ISLAMABAD   -  Serbian Cricket Federation (SCF) General Secretary Vladimir Ninkovic has praised the NCA Lahore for outstanding hospitality and providing intensive training to visiting Serbian players at the state-of-the-art academy.

Vladimir Ninkovic expressed these views during an exclusive interview to The Nation on Friday at The Nation Resident Editor Salman Masood's office. “I have been to Lords, home of cricket, and other international grounds, but I haven’t visited training academies there. Let me confess that I couldn’t even dreamt about what we had witnessed at the NCA. The way PCB extended us top class coaching, training and treated us like super stars, it’s really commendable.”

He said the entire credit of turning their focus towards this wonderful game goes to Pakistani ambassador to Serbia Muhammad Nawaz Chaudhry, who was ambassador from 2008 to 2012, while his son Nasir Chaudhry was also part of the efforts. “I can never forget the help rendered by Pakistani ambassador and his entire staff in forming Serbian Cricket Federation in 2010. In the beginning, we hardly had 11 players available in Belgrade. Nasir also played for us and we formed a club in 2007 and gradually, started playing cricket.

“Initially, we didn’t even have proper cricket bats and we used to play with baseball bats. In my mid 20s, I had played rugby, but it was too much demanding, so I wanted to play some other game. When Nasir met me, I decided to start playing cricket,” he added.

Ninkovic said after getting through initial period, they visited different high-level schools and selected around 20 under-16 kids. “British embassy gave us some used equipments and in 2009, we started organising proper cricket matches in Belgrade. Cricket journalists comfortably beat us in a friendly fixture. We also played in first T20 championship with three clubs and also played first Euro T20 tournament in Macedonia and eight teams were involved in it, where only we and hosts had local players, while others teams had Asians players, so we finished 7th.”

He said now they have around 200 players registered with the federation and over 120 senior players and others are juniors. “We have eight clubs divided into two divisions and all are from Belgrade. We started playing cricket with friends, relatives and now we have some very good junior players. These kids then formed the first national team in October this year. We have now proper cricket coaches, who are providing training to our players.”

To a query, Ninkovic said: “In 2012, we are on state budget while in 2015, we became associate member of ICC, who is now  supporting us. We run huge community development projects. We have one international standard ground with artificial pitch.

“This year, PCB was so kind to invite us for NCA. Five of us visited NCA and it was amazing experience. Serbia has good relations with Pakistan and under exchange programmes, some Pakistani artists visited Serbia and we visited the NCA, where we reside there for two weeks. We are now keen to visit Pakistan again and want Pakistani coaches to come and train our players,"Ninkovic concluded.

   

The Nation Resident Editor, Islamabad/Peshawar Editions, Salman Masood invited the Serbia’s cricket team to come and play in Islamabad and offered fully cooperation in this regard. Vladimir accepted the offer and soon the Serbian cricket team would visit Pakistan’s Capital to learn the cricketing skills from its true masters.