The last time the Afghanistan cricket team took part in an international assignment was back in March when the Asghar Afghan-led unit clean-swept Zimbabwe to clinch the three-match T20I series. Since then, the country has witnessed a series of change both in cricket and the situation. The Taliban rose back to power followed by a replacement in the top position of the country’s cricket board, lack of both international and domestic competitions, and a change in captaincy at the last moment.
Now with the T20 World Cup looming and the team finally assembling in Qatar, Afghanistan’s head coach and former South Africa all-rounder Lance Klusener admits that the unit is “underprepared” but asserts that they won’t make any excuses and aim to deliver their best on the pitch.
“In terms of the number of games we’ve played as a team, it has not been a lot. With respect to Ireland and Zimbabwe, I suppose these were not challenging competitions, so a little bit of underprepared but we are not going to make excuses,” the former all-rounder told zeenews.com in an exclusive interaction.
Speaking about the situation in Afghanistan, Klusener says that both he and the teammates are acutely aware of it and hopes to get the smiles back with some fantastic cricket in the showpiece event, which starts on October 17.
Not COVID but Afghanistan’s change in the regime forced Klusener to adapt a new module of training. The South African held online sessions from his home as players attended low-key training camp, however, it came with limitations.
“The connection in Afghanistan is not great, so a lot of it was individual. The boys, particularly the youngsters, submitted their practice videos and questions as they don’t have the access to top-level coaches,” said Klusener. Adding more insights and what exactly the process was, the former Proteas player said: “It was about submitting their stuff and being available for chats like ‘is this the right drill’, ‘why am I not being able to hit the ball well.'”
The 50-year-old also felt that the sessions worked well, giving youngsters the encouragement, they were seeking for.
Afghan trio in IPL 2021
Afghanistan trio Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, and Mujeeb ur Rahman were part of the ongoing Indian Premier League in UAE, however, out of the three it was only Rashid, who got consistent game time.
When asked to Klusener about the others missing out from the playing XI, the ex-cricketer said despite not being picked all of them had access to good coaching, which comes as a big plus ahead of the T20 World Cup.
“With IPL being the top T20 competition only the best XI plays, so it tells me that if you’re not there in the best XI, there are things you need to be working on,” said Klusener, before he added, “even if the cricketers have not got consistent game time, they have access to good training and fantastic coaching, so that’s a big plus.”
Klusener also dismissed the fact of Afghanistan being over-reliant on Rashid and warns the opposition of fresh talents, which can’t be underestimated. Among the new faces, the head coach’s best picks are wicketkeeper-batter Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Naveen ul Haq, and a fast-bowling all-rounder just like him Karim Janat.
“A year and a half ago we were very reliant on Rashid, Mujeeb, who was on the top of the game, Nabi, one of the best all-rounders. But now we’ve developed some youngsters, who are match-winners in themselves.”
“Rahmanullah Gurbaz has emerged to be an automatic pick in a lot of the T20 competitions around the world. Naveen ul Haq has played in the CPL and England as well. Karim, the fast-bowling all-rounder was the man of the series against Zimbabwe. So, it shows there are a lot of other options for us.”
Australia not hosting Afghanistan
The ex-South Africa all-rounder, who played 49 Tests and 171 ODIs, expressed disappointment over Australia’s stance on not hosting them and added series like these are important in nurturing countries, who are still young in international cricket.
“It’s disappointing that may not happen for us. We want to play against the best teams in the world so that we not only get to see where we are, but it also gives opportunity to my boys to rub shoulders with some of the best players in the world, maybe sharing a bit of dressing room time after the game. That’s an important part for a nation, who are very young in international cricket,” he said.
Future with Afghanistan cricket
Klusener, who maintains to have a positive relationship with the Taliban in terms of cricket, is yet to decide on his future with Afghanistan Cricket as his contract comes to an end in December.
However, the 50-year-old states that despite the change in the regime his commitment towards the country is still the same.
“My contract will be over at the end of December, we’ve got to decide that. I’ve been able to create a nice relationship with the players and my commitment to Afghanistan cricket is there and it depends on what they’re thinking.”
“The fact that there has been a political change in Afghanistan is not going to affect the way I think about coaching the team or anything like that,” he concluded.