Although Afghanistan did not advance to the Asia Cup final, everyone was impressed with the team’s performance under the leadership of Mohammad Nabi. They began by defeating Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the group round, but losses to Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and India in the Super 4 round ultimately resulted in their elimination. Asghar Afghan, a former captain of Afghanistan, explained in an interview with NDTV how playing more games against elite opposition will help the team relax under pressure.
Additionally, he discussed the rivalry that has grown between Pakistan and Afghanistan, how Mujeeb Ur Rahman was able to maintain his spot in the team, and how Afghanistan needs to enhance its ability to play deep in games. “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 organize 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. Mujeeb Ur Rahman finished the Asia Cup with seven wickets, and veteran spinner Rashid Khan got six. Afghans gushed about Mujeeb, praising him for bowling upfront to the opposition’s greatest batters, which they claimed required entirely different skills.
“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 the 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. A dramatic match between Pakistan and Afghanistan ended with Babar Azam’s team winning by one wicket after Naseem Shah blasted back-to-back sixes in the game’s final over. However, numerous unsavory incidents occurred during the game, including Afghanistan fans assaulting Pakistan supporters and breaking seats inside the Sharjah Stadium. Fareed Malik of Afghanistan and Asif Ali of Pakistan both competed in the match.
“Our players have played with Pakistan players. When there used to be refugees, 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.