ACB chairman: Smooth transition was the idea behind Afghanistan's split captaincy

The Afghanistan Cricket Board chairman offers the reasons for the national team's disappointing performance at the World Cup, the reason behind changing captains before the tournament and more.

Azizullah Fazli, the Afghanistan Cricket Board chairman, was in attendance for the match against Bangladesh in Southampton.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Afghanistan came into the World Cup with a lot of hope. But so far, it has lost all its seven games.

The team also hit headlines recently with coach Phil Simmons and some senior players like Rashid Khan lashing out at the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) on various issues.

However, ACB chairman, Azizullah Fazli, doesn’t want to take the matters too seriously. “There was a bit of miscommunication,” he told Sportstar on Monday, while watching his team’s fixture against Bangladesh in Southampton.

The board chief also made it clear that they will look for a new coach after Simmons’ contract expires on July 15.

What are your thoughts on the team’s poor show in World Cup?

This is the first time, we are featuring in a World Cup as a full member nation. So, some of our boys are inexperienced and have not been able to adapt to the English conditions. Through the year, we play in either India, UAE, so the conditions here are different. And our boys found it a bit difficult to get accustomed to it. There is no dearth of talent in Afghanistan. Give these boys a bit of time and they will do well. This tournament has been a learning curve for the players and I am confident they will do better in the next World Cup in 2023.

During the tournament, your chief coach, Phil Simmons, tweeted against chief selector, Dawlat Ahmadzai. Even some of the cricketers cried foul. Why did that happen?

There is nothing as such. Look, our coach Phil Simmons doesn’t understand Pashto, so there was a bit of mis-communication. Our chief national selector, Dawlat Ahmadzai, had said something else, and a different version was communicated to Simmons via social media. But later, he deleted those comments and realised that it was a communication barrier that led to the whole issue. Simmons doesn’t have any idea about culture and tradition and I don’t understand why did he have to comment on board matters? A coach should just focus on his job.

Read: How cricket replaced guns with roses in Afghanistan

Does that mean, ACB will hunt for a new coach after the World Cup?

Simmons’ contract gets over on July 15 and after that, we will look for someone, who will be ready to travel to Kabul and co-ordinate with our other coaches. We have different age-group camps going on in Kabul, so it is important that the head coach frequently visit our headquarters in Kabul and come up with a road map. We need to have regular camps, so that we get a proper talent pool.

There were controversies surrounding the removal of Asghar Afghan as the captain just before the World Cup…

We have decided to promote young players and for that, we have three different captains in three different formats. The idea was to ensure a smooth transition after the seniors hang up their boots. So we thought that Asghar -- who has been the captain for the last four years -- would be able to help the team more if the pressure is reduced. He can play freely and help the youngsters tackle the situation. That was the whole idea. May be, we could have waited till the World Cup to get over, but we thought why not start now? I am sure the players are benefiting from Asghar’s advise.

Even senior players like Rashid Khan spoke against the decision…

The problem is, success has come a bit to early for them. They have reached the pinnacle of success, but they still don’t know how to handle the media. There are times when some of the players engage in loose talks, without even knowing the context of a particular issue. We have a proper guideline for the players and I have asked them to abide by the rule. There’s no point in speaking about something you are not sure about.

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Azizullah Fazli cites Afghanistan's inexperience as one of the reasons for its poor performance at the World Cup.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

What’s the way forward for Afghanistan cricket?

After the World Cup, we have 104 international games, as per the ICC Future Tours and Programmes (FTP). Of that, we will have equal amount of home and away series. It is going to be an exciting journey for the team as the boys will get a chance to play in different conditions and that will help us. There is a huge difference between the Asian and European conditions, and these tournaments will help us immensely.

Your thoughts on the help from BCCI…

The BCCI has always helped us and we are immensely thankful to them. Our officials met the BCCI bosses in Mumbai last month and it has been discussed that we will shift to Lucknow as our new home base. Last year, Dehradun was allotted as our home base, but due to logistical issues, we found it difficult to host matches there. Shifting to Lucknow will help us.

There were talks that Afghanistan Premier League could be held in India this time. Is that true?

The league enjoyed tremendous success last year and this time, we will unveil the tournament on July 7. We had requested the BCCI to host the APL in India, but that doesn’t look possible. So, it will mostly happen in the UAE. We are hoping to get some top cricketers. Though the current Indian cricketers cannot participate in the tournament, we will have to take a call on whether retired Indian cricketers can play the league.