Dubai: Tying a match with a team like India was equivalent to a memorable victory, Afghanistan captain Asgar Afghan has said. India and Afghanistan played out a thrilling tie on Tuesday night after Mohammad Shahzad led his team to 252 for eight with a sensational hundred.
“When you tie a match with a side like India, it’s just like a win. India have chased easily in the last two games but we made it tough for them. Such tough games are good for the fans as well,” said Afghan after the nail-biting finish of the Asia Cup.
Afghanistan came into the game, having lost two close games against Pakistan and Bangladesh earlier in Super Four. They had comprehensively beaten Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the group stage, reaffirming their rapid rise in international cricket.
“I was sure we’ll play in the final. I knew the conditions in Dubai were suitable for us because the amount of cricket we’ve played here. For us the hard luck was all our matches were in Abu Dhabi.
“If it was on this track, I can tell with confirmation that Afghanistan would’ve been in the final. Hamare Saath thodi bewafayi hui hai (This was unfair to us),” said the skipper referring to the controversial scheduling of the event.
Afghan praised Shahzad besides talking about the improvement in batting which has been considered the team’s weakest link.
“Definitely, we have improved in our batting. Previously this was our weak area and we’re working on it regularly. In the Asia Cup it was okay but when we’re going to a mega event like the World Cup, there is still lots to improve because conditions in Asia and Europe are different,” he said.
On Shahzad, he said: “Shahzad played really well and played very positive cricket. Their opening partnership was good and our spinners did an equally good job. Every time we have asked him, Shahzad has done the job for us. He played well in the last game too but today he was the real Shahzad.”
He also gave due credit to coach Phil Simmons.
“When Phil came in, he had played a lot of games against us (as Ireland coach), so he showed us our level. As a team, we didn’t aim high, but Phil raised the bar. In my opinion, all our performances with Phil have been brilliant and we’ve learnt a lot. We’ve learnt a lot from other coaches too, but we’ve learnt a lot more from Phil,” Afghan added.
Simmons, on his part, said the heavy defeat against India in the inaugural Test in June made the players reflect on where they had reached the international level.
“The first sign of change in attitude came after our inaugural Test,” Simmons said. “When you saw them come out of the Test looking inward and what they needed to do to improve every game, you knew there were positives even in defeat.
“I’m just trying to make sure everything gets to the level of the bigger nations. We want to beat the bigger teams, that’s how we improve. At the end of the day, winning is important to me. These guys are playing Tests, they know that once they cross the rope, every single time they have to perform. That’s something that has to (be) worked on. That’s something we’ve to be consistent with,” said the former West Indies all-rounder.