By Hugh Lawson
SOUTHAMPTON, England (Reuters) – Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib said he was disappointed but not too downhearted after his team, the minnows of the World Cup, lost narrowly to cricket giants India in the final over of their group stage match on Saturday.
“We are sad because we have a chance to beat this kind of team. In the World Cup, it’s a big achievement for any team. But the big teams, they don’t give you a single chance. Today we missed an opportunity to win, to beat India, one of the best sides,” Naib told reporters.
Despite having now recorded six straight losses and sitting bottom of the table, the tournament’s rank outsiders have been growing in confidence and holding their own, particularly with their batting.
One key player on Saturday was all-rounder Mohammad Nabi, who took two wickets and was his side’s highest scorer with 52 runs before falling in the last over of the day as India’s Mohammed Shami claimed a hat-trick to win the match.
“Today Nabi showed the skills, how he’s one of the best players of Afghanistan and also in the world,” Naib said.
“Actually, we planned that we’re going to take the match at the end to the (last) five overs. So Nabi played really well according to the plan,” he said.
“When we played (our) first four games, we lost really badly, and then we played against England and now India – strong sides and also they are the favourites of the tournament. So I think we’re now getting better and better day by day,” Naib said.
Naib said his only regret was that despite restricting India to a low total, his batsmen weren’t able to rack up quite enough runs to claim what would have been the biggest upset of the tournament by far.
“When we chase this kind of total like 220, 250, (our) one or two of our middle order should go to 50 or 80. Thirty, 20 runs is not enough,” he said.
“The score is chaseable, but I think we didn’t take our responsibilities, especially on the batting side.”
Nevertheless, he said his team were learning a lot from taking on the best teams in the world.
“We’re taking a lot of positives from here, so when you’re playing this kind of team, you learn a lot of things. We learn it with our mistakes,” he said.
He also admitted to being a little star-struck by the opposition.
“It’s my favourite team, and I support India when I’m watching. My favourite is also (India’s captain) Virat Kohli, and I played against him,” he said, smiling.
(Reporting by Hugh Lawson; editing by Tony Lawrence)