Afghanistan skipper Asghar Stanikzai not nervous, a nation awaits historic day

Afghanistan, rapidly going up the cricketing ladder, are set to play their landmark first cricket Test against India. They will become the 12th team (not including ICC selection) to play Tests
Afghanistan cricket team captain Asghar Stanikzai during a practice session on the eve of their one off Test match against India, in Bangalore.(PTI)
Afghanistan cricket team captain Asghar Stanikzai during a practice session on the eve of their one off Test match against India, in Bangalore.(PTI)
Published on Jun 13, 2018 08:12 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Bangalore | ByAshutosh Sharma

On the eve of their maiden Test, Afghanistan skipper Asghar Stanikzai faced a full media house at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, but there was absolutely no sign of stage fright.

“Nervous? I am hearing it for the first time. We are well prepared,” Stanikzai said. To an extent, the confidence comes from the two formats (ODI, T20) his side has played successfully and the assuredness the team has shown.

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Coach Phil Simmons, the former West Indies opener who has also coached Zimbabwe and Ireland, also believes his wards are ready.

“Preparation has been good. We only had four players that crossed over. We still had 12-13 players training with red ball. Fortunately, the three fast bowlers were not in the T20 squad and they have been concentrating on Test preparation. The senior spinner Rashid Khan, I am sure, will be able to adjust well,” Simmons said.

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The match has war-torn Afghanistan cued in. The skipper described the mood positive and supportive. “It is itself history that we are playing the inaugural and historical Test match against the No 1 team in the world. The mood back home is that they are very positive and supportive and looking forward for a very good performance. We will try to give good performance in the Test as well,” he said.

The entire Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) brass is here and many top government officials are also slated to be present. Afghanistan CEO Abdullah Abdullah has carried with him a message from President Ashraf Ghani, who could attend the match if it extends to the fourth or final day.

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Simmons said mentally also the team is ready to embrace the rigours of Test cricket and hoped his players will be able to cope with the pressure.

“The mental part comes from the way you train. How long you bat, how long you bowl in the nets, how hard you train in the nets. That’s the only way you prepare mentally because when you get out there, then you understand what it takes. They have played four-day first-class cricket so they have a fair idea. The good thing about it is they learn quickly,” the coach said.

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Describing the mood back home, ACB media manager Lutfullah Stanikzai said people are counting the hours and minutes for the match to start.

“It will be telecast live on a free-to-air channel and already social media is abuzz with anticipation,” he said.

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