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Simmons promises to expose truth behind Afghanistan's World Cup mess

Afghanistan coach says he will reveal the dubious part former chief selector Dawlat Ahmadzai had played in the selection of the squad

Nagraj Gollapudi
Phil Simmons will end his association with Afghanistan after the World Cup

Phil Simmons will end his association with Afghanistan after the World Cup  •  Getty Images

Five matches played, five matches lost. Afghanistan are currently bottom of the World Cup table, and just four matches left to play, the wounds inflicted by England's brutal 150-run win only making things worse. Beyond the playing field, too, things are bad, with what seems like a big fallout between the head coach, Phil Simmons, and former fast bowler Dawlat Ahmadzai, who had been demoted from chairman of selectors to the junior selection panel midway through the World Cup.
Normally a man of few words, Simmons posted a message on Twitter on Wednesday reacting to statements from Ahmadzai, who blamed selection policy and team strategies for the poor run in the World Cup. Although he did not provide much detail, Simmons said that once the World Cup was over, he would reveal the "part" Ahmadzai had played in the selection of the squad for the tournament, including the controversial removal of Ashgar Afghan as captain and Gulbadin Naib's elevation to the post.
Before the World Cup, Simmons had told ESPNcricinfo that he was never informed about the captaincy change by the Afghanistan Cricket Board. On Wednesday, he tweeted: "I am in the middle of a World Cup and trying to get our team to perform to the level we expect but at the end of the World Cup I will tell the Afghanistan people about the part that Mr Dawlat Ahmadzai had to play in our preparation and his part in the dismissal of #AsgharAfghan."
This was in response to Ahmadzai's statement to the media on June 11, where he said the Afghanistan team management's selection policy in the recent past has been questionable. He added that Afghanistan would not win a global tournament if they carried on with such a policy.
"Our preparation was not good," Ahmadzai said. "We always went with one fast bowler, all burden was on the shoulders of Rashid [Khan]. But now, Rashid has no such conditions [in the UK]. If we bowl well we can win a game, but if you think we are able to win a tournament, let me assure you we are not in a position now or in coming five years to win the Asia Cup or the World Cup."
Ahmadzai also hinted that, in his opinion, senior players like Afghan and Mohammad Nabi must move on for the betterment of Afghanistan cricket.
"We need to work for it from now on. We are going through a transition period," he said. "We need to change one generation. They played for 18 years, they have done well we should thank them, it's time some of our players should retire, as age catches up with them, even if our fans are demanding and asking of them to play, cricket needs fitness.
"So we need to bring changes. Whoever is coming to replace me as a selector should think from now that in two years' time, Nabi, Hamid Hasan, Asghar, Shapoor [Zadran], Dawlat Zadran can play [at the highest level]. If they cannot do so, who should replace them? We know this and think about this. Whatever changes I brought is not personal, all these players are my personal friends of the past 17 years. We need a constructive culture. I mean, if we have one team and there is no youth, we cannot survive. Whatever right is happening, it may not sound good on media but you will see good results in time."
Afghan, one of the most senior players in the set-up, was the captain last year when Afghanistan won the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe. However, in April, the ACB announced Naib as the ODI captain along with Rashid Khan as T20I captain and Rahmat Shah as Test captain. Rashid and Nabi, the two most popular players in the team, publicly criticised the move, warning that it had the potential to disrupt the team's performance at the World Cup.
Indeed, Afghanistan have had a turbulent tournament in England so far. Bowling was meant to be the team's main strength, but all the senior players have struggled, including Rashid, who suffered the ignominy of ending with the second-worst bowling figures - and worst by a spinner - in ODIs during the defeat to England. Nabi might have better bowling figures, but has just managed 37 runs so far with the bat. None of the specialist batsmen have prospered with any consistency, with Afghanistan players registering just three half-centuries.
Afghanistan have also had to deal with the controversy surrounding Mohammad Shahzad, who was sent home by the ACB for being unfit, only for Shahzad to hit back saying that was not true.
Then, the ACB removed Ahmadzai from the senior selection committee and named him as head of the junior selection panel. In his place, Andy Moles, who was Afghanistan's coach at the 2015 World Cup, was appointed to the senior selection panel along with Mujahid Zadran, who has worked as a coach with Afghanistan A.
Incidentally, Simmons had told ESPNcricinfo he would be stepping down after the World Cup to pursue other opportunities. Azizullah Fazli, the ACB chairman, told BBC Pashto on June 4 that Simmons' resignation had been accepted by the board, which wanted the head coach to be open to travel and live in Afghanistan.
"Our head coach (Simmons) officially emailed me saying that on July 15 his contract is expiring," Fazli said. "We replied thanking him for his work with us, but we are not extending the contract. Our reason is that we need a coach who can train our team inside Afghanistan."
Before he joined Afghanistan, Simmons is understood to have put a condition in his contract that he would not be forced to travel to Afghanistan where international cricket has never been played due to the security situation in the country.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo