Afghanistan were the toast of Colombo on Wednesday night after running India close at the R Premadasa Stadium. Fearless and driven by ambition, Afghanistan fell 23 short of India’s 159 for 5, largely because of inexperience, according to their coach.
“There was a chance of making it,” said Kabir Khan, the former Pakistan fast bowler. “We made a few mistakes on the field, the boys dropped a few catches. That could have reduced India’s total by at least 15-20 runs. And while batting, at some stages we were well in the game but then we lost a couple of wickets in a very short time. Overall, I would say our team played much better compared to the last World T20 game against India (in 2010, which India won by seven wickets). I think we have impressed them. Our performance was impressive but we could have done better.”
Kabir, however, refused to blame the dropped catches for the loss. Afghanistan put down Suresh Raina on 2 and 19 and he went on to make 38, while Virat Kohli kicked on from being let off at 33 to post 50. “I don’t think the dropped catches were decisive because the Indian batting line-up has quite a bit of depth,” said Kabir. “If we had taken those catches, it would have meant one quality batsman following another quality batsman. They would have scored at least 140 in any case. Sometimes in cricket, you take one wicket, you follow it up with some more wickets. But the way we started, I thought even 160 was chaseable. If we had batted a little sensibly, we could have achieved it.”
Kabir also said that the pressure of the occasion had got to his boys. “That’s a factor because those boys are not exposed to international cricket,” said Kabir. “Just the sheer pressure of playing the side we were playing, the crowd, the cameras… it all came together. I have to point out that those who dropped catches are very good fielders. I think the pressure factor came into it. India as a big team knows how to handle pressure. Then again, we also play less international cricket, and less against the top teams. We played India only twice in two years but if we had played them five or six times, the result could have been different.”