Cricket seems poised to hit a significant milestone in the mountainous ex-Soviet Republic of Tajikistan. Since its admission to the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) in 2012, the game has been making steady progress there. With more than 4,000 participants (and rising), the Tajikistan Cricket Federation is currently focused on infrastructure development and streamlining domestic pathways.
However, the most pressing item on their agenda is official International Cricket Council (ICC) membership. Emerging Cricket caught up with Federation President Najibullohi Ruzi to discuss how things are progressing on the membership application front, to growth initiatives and his plan to construct a new cricket stadium in the nation.
Associate ICC Membership
For Ruzi, it would be a day of immense pride for the Federation when they are officially accepted into the ICC fold as an Associate Member.
“In 2020, we sent an official letter to ICC with all the required documents. Unfortunately, in the month of September we received a response letter which told us that the entire meeting had been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. Therefore, the council did not get the opportunity to verify our application.”
“Right now, I am actively communicating with ICC Asia Development officer Mr. Iqbal Sikander to sort out a few issues around the documentation. Hopefully this year in the month of July we will achieve promotion to associate membership”, Ruzi states.
In the meantime, the Federation has been working hard in collaboration with the national government’s Youth and Sports Committee to ensure that the postponed BetBarter T10 league can be held this year. Fixture dates have been tentatively pencilled in for August 2021.
The game became part of the official government sports curriculum in May 2019, when the aforementioned committee issued the Tajikistan Cricket Federation (TCF) with a Certificate of State Accreditation.
In addition to schools, TCF are also keen on increasing participation through the university system by offering dedicated cricket lessons. To this end, they have begun holding 3-day lectures and practical lessons on cricket for college and university teachers annually, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Science. Ruzi states that he is happy with the response so far, although there is room for further improvement. Last year, the conference was attended by around 100 students and more than 25 teachers.
As any observer with a passing interest in Associate cricket would know, having good infrastructure is critical to the sport’s growth and success. The TCF are keenly aware of this matter.
They already have one cricket ground at their disposal; the Vahdat Ground at Dushanbe (pictured below). But there are plans to build more. Recently, the Federation met with the Youth Affairs and Sports Committee Chairman to discuss the construction of a brand new cricket stadium.
“I had a very pleasant meeting with A.K. Rakhmonzoda [the Youth and Sports Affairs Committee Chairman]. We discussed several things including exploring various options for constructing an international standard cricket stadium in our country. The government has been very supportive of our efforts so far in developing cricket”, Ruzi beams.
He wants to use the new stadium to feature much more than just domestic Tajik competitions. The long term plan is to host ICC tournaments and maybe even entice Afghanistan to play some of their ‘home’ games there.
Is Tajikistan the gateway to Central Asian cricket development?
Ruzi is a firm believer in the ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ philosophy. Despite its relative infancy, the organisation has taken an enterprising role in working with their Central Asian neighbours to develop cricket. They are assisting with various coaching and refereeing courses and have hosted cricket related visits from nations such as Uzbekistan.
“We presented the Uzbek coach Farkhod Najmiddinov with a gift of some cricket equipment when he came to meet us last year. Also, our other neighbours like Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan have turned to us for help to open a cricket chapter in their countries and to develop the sport locally.”
“Our Federation is always perfectly happy and willing to help each of our neighbouring countries. Without us helping each other, how can we develop a sport that has no heritage here?” Ruzi asks.
He goes onto add that after the collapse and splintering of Soviet Union into various nation states, it is the language of sports that can act as a unifying factor to bring the disparate nations together.
“I want to see all five nations of Central Asia take up cricket in a serious manner. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and yes, even Turkmenistan. That would be truly wonderful.”
It is surely a lesson in humility and utilitarianism that many of the larger boards in the cutthroat backstabbing world of Full Members can learn from. A bunch of ragtag cricketing newcomers and non-ICC members are showing how good things can be done by working collaboratively with each other, despite not possessing an iota of the financial resources of the bigger members.
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