'I would have loved to play Dale Steyn because he is not dangerous'
'We know we can beat teams and, Inshallah, we can beat any team'
'We love to play cricket and we want to learn from everywhere'
Afghanistan's players hope their international schedule will allow them to take part in the IPL, discovers Harish Kotian/Rediff.com
South Africa may have emerged winners, but it was Afghanistan who won hearts, courtesy their brave performance with the bat in the ICC World T20 match, in Mumbai, on Sunday.
Opener Mohammad Shahzad announced himself on the big stage in grand style following his blistering innings of 44 from 19 balls against South Africa’s quality pace attack, featuring the likes of Kyle Abbott, Chris Morris and David Wiese -- all of whom have played a lot of international matches in various formats and also have the experience of playing in Indian conditions in the Indian Premier League.
Shahzad set the stage alight, hammering five sixes and three fours in his 19-ball cameo, as a huge contingent of Afghanistan fans had one of their most memorable days in cricket.
Shahzad smashed Abbott for three sixes in the second over of the innings, while also punishing Kagiso Rabada with the new ball before he was dismissed by Morris.
Interestingly, Shahzad claimed after the match that he would have liked to face the world’s fastest bowler, Dale Steyn, who was surprisingly dropped by South Africa for the match.
The 28-year-old Afghanistan opener also went on to claim that he does not find Steyn ‘dangerous’ as a bowler and would have also taken him to the cleaners.
“It doesn’t matter what bowler is playing because the wicket is very good for batting. I would have loved to play Dale Steyn because he is not dangerous. Morris is very dangerous because he has height and swings the ball. Dale Steyn (has) only pace. This wicket is good for pacers (to face pacers), the ball comes good onto the bat. I’m not happy that Steyn didn’t play,” he said.
After his whirlwind innings at the Wankhede, questions about Afghanistan taking part in the Indian Premier League in future were inevitable.
Shahzad claimed that they would be delighted to play in the IPL.
“We just play good cricket. Anyone picks us then if we are free for non-Afghanistan series; we will go everywhere to play cricket. We love to play cricket and we want to learn from everywhere,” he said.
The right-hander also expressed the desire to play in English county cricket to hone his skills as Afghanistan does not play regular cricket round the year.
“We want to play good cricket. If we play against England or counties it will be good for development because they are good quality cricket. It will be good for us to get (opportunities to play) there,” he claimed.
Afghanistan qualified for the main round of the tournament after finishing top in the Qualifiers following victories over Zimbabwe, Scotland and Hong Kong.
In their first match in the main round of the World T20, they made Sri Lanka work hard for a six-wicket victory at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
Shahzad said Afghanistan can take heart from the showing against South Africa as they lost by 37 runs after being set a huge 210 for victory.
“It’s a good wicket for batting and unfortunately we threw our wickets away too much in the first seven overs. That is why we lost. We will try to play good cricket against England and West Indies. We know we can beat teams and, Inshallah, we can beat any team,” he stated.
Shahzad also pointed out that his team needs to work on their fielding and look to build partnerships while batting.
“We need to improve our fielding and make partnerships and stay at the wicket. That is the difference between us and the old teams. We will try to improve our fielding and batting partnerships,” he said.
He claimed that cricket does make a big impact back home in Afghanistan.
“This is good for us when we win. When we win against any big team the people back home are very happy. We will try hard to give them happiness.”