Afghanistan captain Asghar Afghan has credited coach Phil Simmons for the team’s rapid improvement.
Afghan’s side wound up a significant Asia Cup campaign with a stunning tie with India on Tuesday, having taken matches with Bangladesh and Pakistan to the final over before losing narrowly.
So while their record in the Super Four stage of the tournament reads two defeats and a tie, it has been a meaningful and positive experience for this growing and ever captivating side.
Afghan paid tribute to the influence of Simmons, who took over as coach at the beginning of the year and has overseen the team’s inaugural Test match as well as their dramatic qualification for the 2019’s World Cup.
“The important thing he [Simmons] has done is he has understood what the team’s level is.
“Previously we didn’t understand the level we were at. 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.”
Simmons, who hailed the tournament a success, explained that improvement has come from a change in mindset.
“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.
“I’d say we’ve now got the experience, the boys know what to do going ahead. It has been a brilliant tournament for us.”