'Afghanistan Won't Gain Experience Till They Play Against Big Teams Consistently': Asghar Afghan To NDTV
In an interview with NDTV, former Afghanistan captain Asghar Afghan spoke about the performance in the Asia Cup, the intensity of the Pakistan-Afghanistan match, and the importance of Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman.
Afghanistan failed to make it to the final of the recently-concluded Asia Cup but the performance of the Mohammad Nabi-led side impressed one and all. They started off with wins against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the group stage, but defeats against Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and India in the Super 4 stage led to their ouster. In an interview with NDTV, former Afghanistan captain Asghar Afghan spoke about how more game time against the top teams will help the side in easing out their nerves in pressure situations.
He also spoke about the rivalry that has developed between Pakistan and Afghanistan, how Mujeeb Ur Rahman has managed to cement his place in the side and how Afghanistan needs to learn to take the game deep against big teams.
"No doubt, the performance of Afghanistan in the Asia Cup was very good. The only problem is that we do not play against big teams that often, Afghanistan Cricket Board needs to organise home and away series against big teams. Till the time, we do not play against big teams, we will not gain that experience. After the World Cup last year, we played in the Asia Cup. A long time passed before we played a big tournament. Till the time we do not play more matches, our cricket won't move forward," said Afghan, who is currently in India to participate in the upcoming Legends League Cricket.
"Afghanistan would have gained a lot of experience from playing in the Asia Cup. The performance was good, but because of inexperience, we were not able to get over the line. Till the time, we do not play against big teams, we would not have experience in finishing off games. The match against Pakistan was a close one, whenever you play against a big side, you need to take the game deep. Talking about Afghanistan, we want to finish off games in quick succession, but taking the game deep is the need of the hour. We need to play against big teams consistently, if we play 3-5 match series against big teams, there will be a great improvement," he added.
In the Asia Cup, Mujeeb Ur Rahman returned with seven wickets while seasoned spinner Rashid Khan took six wickets. Afghan, was all praise for Mujeeb, saying the spinner bowls upfront to usually the best batters of opposition and that is a completely different skill set.
"Mujeeb comes onto bowl in the difficult periods. He is usually bowling to the openers or the No.3 batter, and these three are generally the best players of a team. More fielders are inside the circle, so the pressure is more on Mujeeb. There are few spinners who can bowl this well in the powerplay. Mujeeb has always performed, and when Rashid Khan comes onto bowl, there are more fielders outside the 30-yard circle and the ball has gotten old. I have to say that Mujeeb has always performed under tough situations," said the 35-year-old.
The match between Afghanistan and Pakistan was a thrilling encounter, and in the end, Babar Azam's side prevailed by one wicket as Naseem Shah hit back-to-back sixes in the final over to seal the contest. However, the match was marred by some unsavoury scenes as Afghanistan fans broke the chairs inside the Sharjah Stadium and even assaulted Pakistan fans. The match also saw Pakistan's Asif Ali clashing with Afghanistan pacer Fareed Malik.
"Our players have played with Pakistan players. When there used to be refugee, our players used to play in Peshawar. When you know the players, there is a sense of competitiveness, and aggression is bound to be there. The fans of both Pakistan and Afghanistan wait for this contest. The players are also aggressive and they give their best to win. The aggression is there on the ground, sometimes it can be a bit too much, but in the end, it is just a sport. These types of incidents can happen," said the former Afghanistan captain.
"But at the end of the day, cricket was the winner. One team has to win, one team has to lose. Even the fans were angry after Afghanistan lost against Pakistan in the Asia Cup. There was a scuffle, this was not right. Sports should be looked at as sports only, these types of incidents should not take the glory away from the sport," he added.
Lastly, talking about playing in the Legends League Cricket, Afghan said: "I want to Legends League for creating a platform for the retired players to come and play, it is an incredible platform. We will enjoy it and we are excited to play. There are some big players involved. I am waiting to play at the Eden Gardens, the stadium has been lucky for me too. It is one of the best grounds in India, we are just waiting to go out there and play."