Afghanistan job has been an eye-opener for coach Jonathan Trott

By Sports Desk January 10, 2024

When Jonathan Trott first took the Afghanistan job he had to pay for his own flights.

The 42-year-old then took a game against Ireland in a San Francisco 49ers jacket – his favourite NFL team – as there was no kit available for him.

Fast forward 18 months and Trott has just agreed a fresh one-year deal following Afghanistan’s historic World Cup.

 

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The former England batsman – a three-time Ashes winner – has excelled in his first head coach role but admits it has been an eye-opener.

 

“Some things have improved, some have stayed the same. When I arrived in Ireland I’d had to buy my own ticket to fly to there,” Trott told the PA news agency ahead of Thursday’s first T20 game with India in Mohali.

“I remember coaching the first game, I had to wear an NFL jacket because I didn’t have a jacket in Ireland in August, it was freezing and we didn’t have any tracksuits.

“These sorts of things hit you, when you play for England you realise how lucky you are, how you are afforded the best facilities, the best kit, the best organisation.

“With us you have a manager, physio and coach. It’s going back to the start of my cricketing days and that’s what makes it so enjoyable, seeing 18 months down the line what the guys are doing.”

World Cup wins over England, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Netherlands in India during October and November underlined Afghanistan’s progress. Only an astonishing 201 from Glenn Maxwell stopped the Blue Tigers taking the scalp of Australia.

Wicketkeeper Rahmanullah Gurbaz was a cattle farmer while Fazalhaq Farooqi was a labourer, including building mud walls, while honing their cricketing skills.

A 6.3 magnitude earthquake which struck the country in October, killing over 2,400 people, also impacted the squad, with star man Rashid Khan donating his match fees to the relief effort.

Now, Afghanistan had 10 players in the IPL auction last month, with their journeys not lost on Trott.

“I’ve seen a picture of Fazal five years ago ploughing a field in traditional Afghan attire,” he said. “It’s one of the most stark contrasts, it brings you to the realisation of what the players have achieved.

“He was ploughing lines to plant potatoes and now is in the IPL.”

The country’s cricketing success has come with the squad playing under a flag no longer recognised by their country and singing a national anthem which does not exist following the Taliban’s return to power in 2021.

While the inner workings of the government is something Trott does not discuss, he cares about his players.

“I consciously stay away from politics, I don’t talk politics with the guys on purpose because it might make them uncomfortable, like they can’t be honest with me,” he says.

“I coach cricket, I listen, I ask questions and I’m courteous with regards to the players, their upbringings and what makes them.

 

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“There are some very religious views and some aren’t as religious as others. I find that interesting, the dynamics of that and the balance the players have.

“As coaches sometimes we blur the lines because every time we speak we think we have to come up with some golden nugget or something we want the players to look at and go: ‘Oh, that’s revolutionary.'”

The former Warwickshire batter has proved he can alter his approach, changing his batting order in training to accommodate prayers being a prime example.

Despite committing his future to Afghanistan, his ambition is not limited to the country, with Trott previously underlining his desire to coach England having had a previous spell as batting coach.

It is one which remains but, with the T20 World Cup in June, his eyes remain on the present.

“I’m focused on making sure we’re in the best place possible for the World Cup. I’d be lying if I didn’t want to coach England or in the IPL,” he said, having overseen a 2-1 T20 series win against the UAE this month.

“If somebody asked me when I was a youngster would you want to play for England? I would have said: ‘Yes, absolutely.’ I don’t see that as a problem. It’s good to be ambitious and it’s good to want to be at the top, wanting to be the best.”

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