Inzamam attributes Afghanistan victory to self-belief

Inzamam-ul-Haq, Afghanistan's coach, deemed his team could have defeated England and Sri Lanka, and believed if it could come close, it could get over the line as well. Afghanistan defeated West Indies by six runs in Nagpur on Sunday.

The team has self-belief, but needs more exposure to top-flight cricket to improve further, Inzamam has said.   -  AP

The moment Denesh Ramdin was stumped by Mohammad Shahzad, off leggie Rashid Khan, the wicketkeeper and the bowler folded their hands close to the body and back and started miming the Champion, a trademark Dwayne Bravo gig. For an Associate member unit to take the mighty – only in the shortest format – West Indies on in that manner was as much a sign of how fickle Twenty20 cricket can be as it was of a confident Afghanistan bunch.

As wickets continued to tumble at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium on Sunday, the Afghanistan players got braver and even impersonated more Calypso celebrations, something that is unanimous with the West Indies team. One could sense the West Indies were increasingly getting flustered with the Afghan celebrations but things never went out of hand. Especially when Chris Gayle, rested for the match, posed for a selfie along with the victorious Afghanistan bunch soon after Afghanistan’s memorable victory was completed.

Even though it was the qualifier and the only associate member team to have made it to the Super 10, none of the regulars had taken Afghanistan lightly. Had Afghanistan been able to convert defining moments in its favour, it could well have repeated Kenya’s feat in the 2003 World Cup.

Nevertheless, the fact that Afghanistan defeated the group leaders West Indies and ran England, the other team to have qualified for the semis, close would mean they would return to the war-torn country with heads firmly held high.

Big win

It didn’t come as a surprise that coach Inzamam-ul-Haq stressed on the need to get more exposure at the highest level. “Yes, there is no doubt it’s a big win for us. Whether it’s the ODI or T20 World Cup, we hadn’t won a match [against a top team] so this is definitely big. It’s also a sign that this team can do even better if they get opportunities,” said Inzamam.

“All our previous matches have been close. There haven’t been one-sided matches, it’s not like a team makes 200 against us and we are all out for 100 or 150. The team has been fighting, and the belief was always there. But right now Afghanistan [hasn’t] had that exposure of playing against big teams. The finishing point has not been seen yet. But now that we have won this, it will definitely help.

“And we had a strong belief that if we can come so close, we can win too. Today it has happened. We could have won against England too, there was a close game against Sri Lanka too. So we knew we had the potential to win, but you still need that win. The more we play against big teams, the more we’ll learn, and can perform even better.”

Inzamam was incredibly pleased with the maturity shown by the Afghanistan players in defending the total of 123 against a batting line-up that runs as deep as No. 9. In fact, he was pleased with the overall performance of Afghanistan players all through the tournament.

“We couldn’t play as well as we wanted to, we are not in the semifinals, but we didn’t play like absolute newcomers. We tried our utmost to give a tough time to the big teams, to not have one-sided matches and we’re thankful that we have accomplished that. I think it’s terrific for Afghanistan.”