Working on the rigorous requirements of five-day cricket will the biggest challenge for his team over the next six weeks, feels Afghanistan coach Phil Simmons ahead of the country’s inaugural Test in Bengaluru from June 14. After joining Afghanistan in January, Simmons has achieved goal number one by guiding the fast-rising side to its second World Cup qualification. Now as the Asghar Stanikzai-led team gets down to prepare at their ‘base’ in Greater Noida and ‘second home ground’ at Dehradun for the historic match against India, Simmons has a tough ask of ensuring a competitive performance against the top-ranked Test team.
“These boys have played four-day cricket with the associate nations and have done well. But Test matches are going to be a different ball game. The boys will realise this very soon and playing India makes it all the more challenging,” Simmons told PTI. Afghanistan won the four-day ICC Inter-Continental for the second time in December.
“So it is not like they have no idea about the longer format of the game. Test matches are all about patience, both in batting and bowling, and let me tell you it is a big adjustment. And that is what we need work on majorly over the next six weeks,” said Simmons. The one off-Test at the Chinnaswamy Stadium will be Simmons’ first multi-day assignment with Afghanistan and he is looking forward to it.
“The nice thing I think is that we get to play in one of the better grounds, in Bangalore. It is one of the better wickets to bat on in India,” said the former West Indies all-rounder who played 26 Tests and 143 ODIs. Also a former West Indies and Ireland coach, Simmons said he will be banking more on his bowlers to trouble India.
“The bowling is surely stronger than our batting. But let me tell you even for spinners like Rashid Khan, Mujeed Zadran and Zahir Khan, it will be tough to take wickets. The two (Rashid and Mujeeb) are currently playing the IPL, so I am pretty sure they will come back to us as better bowlers.
“Mujeeb has not yet played longer format for Afghanistan but I have been following his IPL campaign. He looks a much improved bowler. Rashid on the other hand is a thorough professional, I know he will keep evolving and keep improving,” reckoned the 55-year-old from Trinidad. On the batting front, he has high hopes from skipper Stanikzai, Mohammad Shazad, Mohammad Nadi and Rahmat Shah who all have scored First-Class hundreds.
“We have to learn to bat for long periods. As you mentioned, it will be all about patience. Just getting used to pressure of a Test match,” said Simmons who sees Afghanistan become a solid Test team over the next few years.