THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE, SHARJAH, 04th OCTOBER 2013: Kabir Khan insists he and former Pakistan teammate Aqib Javed will remain close friends despite their Afghanistan and UAE teams locked in a race to reach the 2015 World Cup.
Afghanistan coach Kabir is set to be celebrating on Friday when his side takes on Kenya in the concluding World Cricket League (WCL) qualifier.
A victory will put the team from the war-ravaged nation into a maiden World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
But should Kenya stun the heavily-favoured Afghan side then the UAE, who have finished their programme, will qualify instead alongside WCL winners Ireland.
Kabir, who also had a stint with the UAE until March 2011 before Aqib joined in April 2012, laughed off the idea of any personal rivalry.
“It does remind me of our good old days when Aqib and I used to battle for one fast bowler’s slot in the playing XI as Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were automatic selections,” he said.
“But times have changed and we’re now professional coaches and have loyalties towards our respective sides. Obviously, I have never played in a World Cup and, as such, for me this will be the biggest achievement of my career,” said Kabir, who played four Tests and 10 ODIs between 1994 and 2000.
“Aqib and I are good friends and discuss a lot of cricket. While he consults on the UAE players and how he can improve the cricket system here, I try to pick his brains on ways and areas to improve my fast bowlers.”
Aqib Javed, who featured in 22 Tests and 163 ODIs from 1988 to 1998, agreed that he has enjoyed a healthy rivalry with Kabir on the field.
“Throughout my playing days, I was always on a trial — thanks to bowlers like Kabir. It’s a vicious circle of life that we’re again fighting for a position but in a different role and for a different reason. But instead of thinking about ifs and buts, I prefer moving on and setting new and fresh targets for myself,” said Aqib.
Afghanistan has the momentum leading up to Friday’s determining match, having won five consecutive 50-over matches.
Afghanistan, which was playing in the World Cricket League Division 5 in 2008, have also had an excellent build-up.
In Monday’s Twenty20 International against Kenya, they won by 106 runs and carried the momentum through to Wednesday, when they romped to victory in the first of the two ODIs by eight wickets inside 18 overs after skittling Kenya out for 89.
“The way Afghanistan are playing, they look solid and unstoppable,” said Aqib.
“If they qualify for the World Cup, it will be a great achievement and well-deserved too.”