Last five weeks of training were really challenging

KUWAIT: (From left) Mzolisa Bona, South African Ambassador to Kuwait, coach Herschelle Gibbs and Sajid Ashraf, Director General of Kuwait Cricket Federation seen holding trophies. – Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat.

KUWAIT: Kuwait’s cricket squad is ready for the qualifier due to take place in Kuwait next month, announced Kuwait’s coach, South African cricket legend Herschelle Gibbs. The tournament is three weeks away but the 20-strong team – all Kuwaitis – is ready for the match, said Gibbs, who arrived in Kuwait to train the team for the International Cricket Council World Cup T20 qualifiers scheduled to take place from April 20-27. The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Maldives are set for the qualifying rounds in Kuwait. The ICC T20 World Cup takes place in Australia in 2020, with the West Indies as the defending champions from the 2016 edition in India.

Speaking at the South African Embassy in Kuwait, Gibbs said he wants to see results of his month-long training with the Kuwait team. “The last five weeks of training were really challenging, but a lot of positivity and energy is emanating from the Kuwait team. This tournament is a stepping stone for the Kuwaiti team to make a name in cricket. I am confident that the team is ready,” he said.

Mzolisa Bona, South African Ambassador to Kuwait, said he is happy that the Kuwaiti team trainer is a well-respected South African legend. “His profile will speak for itself – he is well known all over the world. I am sure Kuwait will qualify for the T20 World Cup. My mission as ambassador is to make sure to maintain a well-balanced relationship on all fronts, including sports. I hope that the sports cooperation agreement will be signed soon, because I believe that sport is a vehicle to facilitate people-to-people contacts and strengthen good relations and understanding between countries,” he said.

“The engagement between our countries in terms of sports has been growing – there have been some delays due to FIFA’s problems with Kuwait. Like South Africa, Kuwait is into soccer, cricket and rugby, so we want better bilateral cooperation in this field,” he added. When Gibbs came to Kuwait more than a month ago, he was given a rousing welcome at the airport by Kuwait’s cricketing officials and council members.

Sajid Ashraf, Director General of Kuwait Cricket Federation, said Kuwait is continuously catching up in the world of cricket. “Cricket is in the blood of Kuwaitis as we have been associated with Indians from way back in history. This is like spicy food to Kuwaitis – cricket was there and is still there; we just have to train our young talents and we will emerge as the best. If we introduce this sport early from a young age, of course we’ll see Kuwait on top. We are hopeful in this upcoming tournament. Remember that from around four million people in Kuwait, a solid 1.5 million are cricket fanatics,” he said. For the large Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi expatriate community in Kuwait, the qualifying tournament will be another sporting activity to be remembered that will unlock the potentials of the Kuwaiti team.

By Ben Garcia