“I’m aware that just about everybody has picked Afghanistan as the team in the Asia Cup, but the fact is that the boys have already left for home and the final is on Friday,” coach Phil Simmons told The Telegraph at the InterContinental on Wednesday.
Simmons didn’t travel with the Asghar Afghans to Kabul, but was preparing to leave for the UK, where he stays.
Afghanistan bowed out after losing the first two Super Four matches, both of them (against Pakistan, Bangladesh) in the very last over. Afghanistan did force India to a pulsating tie on Tuesday, but that match was of no consequence at all.
“Every tournament or series is a learning process and the Afghanistan boys can only go one way — which is up. Hopefully, the biggest lesson from the Asia Cup, the need to win last-over matches, will be quickly learned,” Simmons pointed out.
According to Simmons, that Afghanistan consistently scored around 250 could be counted as the biggest plus for a nation which has beaten tremendous odds to qualify for the 2019 World Cup and to be accorded Test status.
Simmons refrains from talking about his contribution, but Asghar paid him a handsome compliment: 'The coach has changed our thinking, made us think like a top team, altered our mindset totally.'
At the highest level, after all, skill alone doesn't work, one has to be right up there mentally too. Simmons knows that well enough.
Looking ahead to the final, Simmons said: “India are there, but the other finalist won’t be known till much later in the day. Whether it’s Pakistan or Bangladesh, India will still win for they have the best players.”
As it turned out, Bangladesh earned the right to take on India after defeating an insipid Pakistan in the adjoining Emirate of Abu Dhabi, which is the UAE capital.