There is a distinct advantage of having Rashid Khan in the team as Afghanistan coach Phil Simmons feels all the spotlight which the star spinner has garnered has allowed his lesser-known colleagues to prepare peacefully for the historic one-off Test against India.
Asked if all this attention on Rashid has been of help, Simmons agreed.
“I think it has. But the good thing about Rashid is that he is so professional that he knows how to deal with it. That has allowed others to have time to work on their strategies. I think it’s a good thing for the team,” Simmons said on the eve of Afghanistan’s debut Test match.
On the team front, Simmons dropped a hint that keeper-batsman Mohammed Shahzad may purely play as a batsman as they have a designated four-day keeper in Afsar Zazai.
Asked if Shahzad with his level of fitness can keep wickets for 120 overs (considering India’s batting depth) and then open the batting, Simmons said: “He has been fit enough to keep for 50 overs (in ODIs) and then open batting as well. He did well. Fortunately for us, we have Afsar, who has been our four-day keeper.”
“Shahzad has been outstanding on the field. He might not move around well (because of his frame) but he has good hands so he might be there in the slips,” he added.
Simmons made light of skipper Ashgar Stankzai’s “our spinners are better” statement.
“My captain only knows what he is talking about,” Simmons said with Stanikzai by his side.
But on a serious note, he said he is confident that Rashid will leave his imprint on the Test arena also.
“Right now, Rashid is the most difficult bowler to play against. He hasn’t played Test cricket, so we need to look and see what happens but I am sure he will come out as best spinner in the Test match,” the former West Indies opener said.
Simmons has had the experience of coaching minnows like Zimbabwe and Ireland but he does find Afghanistan as the most enriching experience purely in terms of talent in store.
“The best part about Afghanistan is the abundance of talent that comes through (the ranks). Ireland hasn’t produced a lot of talented youngsters compared to Afghanistan. May be not in batting but in bowling department, you will see a fast bowler tomorrow (Yamin Ahmedzai) and understand the kind of talent Afghanistan possess,” he said.