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Afghanistan coach Rashid Latif has said he inspired his team for the Asian Games final against Bangladesh by narrating how underdogs India beat the all-conquering West Indies to win the 1983 World Cup. "The Indians were not as fit as their rivals, nor was their skill superior to the West Indies, yet on that day they played better and won," Latif told AFP. "My team here was the fittest and they had good skills too, but I warned the boys not to take Bangladesh lightly."
Having stunned favourites Pakistan in the semi-final yesterday, Afghanistan proved worthy opponents against Bangladesh, taking the final to the last over before losing by five wickets.
Latif, the former Pakistan wicketkeeper, said Afghanistan's ultimate aim was to play Test cricket. "The result proved me right, but I am happy we are on the right path. We will improve further if we play the big teams regularly. The aim is to be a Test nation soon and play against the best. I want to bring youngsters into the game so the sport continues to grow in Afghanistan."
Afghanistan have made rapid strides, rising through the ranks from the lower divisions of the World Cricket League. They played in the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean earlier this year and narrowly missed qualifying for the 2011 World Cup.
Mohammad Nabi, the Afghanistan captain, said passion for the game kept the players going. "The war has been going on for three decades, but we have been playing cricket there for the last 10 years despite the lack of proper facilities or grounds. Cricket has caught on back home. More people are playing the game or following it on radio and TV."
Nabi was disappointed to lose the final, but said the silver medal had buoyed his team for the five-day Intercontinental Cup final against Scotland in Dubai from December 2. "We want to play as much as possible, wherever possible. The aim is to join the big league."
Afghanistan received backing from Bangladesh, who won their country's first ever Asian Games gold medal. "We are celebrating, but I hope Afghanistan will celebrate too because they deserve the silver medal," Imran Sarwar, the Bangladesh coach, said. "They are a very good side and I am sure they will become a top team in the near future. Their rise has been remarkable.
"This was not an easy win at all. We expected them to make around 100 or 110, but they went to 118 and then kept us under pressure till the end."