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‘We will have a new T20 World Cup winner in Afghanistan’ | Cricket News

MUMBAI: Afghanistan’s historic run into the T20 World Cup semifinal on Tuesday prompted former coach Lalchand Rajput, who has been watching his former team in action closely, to make a bold prediction.
“My gut feeling says that we’ll have a new T20 World Cup winner this time, and it will be Afghanistan. If the wicket in Trinidad for the first semifinal is slow, I would rate them as favourites to win against South Africa as they have a fabulous spin attack and the Proteas can be vulnerable against quality spin,” Rajput, who was the head coach of Afghanistan from 2017 to 2018, told TOI.

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Rajput, who is currently coaching UAE, has also had stints with India and Zimbabwe.A former India opener who played two Tests and four ODIs, Rajput could see a sharp improvement in Afghanistan’s game in the last couple of years.
“Before this T20 World Cup began, I had predicted that Afghanistan would upset big teams. They narrowly missed out on a few wins in the 50-over World Cup in India last year, failing to close games out. However, this year, they’re playing brilliantly. You can see the intent in their body language. They just want to do well. On the slow, turning wickets of the West Indies, their brilliant bowling is good enough to defend whatever scores their batters put up,” the 62-year-old Mumbaikar, who was coach of the MS Dhoni-led Indian team that was crowned World T20 champs in the inaugural edition in 2007 in South Africa, said.

As a budding cricketing nation, Afghanistan gained Test status back in 2017 when Rajput was in charge, but former England batsman Jonathan Trott has taken the emerging Asian cricketing power to a new level.
“Trott and Dwayne Bravo (the former West Indies allrounder is Afghanistan’s bowling coach for this T20 World Cup) have done a brilliant job. The good thing about Afghanistan’s players is that they are very keen to learn. They’ve improved massively from when I was with them.
“Earlier, their batters would just look to smash the ball anyhow, but they have now learnt the art of building an innings. Earlier, their bowling was heavily dependent on their spinners. Now, while they still have great spinners, they’ve got two very fine fast bowlers in Naveen-ulHaq and Fazalhaq Farooqi,” Rajput analysed.

Afghanistan’s 21-run win over Australia at Kingstown in the earlier ‘Super 8s’ game had left the cricketing world shocked, but Rajput wasn’t surprised.
“I was sure that this was coming because they had almost beaten Australia in Mumbai, before a Glenn Maxwell special and a few dropped catches saw Australia through,” Rajput said.

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