Lalchand Rajput cites security concerns for Afghanistan departure
"This is something I had told them earlier also – I cannot stay there, with the current security threats in the region," said Rajput.
What's the story?
Afghanistan have decided not to renew the contract of head coach Lalchand Rajput, who had taken up the position in June last year. The Afghanistan Cricket Board's (ACB) insistence and Rajput's reluctance to work out of Kabul has been cited by both parties as the main reason behind the separation.
"The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) will not extend Head Coach Lalchand Rajput’s contract which is due to expire at the end of August this year," a press release from the board read.
"ACB would like to thank Mr. Rajput for his satisfactory performance during his time as Afghanistan’s Head Coach. ACB is currently in the process of recruiting a new coach for the National Cricket Team."
"They (ACB) wanted me to come to Kabul," Rajput told Wisden India.
"This is something I had told them earlier also – I cannot stay there, with the current security threats in the region. We have done so well and even got Test status. I was told that people are now asking why the head coach was not in Kabul and that I should be there," he added.
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Rajput had taken over the responsibility from former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, who had been named as the chief selector of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
Under Rajput, Afghanistan gained Test status in June 2017 and won six out of 10 limited-overs endeavours, including a successful tour to the Windies where they defeated the Caribbean side for the first time thereby registering their first victory over a full-member nation other than Zimbabwe or Bangladesh.
Rajput's fears can be understood given the recent history of terrorist attacks in the city. Most recently, a bomb blast near the German Embassy in Kabul claimed 90 lives and left more than 400 civilians injured.
These attacks in Kabul also led to the postponement of the fourth season of the Shpageeza, Afghanistan's franchise-based T20 league.
"I told them that’s out of the question and that they can look for someone else. This was actually the only reason to part ways. They have got the National Cricket Academy in Kabul, so I told them it’s better to hire someone, maybe a local coach, who can stay there and look after the local boys," said Rajput.
"They want someone to look after their domestic players and eventually pick some of the boys (for the national team). I am not willing to risk my life for this, that’s the only reason why I will not be continuing with the role," he added.
These are daunting signs for Afghanistan as far as the prospects of organizing cricket in their country are concerned. Their neighbours Pakistan have been robbed off international cricket for more than 8 years now and have only recently begun their journey back home with the World Series scheduled for September.
While they have the Greater Noida Sports Complex in India has their temporary home ground, which has also been given the go-ahead by the ICC to host international matches, for all-round development, especially at the grassroots, a fully-functional cricket academy back home with quality coaching staff is needed.
In this regard, Afghanistan would have to, while fighting against the odds, ensure that their interests at home are safeguarded and in order to do that, stringent security measures must be adopted to create an amicable environment for the domestic cricketers.