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Spinners are required in all formats & they have proved this quite well- Aasif Karim

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Aasif Karim (Image Credit: thecricketmonthly.com)

If we research about Aasif Karim on google or among the sports lovers, we’ll come across to a sporting dynasty which has created an everlasting legacy while representing Kenya in Tennis and Cricket. The first generation sports icons from the family include Yusuf Karim & Pyarali Karim who were renowned Tennis players. The second generation, i.e. Yusuf’s elder son Aarif was also a competent tennis player, and the younger son Aasif went on to play both Davis Cup and World Cup Cricket for Kenya. The legacy was passed over to the third generation, when Aasif’s son Irfan made his debut for Kenya. Aasif Karim is a name that Cricket Lovers will majorly associate with Cricket but his association with Tennis is no mean at all and includes a Davis Cup appearance.

While he’s recalled time and over for his record performance in the 2003 World Cup against the mighty Australians where he won the Man-of-the-Match figures of 8.2-6-7-3, his role in development of Kenya from an associate nation to one of the competitive cricketing side is something that can’t be ignored. The master of Mombasa spoke with us about the art of left arm spin, his career, growth of International Cricket over the years and more.

Left arm spinners- though we’re seeing them changing the results of the matches for decades now, still team managements across the globe see the skill to be one among the most attractive/rare ones. Your comments.

Left arm spinners especially quality ones are special cricketers who have made an impact at every level they have played.

Over the years, we had Bishen Singh Bedi, Derick Underwood of the  world who always  been a pleasure to watch in action.

Career snippet…

As a child, we all  played cricket as a fun sport until I got an opportunity to play in the national league in Kenya in 1980.

Having  seen our  seniors and Kenyans cricketers stalwarts  like Zulfikar Ali or Jawahir Shah, I then always wanted and dreamed of playing for the country.

One wicket and one delivery that you have loved the most in your cricketing career. One delivery from any other left-arm spinner that you have liked the most. One batsman, from the batsmen you bowled to, whom you rate as the best to tackle spin.

Deceiving Sachin Tendulkar when he was on 99 during the 1996 World Cup- trapped LBW. Unfortunately, the umpire felt otherwise.  The  Australian left arm spinner Murray Bennett in the 1985 series when he bowled the legendary Sir Vivian Richards where Viv misread the arm bowl. There were 2 wickets I have loved getting under my wickets list. One was Rahul Dravid in Bangalore (Coca Cola Trophy 1998) when he was bowled on 49 and Ricky Ponting trapped LBW in the World Cup 2003.

Dravid and Sachin were amongst the most formidable batsmen against Spin whom I bowled against.

One moment you would like to remove from your cricket career…

The  disappointment of losing on the last ball against Bangladesh in the 1997 ICC Trophy finals in Malaysia.

How do you see international cricket evolving over the years?

International  cricket  has  evolved very  positively over the  years, especially with T20 coming into world cricket in the last 10 years.

I am also very much for test cricket and one day cricket.

However, each format has to now be played scientifically and demand for each of these  formats has increased which is good for the sport.

Of the three formats being played currently in International Cricket, which one do you like the most and why? Amongst the current formats, which format do you think suits a spinner the most and why?

The level and performances have all grown since the first World Cup in 1975.

Spinners are required in all formats and they have proved this fact quite well in the T20 format as well which had raised doubts initially by the cricketing fraternity .

Who are the left arm spinners from current generation cricketers who you think will go long and write some history?

Unfortunately quality left arm spinners are very few in the world cricket at present.

Ravindra Jadeja is good. However, I would like to see consistency in his  performance. Rangana Herath from Sri Lanka has made an impact especially at the Test format.

Kenya Cricket team- once it was seen as a growing team which could take on the challenge of world cricket, what all do you see as the reasons for their exit from the list of recognized teams?

Kenya cricket is a sad story. In the 90’s when Kenya cricket came into world cricket, it  made a huge impact from the 1996 World Cup until 2003. The reason of this impact was  the quality and competitive domestic cricket we had here and emergence of some special cricketers in Kenya.

We also had quality players from India touring Kenya to play in our domestic leagues including the likes of Sandeep Patil, Pravin Amre, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Chandrakant Pandit, Sanjay Manjrekar and others.

This  pushed the local players to up their game with this exposure, especially to do well and cricket was on a high in Kenya. We also had quality teams from South Africa and India visiting Kenya where we had competitive and quality cricket.

Unfortunately, our development structure was almost non- existent or had no meaningful purpose. The development structure is paramount for any sport to grow as the future cricketers can only come from good junior level structures from schools to states and  clubs. This did not exist in any meaningful way.

The  domestic competition also started dwindling. This was important to retain and increase the interest of the cricketing fraternity and sponsors and finally we had incompetent people managing cricket after our success in international cricket– who were more keen in the glory and globetrotting instead of developing the  sport.

Professionalism is lacking at all levels including appointments of coaches, selectors and or officials.

What are the aspects which, if corrected now, can result in Kenya taking the path back to the list of good teams, again?

Unfortunately, Kenya cricket lost the ODI status it had got in 1997.

Kenya team is no longer competitive even against Associate countries. Kenya recently lost to PNG. There are hardly any fixtures arranged by the national body. Most of the fixtures are played, thanks to the ICC arranged fixtures/matches.

The  leadership is non-existent and lost all credibility in the last 10 years, in both national and provincial bodies, including sponsorship which was flourishing in the 90’s.

How have the batting, bowling, fielding and umpiring, infrastructure, cricketing technology, support system and medical facilities developed over the years?

As mentioned earlier, cricket has grown at all levels internationally, including several Associates  countries, with the likes of Ireland, Afghanistan and serious efforts are being taken to up the standards.

I am extremely delighted with Bangladesh’ progress in the world cricket. At one time, Kenya was ahead of Bangladesh in international cricket.

Your favorite captains amongst those whom you played with, against & watched performing and one great thing about their leadership.

Arjuna Ranatunga of Sri Lanka! I found him to be friendly but a shrewd captain who led  from the front, believed in his team and players.

He was the captain when Sri Lankan cricket was growing. It all changed after they won  in 1996 World Cup. I admired his leadership as he always kept his cool, irrespective of the situation, no wonder he was known as  ‘captain cool’ -at least outwardly!