Afghanistan's red-ball preparations on the money, reckons Phil Simmons



We only had four players that crossover [from T20I squad]. So we still had 12-13 players who were training with red ball, and they’ve been doing the right things: Simmons © AFP

Afghanistan made it a habit to wow the world in the shorter formats – particularly T20I – in the last couple of years, but heading into their first steps in Tests, there’s a bit of intrigue surrounding their preparation for long form cricket. Their Test debut comes at the back of a T20I series triumph over Bangladesh, but head coach Phil Simmons exuded confidence about his team’s ability to seamlessly transition between the two contrasting formats.

“The preparation has been good because we only had four players that crossover. So we still had 12-13 players who were training with red ball, and they’ve been doing the right things. Fortunately for us, three of our fast bowlers were not in the T20 squad so they have been concentrating on what they had to do.

“The two experienced players – [Mohammad] Nabi and Rashid [Khan] – I’m sure they’re going to be able to adjust themselves. But in all the training has been good because it’s been little bit separated except for the four players who played the T20s,” Simmons said.

“You prepare for what you expect. We’ve prepared for [Ravichandran] Ashwin, we’ve prepared for [Ravindra] Jadeja and Kuldeep [Yadav]. So, we’ve had our own Kuldeep. In young Zahir [Khan] we have a bowler of similar ilk and they have been bowling to the batsmen.

“My feeling is that I can’t tell you how to prepare for a particular player. When you practice it against a left-arm spinner you learn how to play him. So we have put that in front of them and I think they have worked hard enough to be put out there, we will see what it brings tomorrow,” he added.

One omission from their preparation though, will be on how to counter Virat Kohli as the Indian captain will sit the game out, as well as miss the planned County stint, owing to a neck injury. Simmons reckoned there’s a bit of disappointment amongst the Afghanistan players for missing the chance of going up against one of the current best cricketers in the world, but also brings a ‘little bit of happiness’.

“I think there will always be a little bit of disappointment in the players in not being on the same cricket field as Virat, especially. But at the same time, we look at it as win the Test match we beat India, we don’t beat Virat. So it’s case where they are disappointed that he’s not playing but at the same time…a little bit of happiness, having to bowl at him all the time is not going to be nice. We’re happy that we’re here and we’re playing India and Virat is not India. That’s how we look at it,” Simmons said.

All the focus in the lead-up to the Bengaluru Test has been on Afghanistan. Their skipper Asghar Stanikzai further turned heads with a claim on an interview with ESPNCricinfo that his spinners are better than the ones that India possess. But, Simmons jumped to the captain’s defence, and boldly predicted that Rashid Khan will tower over every other spin bowler in the one-off game.

“My captain knows what he’s talking about. I think when you look at it, all the spinners in this contest are going to be excellent. And we know right now, Rashid is the most difficult spinner to play around. He hasn’t played Test cricket, so we have to look and see what happens. But we know that his professionalism will help him to adjust and I’m sure he will come out as the best spinner in this contest,” said Simmons, who reflected on the mental side of things and also how the batsmen have been preparing.

“I think, the mental aspect comes from the way you train. That’s the only thing that you can really prepare. How hard you move them, how long they bat, how long they bowl in the nets – that’s the only way you can prepare them mentally. Because when you get over there then you understand what it takes to be over there. As the captain said, they’ve played four-day cricket so they have a fair idea but I think it’s a bit easier said than done. The good thing about it is that they will learn quickly,” Simmons said.

© Cricbuzz


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