When Afghanistan had defeated the West Indies in the finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifiers in 2018, there was palpable excitement in the cricket world. This young, new team had not just made its entry into the ICC World Cup 2019 but had also defeated two-time World Cup champions West Indies comprehensively in the final of an ICC event.
Having made their international debut only in 2009, Afghanistan has taken rapid strides in a brief time and taken down some big teams with their raw talent and ability to surprise the opponents with their fight.Embed from Getty Images
Thus, before the World Cup 2019 in England began, there were plenty of hopes from Afghanistan. This is, after all, just a ten-team World Cup, and Afghanistan had earned their place in the tournament rightfully. What’s more is that they were in good form before the competition as well, leveling back-to-back ODI series against Ireland and then defeating Scotland on their home turf.
Afghanistan was in charge and raring to go. It was expected that Afghanistan would carry on their form to the ICC World Cup 2019 in England as well.
That hasn’t been the case thus far, unfortunately.
Afghanistan has lost all three matches they have played in the tournament so far – against Australia, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand. And while they have shown traces of their talent here and there, their overall performance has been sub-par and disappointing.Embed from Getty Images
Captain Gulbadin Naib will need to bring out the best from his players in the remaining six games if Afghanistan hopes to leave an imprint in this World Cup.
For starters, their batting would need to be a lot more mature and responsible. They have been all at sea against good swing bowling and have played plenty of irresponsible and rash strokes at critical times. Their highest scorer so far is lower order batsman Najibullah Zadran who has managed only 98 runs in 3 innings.
Hazratullah Zazai, the opener, is the second-highest opener for the team with 81 runs. However, he keeps flaying his bat around and has not attempted to dig in and play the long innings. Mohammad Shahzad, the second opener, and wicket-keeper has been guilty of being reckless too. And now that he has been sent home due to an injury, this leaves another big hole in Afghanistan’s batting.
The likes of captain Gulbadin, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Nabi, and Rahmat Shah would have to play with much more responsibility now.
In the bowling department, Rashid Khan hasn’t been as active as was expected of him. Rashid, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi form quite the spin trio, and if they can get their act and rhythm together, then they can cause much damage to the opposition together.Embed from Getty Images
Afghanistan has some tough assignments ahead. Out of their six opponents, Afghanistan can fancy their chances against Bangladesh who they have beaten thrice in the 7 ODIs they have played against each other. And if they can manage to take out West Indies or Pakistan, then it would be even better.
Afghanistan has come to the top after unfathomable struggles, have played with a lot of heart over the years and have shown a whole-hearted approach to their cricket that has served them well. Expecting too much of them at such a young stage is unfair, but it will be good if they do manage to leave a mark in World Cup 2019 and bring some cheer to their devoted fans.