DUBAI: Phil Simmons, the Afghanistan coach, has urged his batsmen to rise to the standards of the team’s world-class bowlers.
Afghanistan have three players in the top 25 of the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Rankings for Bowlers, but none in the corresponding list for batsmen. Spinners such as Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi are also in demand in Twenty20 leagues around the world, but the batsmen haven’t quite broken through.
Simmons wants to see that change.
“Bowlers are our strength and now we’ve been working very hard in trying to get the batsmen to understand that they have to [rise to] meet the bowlers, the bowlers are not going to come down,” he said in an interview to Cricbuzz.
“The batting has to get up there to where the bowlers are.
“We want to have a batsman in the IPL (Indian Premier League) for instance rather than three or two bowlers and an all-rounder, although Rashid will tell me he’s an all-rounder!”
More players in leagues around the world will not only be a validation of the Afghans’ talent, but will also help them bridge the gap to higher-ranked sides, Simmons said.
“For me, Rashid’s biggest thing is the difference in his fitness and mental approach since he went to CPL (Caribbean Premier League). He looks like a total athlete now, fitness wise. And his mental approach has always been strong, but now it is about sitting and assessing what I have to do and where I have to go,” pointed out Simmons.
“Mujeeb himself has come back from that county stint and … you can see he’s different in the way he’s thinking about his bowling and impact in all aspects of his game, even his batting.”
Afghanistan continue to impress in limited-overs internationals, knocking Sri Lanka out of the Asia Cup on Monday, 17 September. While Simmons is cautious about the gap that still exists between the newest Test nation and more established teams, he is confident that they can hold their own against most sides.
“If we can play at our best – not every player will be at his best every day – but once we can find three or four or five players each day at their best on a day, we know we can be competitive against each team and if they are not at their best, we can win the game.”