holding the country’s passport. When it comes to ICC which is the governing body for game of Cricket in the world, if you are born in Kuwait or living in Kuwait for 3 years and is a good cricketer no mater from which part of the world you are from, you can play for the Kuwait team.



IIK - There are lot of Indian who love Cricket and want to be with Kuwait Cricket. What are your messages to them?

Gibbs - My message to the Indians would be “Don’t lose faith irrespective of your age, Keep enjoying the game and make small sacrifices in order to realise your true potential not just on the field but also off the field”.

As the words says, Miles to Go before I sleep… Kuwait Cricket have a lot more to achieve and the great vision by the board and support by international coaches like Gibbs is a clear indication that bright days are ahead for Kuwait Cricket.

Deepika Nambiar is a Freelance writer. Currently working for Lemonade International as Administrative Manager. She is part of the IIK Team and IWIK Core Team.Does regular contributions to the news portal IndiansinKuwait.com and also for Timesofindia.com.
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