Lance Klusener frustrated, but hopes Afghan cricket side can get back on the field soon
Share this article:
JOHANNESBURG – Afghanistan’s national cricket coach Lance Klusener is still playing it cool, but admits to feeling frustrated about the impact the political upheaval in that country has had on the team’s preparations ahead of the T20 World Cup.
It is a sentiment, Klusener said on Thursday, that is shared by the players. The Afghanistan team had been in camp preparing for a One-Day series against Pakistan, which was due to be hosted in Sri Lanka, but has subsequently been postponed because there are no flights out of Kabul, following the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan.
Klusener got back to South Africa last week. “I left a few days before ‘everyone’ arrived in Kabul,” Klusener said. At no point did he feel in any danger. “No, no, not at all. I’ve been there numerous times. They’re such lovely, lovely people. Everyone in Afghanistan simply wants peace.”
Klusener had been overseeing a training camp in the Afghan capital before all the chaos ensued. He and the players – none of whom he claimed expressed feeling in any danger when they were together last week – were looking forward to the series with Pakistan.
“It’s a massive rivalry, a bit like India and Pakistan have, and we felt like we were capable of causing an upset there. The boys were looking forward to it. There’s been a few changes with the captain and we were going with a few youngsters...we’ll just have to see what happens moving forward.”
Klusener said he was still awaiting information from the Afghanistan Cricket Board on what the short term future holds for the national team, particularly in the build up to the T20 World Cup that starts in the last week in October.
“We could look at having a good long camp in the UAE for a few weeks before the tournament,” he said. “But we’ll have to wait on the Board and what happens from them. We are missing out on match time which is really frustrating.”
Klusener was appointed the side’s head coach in 2019, a few weeks after serving a brief stint as a consultant for the South African T20 side that toured India that year. “It has been fantastic,” he said about his time working with Afghanistan that included daily commutes from his hotel in a bullet proof car to training and then back to the hotel. “It’s been a great experience for me, working with so many talented players. It’s unfortunate what has happened, and it has created uncertainty, but hopefully once things settle down a little bit, we can get some better direction.”
Afghanistan last played together as a team against Zimbabwe in March and it seems they will go into the World Cup, without playing any matches at all.
Klusener is grateful that some of his star players, including leg-spinner Rashid Khan, have been able to play some of the T20 leagues in the UK and the Caribbean. “About 70 percent of the players have been playing, but the big challenge has been that we’ve not played much as the national team (recently).”
“We’ve got three of the best spinners in the world, Naveen Ul-Haq is the top wicket-taker in the T20 Blast in England...we’ve got the bowlers, but what I’d like is to get us working on the batting front, because if we can score enough runs, we can beat anyone with our attack.”
Klusener has tapped into the naturally competitive nature of his young playing group – who he said were among the most enthusiastic he’s ever coached – to try and make up for the lack of match time. “Every practice quickly turns into a competition for them, so what we’ve done is try and gear practices towards match scenarios. We do play a lot of internal matches, and it is one way in which we have to structure practice to try and make up for lack of match time.”
Afghanistan earned direct entry into the T20 World Cup and is drawn in Group 2 alongside Pakistan, India and New Zealand. The team’s opening match is scheduled for October against one of the side’s from the pre-competition qualifying event that will be played in Oman.