‘Get Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma out, half of India is finished. They’ll score 60-70 runs less in T20Is': Asghar Afghan
Ahead of Legends League Cricket, Asghar Afghan, in an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, expressed his views on LLC, Afghanistan's performance in the Asia Cup, their issues in domestic cricket, the greatness of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma and much more.
Former Afghanistan captain Asghar Afghan will return to the cricket field in the Legends League Cricket as part of the India Capitals squad. The tall right-hander, who was one of the first to bring Afghanistan's cricket to the global map, is excited to ply his trade for the Gautam Gambhir-led side. Ahead of the tournament, Asghar Afghan, in an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, expressed his views on LLC, Afghanistan's performance in the Asia Cup, their issues in domestic cricket, the greatness of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma and much more.
Here are the excerpts:
Q) Your thoughts on Afghanistan's performance in the Asia Cup?
Asghar Afghan: Afghanistan played well in the Asia Cup but I believe we should have won the tournament. We were playing in the UAE. We knew the conditions really well. And T20 is our strongest format. We have a lot of players who play in different leagues across the globe. We have a lot of individual experience and talent, that's why we should have won the tournament. I think Afghanistan were one of the favourites.
Q) You got big wins against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh but in the Super 4 stage, lost two close matches, what is the reason for not being able to thrive under pressure?
Asghar Afghan: The biggest factor is our schedule. We don't play that often against bigger teams and that's the reason why you see us not being able to win close contests and last-over finishes. It happened against Pakistan. If we don't play against top teams regularly then this will keep happening. We will drag the match till the end but won't be able to close it. We can't produce multiple world-class players if we don't play against world-class teams. We play against quality opposition only once a year and that too maybe in a multi-nation tournament, things can never improve like this.
Q) How big a role can Afghanistan's domestic cricket play in this?
Asghar Afghan: Unfortunately, our domestic cricket is not as strong as it should be. The board needs to work on it a lot. From what I have seen over the years, our domestic cricket is not taken seriously. Our senior players don't play in it and prefer to play leagues abroad. This also affects our young players, who don't know how to deal with pressure situations in big matches against big players. The team which played in the Asia Cup has been together for four-five years and as I said earlier, there are players who play in different leagues, which is why they are able to compete but the upcoming generation is not ready. We have a lot of talent in Afghanistan. If we get regular matches in domestic cricket as well at the international level, our team can go a long way.
Q) Let's talk about the Pakistan match... Could the whole episode between Asif Ali and Fareed Ahmed have been avoided? The reaction from the fans and also some former cricketers was a bit over the top...
Asghar Afghan: Every sportsperson is aggressive by nature. When a bowler takes a wicket, he tries to show aggression. When a batter scores runs, he celebrates in his way. But it shouldn't get physical at any point. Every cricketer must be careful about that. End of the day, cricket should win. It's your right to celebrate when you do well or when your team wins but that doesn't mean you end up disrespecting your opponent or the game. But I would also say that the former cricketers, fans should not have taken this matter seriously. These types of things happen in cricket. And it's not war, it's a game. You should always celebrate instead of spreading hatred. Pakistan won on that day. They are an experienced team, they did well. They won the match but Afghanistan also won hearts.
Q) You are in India, it would be a little unfair if we don't about Indian cricket. You've played a lot against Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, what do you make of the discussion about their approach in the T20Is?
Asghar Afghan: When a cricketer doesn't perform, there will be talks. That's part of every cricketer's life. But whenever we played against India, our plan used to be around Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. We used to say 'get them out, half of Indian team is finished'. The whole world plans against these two big players like this only. They can win matches single-handedly. Our plan was always to attack them in the beginning because if we can't get them out in the beginning then it is very difficult to trouble them. Especially Virat Kohli. He is a very busy player. When he is set, it is very difficult to dislodge him. We used to believe that if we get both of them out early then about 100-120 runs would be less from India's total in an ODI and about 60-70 runs in a T20I.
Q) But despite Rohit and Kohli performing well, India didn't even make it to the finals of the Asia Cup. What went wrong?
Asghar Afghan: Yes, on paper, they were the best team to win the Asia Cup. The kind of balance they had was great. But perhaps they took things a little light but the main reason for their losses in the Super 4 stage was the injury to Ravindra Jadeja. It really affected the balance of their side.
Q) You think India can go all the way in the T20 World Cup in Australia?
Asghar Afghan: India should support their players and the team. It's not like they are a bad team just because they didn't do well (in Asia Cup). These are part and parcel of the game. The World Cup is coming, and India have a very good chance.
Q) Let's focus on Legends League Cricket a bit...How does it feel to be back?
Asghar Afghan: First of all, I'd like to thank the Legends League Cricket organisers and the Indian cricket board for organising such a lovely tournament. It's another great platform for all the players who have played a lot of cricket for their respective countries. Mostly the cricketers playing in this league have a huge fan following, people want to watch them on the cricket field again and hopefully, we will be able to entertain them again.
Q) You will play under Gautam Gambhir, who is known to be quite an influential and aggressive captain...
Asghar Afghan: I have captained in international cricket. And I think a captain needs to be a little aggressive by nature. The ones who are aggressive are very good by heart. Gautam no doubt was a brilliant batter in his time. He was an impressive captain for KKR in the IPL. I think we all will get to learn a lot. I can't wait to join the team.
Q) Will there be any hesitation if in giving on-field suggestions to Gambhir?
Asghar Afghan: A good player and teammate never hesitates (in giving a suggestion). It doesn't matter how aggressive the captain is. If I have something in mind, I will definitely tell him, to follow or not is up to him. But I can't stay quiet on the field. I always like to speak my mind to teammates. All XI want to win and want to contribute to the team's success. Of course, the captain's call is the final one and we all respect that but as players, it is our duty to help out the captain whenever we feel something needs to be conveyed. But talking about Gautam in particular, he has a lot of experience, has played a lot more than many of us, and he will know what to do.
Catch all the Latest Cricket News, Live Cricket Score and IPL 2024 Schedule match updates along with Cricket Schedule, WPL 2024 and other related updates on Hindustan Times Website and APPs