Former Proteas batsman HD Ackerman says he is thrilled to be part of the Afghanistan coaching setup and believes the team will only improve in the years to come.
Ackerman was appointed as the team’s new batting coach in January, teaming up with former South African teammate Lance Klusener, who has been the head coach of the team since after last year’s World Cup in England.
Speaking in an interview with ESPNcricinfo, the 47-year-old Ackerman emphasised his desire and hunger to help evolve the talent of the Afghanistan players and make them a threat to be reckoned with across all three formats.
‘The talent they have is unbelievable,’ he said. I have never seen teams hitting the ball out of the ground as efficiently as the Afghans. They don’t just want to compete against the big nations but want to beat them. They don’t want to flounder at the wrong end of the rankings table. I quickly realised that.
‘This year the focus is on T20s, with the Asia Cup and World T20 scheduled later. It’s easy to say we should focus more on long-form batting, but there are other problems there, since Afghanistan play more T20 than ODIs and more ODIs than Tests. The more they play these other versions, the better they will become, and focus will transition there.’
Afghanistan was awarded full ICC membership in 2017 and played their first ever Test match in June 2018 against India.
But, it is in T20 cricket where they have proved to be particularly dangerous, moving to an all-time high 7th on the ICC world rankings in May last year and as stated by Ackerman, they have placed great focus on this year’s World Cup in Australia, which will be their second stint at the event.
‘They will surprise many people in the near future; it’s just a matter of how quickly they can embrace it. In the short period we’ve worked, the team already understands that,’ added Ackerman.
Speaking about the influence Klusener has had on the team, he feels ‘Zulu’ will push the team has hard and far as possible to make them as consistent as possible.
Klusener was involved with the Proteas setup prior to his departure to Afghanistan in September last year.
‘You’ll probably find that Lance the coach is very different to Lance the player. So, no, I wasn’t surprised to see him become a top coach. Because he’s a very competitive man, he wants to be with a team that wins, and that’s why he loves being with Afghanistan.
‘We know Afghanistan is a cricket-mad nation, and despite the problems of the past, we thought it was right to be there and show the team that we want to be there,’ Ackerman said.
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