AS CRICKET trainees at Mohit Cricket Ground near Sector 27 gather around 46-year-old Afghanistan batting coach Umesh Patwal, most of the questions are regarding spin bowling and the Afghanistan spin bowling duo of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb ur Rahman. As somebody, who has done three coaching stints with the latest entrant in Test cricket, Patwal has seen the Afghan cricketers from close and believes that the team will learn from the mistakes they made in their maiden Test against India in Bengaluru last week.
“Most of the players in the Afghanistan team have played white ball cricket. If we look at the Indian bowling attack, they have more depth in their bowling compared to batting as most of their bowlers have played more than 50 Tests. Facing bowlers like Ashwin, Ishant and Umesh in home conditions was a challenge and once you crumble under pressure, there is no way back. The key for Afghanistan players will be getting more exposure in this format and playing in different situations. The way the left-handed batsman Hashmatullah batted in the second innings showed that he understood how to build an innings. After the match, Rashid Khan was speaking with K L Rahul about his batting and it shows their eagerness to learn,” shared Patwal, who has come to Panchkula on the invitation of GS Toor, Director, Pitchsports.
The 46-year-old Mumbai-based coach has worked with the Afghanistan team in three stints with his first stint beginning in 2010 during the World Cup qualifiers. Having also played his part in the coaching staff for the Asia Cup in 2014 and ICC World Cup in 2015, Patwal was also the chief coach of champions Band-E-Amir Dragons in last year’s Shpageeza Cricket League. The tournament, which is Afghanistan’s national T-20 league, also saw a blast outside the stadium in Kabul during a match.
“In Afghanistan, cricket is very popular and it shows in tournaments like Shpageeza Cricket League which was played in Kabul last year. There were no practice sessions due to security and once we played a warm-up match at a school compound in Kabul amid high security. More than 500 kids watched us train and some of the kids asked for my autograph too. When the bomb attack happened, some of the foreign coaches returned. But I believe it can happen in any part of the world. Later, we also met President Ashraf Ghani and he assured us of security,” shared Patwal, who also runs his coaching academy, ithinksportz, in Kandivali, Mumbai.
Patwal’s contract with the Afghanistan team is till the Asia Cup in September and the coach believes that with players like Rashid and Mujeeb, the team will see the emergence of more youngsters. “Most of the young players don’t know English. The fact that all the cricketing terms are English made my task easier. A lot of these players like fast bowler Wafadar have come through local tournaments and tape-ball cricket. None of them had been trained in a specific way and that is their strength. Spinners like Rashid, Mujeeb or Chinaman bowler Zaheer Khan played in local tournaments or at home with their elders and they would use variations to get the much older players out,” said Patwal.