The International Cricket Council (ICC) awarded membership status to three new countries — Cambodia and Uzbekistan from Asia, and Cote D’Ivoire from Africa — during its annual conference in Birmingham last month. Uzbekistan join last year’s 2021 ICC Member entrant Tajikistan as nations with Associate status from the region.
300 players have picked up the game over the last three years in the country, though a select group of players have streaked ahead in their development, and forming a domestic rivalry in the process. Cricket is best played from May to September, with temperatures in the other months likely too cold for play.
The CFU also plans to launch women’s cricket, involving 15 teams playing organised competitions, with a pathway programme for their Under-19 and Under-17 players.
Uzbekistan Cricket Federation started the construction of The First official Cricket Ground in near Tashkent, Uzbekistan!#uzbekistan #cricket #ground #ICC #ACC #uzbekistancricketfederation #mihliev #tashkent pic.twitter.com/hK1qEGc5tc
— Aziz G. Mihliev (@AMihliev) July 18, 2021
In an exclusive chat with Cricfit, Cricket Federation of Uzbekistan (CFU) President Aziz G. Mihliev highlighted how the game developed in the region and what the status means to them and the road ahead.
Q. Getting ICC status within a few years of formation, it has been path-breaking for Uzbekistan cricket. How challenging and satisfying has it been at the same time?
Aziz: Indeed, ICC status bestowed CFU a special recognition of our endeavors, the toil and adventures on the road of new cricket in Uzbekistan. People of my country knew a little about cricket. And, that wee of knowledge also sources up from Bollywood cinemas such as Lagaan, MS Dhoni etc.
We had a strong administration team of intellectuals who knew his/her target and how to achieve it. Moreover, I express my personal thanks to Dr. Noor Murad, a former CEO of ACB, whose advice and recommendations were priceless. Also, practical field adjustments and strategies of the game from a former International player of ACB Mr. Khaliqdad Noori gave a distinct color to CFU players.
Visit of Mr. Andy Moles from South Africa, who was a Head Coach of ACB to deliver Elementary Level courses, gave another impulse to our prospective coaches.
I thought it would be easy at the very beginning of the road. But, by slowly getting into the cricket world, I realized that this is not only hitting the ball to hit beyond the ground boundaries and listening joyfully to chants of your fellow mates in college ground back 20 years in India. Thus I felt an urgent need to shape my managerial and social skills. Sports administration is quite challenging than managing a commercial structure.
Q. The Uzbekistan Premier League is perceived to be a historical event in cricket in Uzbekistan? Throw some light on the tournament?
Aziz: The Uzbekistan Premier League in cricket, of course, deliberately planned to give exposure in the country. Unfortunately, because of pandemic restrictions we could organize UPL matches to limited visitors. As the restrictions are getting lifted day by day, we hope to make it more festive in coming years.
Initially, only six provincial teams registered in 2020, in 2021 we received applications from 8 teams. In 2022, the UPL is planned in September with 12 teams and this would be the first all domestic championship of this kind in Uzbekistan.
The Pakistan Cricket Board and Cricket Federation of Uzbekistan have signed a MoU for promotion of the game by developing a working relationship to enhance the capacity, professionalism and performance of the game in Uzbekistan.
More details ➡️ https://t.co/PJFmtmlXJM pic.twitter.com/A3q8WBVb4g
— Aziz G. Mihliev (@AMihliev) September 21, 2021
Q. How difficult was it to put a competition like that in place? How was the response among Cricket fans in Uzbekistan?
Aziz: Uzbekistan is a sports loving country. The governmental policy to promote healthy lifestyle among the population and several Presidential Decrees in promotion of Sports were in hand to develop cricket and competitions. The Ministry of Sports Development helped our young federation to promote cricket in all possible ways but socially.
It is worth mentioning that, when we announced the final 3 matches of UPL in Tashkent, we received quite a big number of international audiences from all backgrounds of people living, working, studying and doing business in Uzbekistan. All were enthusiastic to see our players and witness a cricket match in Uzbekistan.
Many of them shared their recommendations and offered help if CFU needs any. Today we have more than 2700 players from all age groups.
Q. Do you think the T20 competition was one of the many reasons behind getting the ICC status?
Aziz: Not exactly! I know and respect cricket not only for the T20 format which revolutionized cricket into new heights but One Day and Four Days Test matches that I knew during my cricketing years. It is my ambition to see my fellow countrymen playing in the Cricket World Cup in any format in the near future.
Q. Now that you have got the ICC status, what is the plan ahead?
Aziz: Getting ICC Associate membership bolstered our plans which we had initially. By developing cricket from grass root level at schools CFU has serious plans to start One Day Cricket from 2023 and Four-Day Cricket from 2024. The T20 format would be a widely playing format among all players in Uzbekistan.
We have clear visions and strategies put ahead. We should enter the global cricket arena and get the name of a cricket playing nation. And, of course, get the full membership of ICC as a Test Cricket Playing Country.
Q. What was the idea behind forming CFU in 2019?
Aziz: Actually, the idea of getting into cricket came earlier than the formation of CFU in 2019. During my employment years, from 2003-2006, at National TV and Radio Company of Uzbekistan, as an international relations department chief specialist I was in charge of overseas agreements. I had several meetings in regards to broadcasting cricket in Uzbekistan channels but due to lack of interest from a broad audience we could not bring cricket into TV.
Later, in 2012 I started my private business where I started travelling to different countries. And, witnessed cricket becoming more and more popular even in the Arabian Peninsula. That was where I started making notes on cricket development, strategies and the game as a whole. My plans to establish an official cricket institution could get realized in 2019 when I found surplus from my own business to invest in cricket.