Lalchand Rajput elated with Afghanistan’s Test status

“This is one moment we have all been waiting for," says the Afghanistan head coach.

Lalchand Rajput (second from left) has been associated with Afghanistan’s cricket for the last one year.   -  R. V. Moorthy

The social media went abuzz minutes after the news came in. With the cricketers, administrators and the commoners putting up the national flag on their Facebook or Twitter profiles, the excitement was hard to miss. After all, after years of struggle, the good news has finally come in Afghanistan’s way.

With the International Cricket Council granting a full membership to Afghanistan, the dreams of playing Test cricket has also turned into a reality for the Asian minnow. And for that, it has India to thank. Afghanistan not only plays its home games in Greater Noida, but also it has an Indian coach - Lalchand Rajput - who has played an instrumental role in helping it achieve the Test status.

Taking reigns from former Pakistan cricketer Inzamam-ul Haq last year, Mumbai-based Rajput has put up an enviable performance as the chief coach of the side. And on Thursday, Rajput admitted that the real test had just begun. “This is one moment we have all been waiting for. We have worked hard all these years, and now, the hardwork has paid off,” Rajput told Sportstar from Mumbai.

When he took charge last year, Aghanistan had just returned from a rather impressive outing in the World Twenty20, and it was important to keep the momentum going. And in the last few months, the former Mumbai captain has just done that. “Our ultimate aim was to attain a Test status. But to be honest, I never thought it would come this early,” Rajput said, adding that this will inspire youngsters from the war-ravaged country to take up cricket seriously.

'Great moment'

“It would definitely help the people of Afghanistan dream big. This is a great moment for all of us, and now, the target would be to make the presence felt at the Test arena too,” Rajput said.

While its home ground in Greater Noida doesn’t have clearance for Test matches yet, the team is likely to make its Test debut in Dubai. But for Rajput, the immediate plan is to ensure that the cricketers get more chance to play long-form cricket. “Our focus has primarily been on the limited-overs cricket. But now, we have to prepare ourselves accordingly. We will soon come out with new plans to develop long-form cricket,” Rajput, who has worked as the coach of the Indian team in the past, added.

In a year, which has seen two of its cricketers - Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan - making it to the Indian Premier League (IPL), the Test status comes as a fillip. Rajput, however, makes it clear that he will soon sit with the officials of Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) to discuss a roadmap. “The real test begins now. We have some of the best players in the team. Now, we need to give them the confidence to perform well in longer formats of the game as well. That’s the most important job at hand,” Rajput said with a smile.

When it entered the cricket arena years ago, not many thought the war-ravaged Afghanistan would ever have a Test team. But then, some dreams do come true!

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