Venkatesh Prasad Image Credit: Twitter account

Sharjah: Former Indian pacer Venkatesh Prasad has predicted a bright future for Afghanistan cricket after signing off from the inaugural Afghanistan Premier League (APL) late on Friday.

Prasad’s team, the Nangarhar Leopards, were mauled by 171 runs by the Chris Gayle-inspired Balkh Legends in the first of two semi-finals of the five-team competition. Prasad, who has in the past been a bowling coach with Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League (IPL), watched in dismay as his Leopards were torn apart by a couple of half-centuries from Gayle (54) and Darwish Rasooli (78), while Mohammad Nabi’s 47 and Colin Munro’s 33 saw the Legends power to 235 for 5 in their allotted 20 overs. In turn, the Leopards succumbed to 64 all out in 13.1 overs to fall short by a huge margin.

“What I knew from past experiences is that there is fantastic talent all across Afghanistan. Most of the fast bowlers who have played here have been bowling some very, very good Yorkers and this is something that I’ve not seen from them in the past,” Prasad told media late on Friday.

“If this development continues or these players continue playing in this format alongside the other big players like Gayle and Shahid Afridi and [Brendon] McCullum, then they are going to take their game to the next level,” he said.

With three wins from eight matches, the Leopards had managed to book the fourth and final semi-final ahead of the Kandahar Knights.

“Coaching has always been a challenge for me. This was a great opportunity for me as well as I got to know a lot of people and see some fantastic talent around me,” the 49-year-old from Karnataka felt.

“We have seen what Afghanistan is capable of during the recent Asia Cup. They beat Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and they nearly came close to beating Pakistan and India as well. This shows the talent they have and their hunger to perform at the highest level. They are willing to take their game to the next level and a platform like this [APL] will help them immensely. Another three to five years and they will start beating the big teams,” he added.

Prasad, who has played 33 Tests and 196 ODIs for India, tried to explain the Leopards’ batting collapse against the Legends late on Friday. “One of the unexpected things was we gave away too many runs and that cost us the match. We had a strategy, but we didn’t bowl as per the plan. We tried our best, but we failed.

“As per the draft we had included players like Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mohammad Hafeez and Andre Russell. And when they didn’t come, we were caught on the backfoot from the start,” he concluded.