When there is a will, there is a way. It’s a very famous saying but I somewhat realised the true meaning of this phrase during my coaching stints with Afghanistan cricketers.
Weak will remain weak until he gets up to strive for the betterment; the Afghan cricketers did exactly the same. When I first went there in 2010, as batting coach, the war-ravaged country had limited resources and way below par infrastructure. The turfs were rocky but not the zeal.
During my first tenure, I came across the mentality and the never-say-die attitude in the Afghan players. It was probably due to the tough life in the country because of the law and order situation.
Not just the players but general public too was enthusiastic and even the team practice was watched by a sizeable crowd.
I worked with the Afghanistan Cricket team on two occasions, firstly in 2010 and then in 2011 as their batting and head coach respectively. The distinctive attribute of the Afghan players is their aggressive brand of cricket. The players are mentally very tough and they hate to lose.
Afghanistan’s profile rose in 2010 when they won the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers to reach the finals in the Caribbean. In October 2013, Afghanistan beat Kenya to finish second in the WCL Championship and qualified for the 2015 Cricket World Cup and in the following year – 2014 – appeared in the WT20 and managed to beat Hong Kong there.
During my first tenure, I came across the mentality and the never-say-die attitude in the Afghan players. It was probably due to the tough life in the country because of the law and order situation
In the first appearance at the 50-over World Cup in 2015, Afghanistan overpowered Scotland and in the following year, during the 2016 World T20, Afghanistan exhibited their best show at the international stage. They defeated the eventual champions, West Indies, during their final group match of the tournament.
That was a quick brief of the progress made by the Afghanistan Cricket team in recent times. Over the years, they have produced some quality individuals like Hamid Hasan, Mohammad Nabi, Asghar Stanikzai, Mohammad Shahzad, Dolat Zadran and Noroz Mangal etc who have made impression at the world stage and some of them continue to impress the international audience.
In contrast with yesteryears, today the structure is relatively well-organised. Three stadiums have been established while a number of facilities are under construction in various cities.
The facilities at the grass root are better, the talent is there and the nation is supportive as well. All these encouraging factors will hopefully translate into consistent performance at the international circuit.
I was expecting that the Afghanistan team would get the Test status in 2016. During my tenure, I talked to England, India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe to provide Afghanistan with frequent opportunities to play in their countries but, citing their busy schedule, neither of the countries responded positively.
Today every country is inviting Afghanistan and Afghan players are featuring in T20 leagues worldwide.
In my opinion, they are well and truly on track to enter Test match cricket now. I am optimistic that gradually the blues would reach that milestone.
They have a strong will hence they will surely make their way.