Abu Dhabi: Afghanistan, the top ranked team and the top favourites to win the eight-nation inaugural Desert T20 tournament being organised by Emirates Cricket Board, will aim to improve their ranking among T20 internationals teams through this tournament that commenced yesterday (Saturday) at the Abu Dhabi Zayed Cricket Stadium.
Speaking to Gulf News, former Indian Test star Lalchand Rajput, the coach of the Afghanistan team, said: “We want to do well in this tournament. It is a great exposure for the team and we hope to improve our ranking further through this tournament. The more such tournaments we play, the more we will improve.”
Afghanistan is ranked ninth among Twenty20 international teams above even Test playing nations like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. “Our players are well versed in T20 cricket as most of our players have played lots of T20 matches. In fact, most of them are T20 specialists but as everyone knows T20 is such a format that everything depends on how well the team plays on that day and hopefully we should play well in all matches.”
Afghanistan is in pool A alongside hosts the UAE, Ireland, and Namibia.
When asked who among the opponents would be tough to beat, Rajput said: “It is a strong pool and all the teams in this tournament are competitive. We will take one game at a time to progress.”
To a query how different has this team been from the other teams he had coached, Rajput said: “It’s a challenge coaching the Afghanistan team. The biggest advantage I have is their willingness to improve. They are all extremely hard working and they want to win the matches. I believe that a team with players who have a mindset to do well will keep winning.”
Afghanistan had recently recorded a clean sweep over UAE in a series held here last month. “The fact that we did well here recently is a big impetus. The players are familiar with the conditions too and hence will go into this tournament with confidence.”
Afghanistan is being led by Asghar Stanikzai. “Asghar is a very responsible captain. He has been able to get the best out of the team. We have a good bunch of players with newly inducted Rashid Khan and many experienced players like Mohammad Shahzad and Najibullah Zadran who will be the players to watch out for to do well,” said Rajput.
All the eight teams geared up for the event training at the ICC Academy (Dubai Sports City) and The Sevens Stadium’s Maurice Flanagan Cricket Ground in Dubai. These teams also competed against local sides of Bukhatir XI, UBL XI and a UAE Development XI in a series of warm-up games since the teams arrived here.
Host UAE will play their first match on Sunday at 7pm against Namibia