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‘I was doing everything apart from driving the bus’

November 17th, 2023

Jonathan Trott had to take on unprecedented roles as head coach during Afghanistan’s World Cup campaign (Getty)

This has hardly been a World Cup for the romantics.

The presence of India and Australia – two of the three countries who effectively run the global game – in Sunday’s final, does little to warm the heart.

Which is why Afghanistan’s heroics in the never-ending group phase of the tournament have left an indelible mark.

The country’s performances have also helped to elevate the reputation of Jonathan Trott, the former England batter who as head coach piloted the minnows’ journey from also-rans to the brink of the semi-finals.

South African-born Trott is now back in Birmingham after five months of an unrelenting schedule that has both tested Afghanistan and illustrated how far the country has come against almost impossible odds.

And as England pick over the carcass of a World Cup campaign that could hardly have gone worse, Trott is still, improbably, ruing what might have been.

Trott had to be more heavily involved than other coaches (Getty)Trott had to be more heavily involved than other coaches (Getty)

Trott had to be more heavily involved than other coaches (Getty)

“I think we left a few games out there,” he says. “Certainly, that Australia game will sting for a little while. Who knows what we could have achieved if we had won that and put a little bit more pressure on New Zealand who played a couple of days later.

“We dropped [Glenn] Maxwell and had a review that looked as though it was hitting stumps but wasn’t. That freed him up to be as destructive as he was.

“We need to learn from what happened. We have found ways to let games go in the past and that’s something we want to improve on.”

Maxwell’s double hundred in the searing heat and humidity of Mumbai ultimately cost Afghanistan a place in the last four. But wins over England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Netherlands had already made Trott’s side the darlings of this tournament.

Unable to play an international match on home soil, and with the kind of resources that the ECB suits wouldn’t even get out of bed for, Afghanistan’s World Cup adventure is just the latest chapter in an extraordinary tale.

Afghanistan took the world by surprise at the tournament in India (Getty)Afghanistan took the world by surprise at the tournament in India (Getty)

Afghanistan took the world by surprise at the tournament in India (Getty)

And as he waits to see if he’ll remain with them after his current contract expires in December, it’s one that Trott has played an increasingly important role in.

“The signs were there [before the World Cup] but delivering on the biggest stage, particularly against Pakistan, was huge,” he says. “We’ve got the T20 World Cup coming up soon – with the ICC there appears to be a World Cup every six months – but the main thing is really all about creating a team.

“In the past, a lot of guys had used Afghanistan as a vehicle to greener pastures – and playing as much franchise cricket as possible. I’ve said to them that it’s about the team first. There’s no franchise thinking when it comes to Afghanistan. That has always been my message.

“In financial terms, there’s no comparison between Afghanistan and England. But it’s not just about the money, it’s also the facilities. If you saw the facilities, if you saw the grounds, if you saw the kits. If you look at what the kids have grown up with, the schooling… I’m being polite in saying there are some interesting stories. It’s really hard to put into words what a lot of these players have been through.

“I’ve got so much respect for these guys and the passion they have for the game. You can tell what cricket means to the country, particularly after that Pakistan game, particularly at a time of national crisis after the earthquake. Those players wanted to demonstrate just how in touch they were with everything going on in their home country.”

The October earthquake claimed the lives of almost 1,500 people – just the latest catastrophe to hit a nation which is no stranger to a humanitarian crisis. Cricket, though, remains a unifying force and a source of enormous pride. Something Trott has witnessed first hand.

Rashid Khan has been one of the breakout stars for Afghanistan cricket over the last decade (Getty)Rashid Khan has been one of the breakout stars for Afghanistan cricket over the last decade (Getty)

Rashid Khan has been one of the breakout stars for Afghanistan cricket over the last decade (Getty)

“It has really been a case of two completely different cultures coming together and amalgamating somewhere in the middle,” says Trott. “I had seen cricket from one side of the aisle and slowly I’ve dragged them to some sort of middle ground – and they’ve dragged me their way a little bit too, if I’m honest.

“It has been a real adventure. It’s a really tricky combination because these players don’t play any home series. Even training camps have to take place overseas. Their resilience is incredible. For me, it has been an incredible experience.

“I’m doing a lot of stuff that other coaches around the world don’t have to worry about. I’m running the show and doing everything, bar driving the bus. But I’ve absolutely loved it.”

Whether the World Cup signals the end of this particular sporting love affair remains to be seen. But as two giants of the game prepare to meet in a World Cup final that could have been predicted long before this tournament began, Afghanistan have shown that money isn’t everything. And provided Trott with some priceless memories.

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo Canada Sports – Sports News, Scores, Rumours, Fantasy Games, and more »
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