Abu Dhabi Cricket unrecognisable from my last visit, says Younis

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Younis Khan fulfills a long-held ambition of working with the Afghan side by joining their 23-day training camp at Abu Dhabi Cricket as a batting consultant.

Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

Pakistan great Younis Khan returned to Abu Dhabi Cricket this month, hailing his first experience with the Afghanistan men’s team as a huge success thanks to the venue’s first-rate facilities and hosting capabilities.

Having been first approached by the Afghanistan Cricket Board for a coaching position during his playing days, Khan fulfilled a long-held ambition of working with the Afghan side by joining their 23-day training camp at Abu Dhabi Cricket as a batting consultant.

Khan knows the facility more than most, having scored six international centuries, three half centuries and 1,560 of his 10,099 Test match runs at Zayed Cricket Stadium alone over the course of an illustrious career.

That included a decade-long stint in the UAE where the legendary batter helped Pakistan rise to the number one spot in the ICC’s Test rankings for the first time in their history in 2014.

Even he was surprised by the sheer scale of work that has gone into growing the multi-sports venue into a world-class sports hub since he last visited as a player in 2016, and the former Pakistan captain described Abu Dhabi as the perfect place for Afghanistan’s players to hone their skills.

He said: “I remember when we played here in the early 2000s, there was only one ground and a couple of practice areas, but now it looks amazing, and the Afghanistan Cricket Board is very happy with the facilities.

“The entire venue is unrecognisable from when I was last here, let alone when I first came to Abu Dhabi all those years ago. I rate the facilities as being up there with the very best in the world and the support we receive from everyone at Abu Dhabi Cricket makes it stand out as an ideal venue for all sports, not just cricket.

“Sometimes it’s hard to play out of your country on a regular basis, but the good thing about Abu Dhabi and UAE is that at least you’ll find some of your own people here and the conditions and especially the weather and the pitches, the grounds, the facilities are similar to Pakistan and Afghanistan. It’s like they’re playing almost in their home conditions.”

The Afghan side’s visit coincided with the start of Ramadan and Khan believes that spending the Holy Month in the UAE helped bring the group together.

“The Holy Month of Ramadan provides much bonding for the team because you have Iftar and then you have Sehri,” said Khan.

“You pray together so these kinds of things are good for the team and, especially if you’re away from home, you need this kind of bonding.

“Thank you to Abu Dhabi Cricket and UAE cricket; they’re helping Afghanistan cricket. They were helping the Pakistan cricket team for long periods of time, now Afghanistan. So, I hope the bonding is there and it’s my wish that UAE and the Afghanistan Cricket Board gel together, they help each other, and they rise together.”

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