Afghanistan haven’t enjoyed a fruitful outing at the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup. Six defeats in as many games see them sitt at the bottom of the table, but despite all the lows, the Afghanistan Cricket Board’s chairman Azizullah Fazli has gathered all the optimism he can to outlay a pragmatic blueprint for the team.

Being there at the India-Afghanistan game, Fazli was left dazzled with the way his team approached the fixture. Despite a close 11-run defeat, Fazli had a moment to cherish given how conveniently they were close to causing arguably the biggest upset of the tournament.

But winning hearts doesn’t get you anywhere and Fazli is well and truly aware of it. Speaking about his team’s performance, he defended his players by saying it is only their second World Cup.

“This is just the second time that Afghanistan is participating in the World Cup. The first was in 2015. I am confident in the next three years our cricket will prosper even further. Afghanistan does not have enough grounds and facilities like other countries, but despite those limitations, cricket is the No. 1 sport in our country. A lot of younger players are coming through,” Azizullah Fazli told Mid-Day.

“T20 cricketer is best received in Afghanistan. I am confident that in coming years, a lot of players will seriously take up 50-over and Test cricket.”

Afghanistan have struggled to get a firm footing in England thus far, and there happens to be no sign of any positives from here. Fazli, however, says that this World Cup has given his team a bigger exposure and that it will help them for the future.

“This World Cup has given us an opportunity to play against bigger teams. It will help us gain that experience. Our main focus is how to develop good domestic players for the bigger stage.

“The reason why Afghanistan are not doing well in this World Cup is because we have never played in these conditions. All our matches are played in Asia. The conditions here in England are different and that is why our performance has been affected. Our team couldn't play the full 50 overs in the World Cup, except against England. Our efforts are to have matches in England, Australia and New Zealand so that we can get enough experience of playing in those conditions.”

The Afghanistan Cricket Board came in the midst of heavy backlash after Asghar Afghan was stripped off from his captaincy. The decision was made just ahead of the World Cup, which saw some of the senior members being vocal about it on the social media. Talking about the issue, Fazli added, “Because we changed the captain [Asghar Afghan to Gulbadin Naib], we got new ideas to come into the World Cup. I know very well what is required for our cricket and when. Our effort is to improve our cricket all the time. Yes, it is right that just before the World Cup [we changed our captain], but that player is still a part of the team. My effort was to give young talent an opportunity especially since they will play big teams like England, India and Australia. It is a major learning experience. They will not get this experience in domestic games. We respect what Asghar has done for our cricket when he was captain for four years. 

“In the 2015 World Cup, we beat Ireland. And in this World Cup, we beat Pakistan [in the warm-ups]. We are scoring more runs than what we did in 2015. Our cricket is improving steadily.

“I have requested all international players, current and present, to comment on Afghanistan cricket only after knowing our culture and exact facts of the matter. It saddens me that they are only talking about in-fighting and controversies about Afghanistan rather than highlighting the fact that in such a short time we are playing our second World Cup. We need everyone's support.”

Another controversy rounded off when their head coach had an outburst on Twitter against the chief selectors Speaking about it, Fazli said, “I don't know what made the coach tweet that. It is entirely his decision to do that. His job is to focus on the team's performance and not focus on the politics of the Afghanistan Cricket Board.

“It is an internal matter of the Board. He has no business to interfere in that as a coach. We have requested all our coaches to just focus on their task of bettering team performance and develop our players. They shouldn't involve themselves in commenting over which selector is good or bad.

“If they don't like anything, they should resign and go. The culture in every team is very different from each other. The culture in Afghanistan is different from West Indies. What our chief selector [Dawlat Ahmadzai] spoke in the media was in Pashto, which he [Simmons] does not even understand. It has not been translated correctly [in English] and the tweet has also been deleted.”

Feature image courtesy: Twitter / Cricket World Cup