Karachi:National coach of the Afghanistan cricket team, Rashid Latif has rubbished reports that his side's semifinal match against Pakistan in last month's Guangzhou Asian Games was fixed.
"Such talk is just demeaning the hardwork put in by my players. I don't want to even talk about it," Latif said. The minnows stunned Pakistan in the last-four stage of the Guangzhou Games and Latif believed the country will slowly become a force to reckon with in the international arena.
"I don't want to sound over enthusiastic or jump the gun but I sincerely believe that Afghanistan has plenty of talent and will to surprise top cricket nations in Asia soon," Latif said.
The team has been in the news for its impressive showings in recent times, and the silver medal in the Guangzhou Asian Games followed by the Inter-Continental Cup title in Dubai, indicate that it is moving in the right direction.
"I am pleased with their performance. Apart from the silver medal in the Asian games and the Inter-Continental Cup, the team has done remarkably well and defeated teams like Kenya, Ireland, Canada and Holland which I believe is a great achievement. The graph of progress is on the rise," he added.
Latif said he saw a lot of positives in the team's recent triumphs and is confident that it will soon emerge as a strong cricket nation.
"The potential in Afghanistan to become a leading cricket nation is immense and, when I look at the passion the youngsters and the present players in the team have for cricket, I see the perfect recipe for a strong cricket team to come up soon," Latif said.
Aggressive mindset and keenness to learn have been the secrets behind the team's success. "They are mentally very strong and hate to lose, just like the Australians in their prime," Latif said.
"The best thing is that they have a lot of backing at home where everyone, including the people and the government, want to see them do well and put Afghanistan on the international sporting map," he said.
Latif said his role, so far, has been to just work on dedicated areas with the players and the rest they do themselves.
The coach also said he would love to see the Afghanistan team play more international matches and be given Test status by the ICC. "They need to get more matches against stronger teams and I think the Asian teams must support their rise by giving them matches at the international level."
The former Pakistan wicketkeeper said that the Asian cricket council and the ICC had done a lot to set up a cricket infrastructure and provide technical expertise to the war-torn country, but felt a lot needed to be done to establish a proper domestic cricket structure in Afghanistan.
"Only those nations come up in international cricket who have a proper domestic structure and that is what the ACC and ICC must do," Latif said.
"The Afghan authorities need assistance from the ICC and ACC in grounds' development etc., and the ICC and the ACC should send their experts to Afghanistan regularly to help the local authority.
"Also, the role of the neighbouring countries has not been encouraging at all. Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh should provide Afghan players the opportunities to play against big names. I believe this will go a long way in the development of the game in the country," he said.