Since getting ICC full membership in June 2017, Afghanistan have progressed as a cricketing nation and now they need a breakout performance in a global event to underline that growth. Afghanistan debuted in the 2015 World Cup, and in the two editions they have played so far, the Afghans have managed only one victory from 15 games, which came against Scotland. In the 2019 World Cup, Afghanistan came close to stunning India and Pakistan but they failed to close out the match, and this time they will look to better their performance and make this edition a memorable event.
Before their tournament opener against Bangladesh on Saturday in Dharamsala, here is a SWOT analysis of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan, led by Hashmatullah Shahidi, boasts of a formidable spin department in the form of veteran Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Noor Ahmad.
Rashid, in particular, will be the one to watch out for in the tournament as he has rich experience of playing in Indian conditions having plied his trade in the IPL since 2017. The wrist spinner has so far picked up 139 wickets from 109 IPL matches. His ODI record in India is also impressive as he grabbed 23 wickets from 13 ODIs here. Besides that, Afghanistan will also be banking on Rashid’s batting skills lower down the order.
The Afghans will also rely on former captain Nabi, a veteran of 147 ODIs, to display his all-round skills while the 22-year-old Mujeeb is expected to take the responsibility with the new ball. Left-arm wrist spinner Noor Ahmad will provide variation and the quartet will be key to Afghanistan’s success in Indian conditions.
Afghanistan have a good batting line-up but inconsistency has been their bane which cost them many close matches. The onus to buck the trend will be on the likes of hard-hitting Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Shahidi, who will have to provide good starts at the top. Najibullah Zadran, Nabi and Rashid are expected to provide the firepower through the middle and lower-order. But Afghanistan’s biggest flaw is their temperament as time and again they have faltered under pressure like they botched up the matches against India and Pakistan in 2019.
Their top players’ knowledge about Indian conditions will be their biggest opportunity to make an impression in the World Cup, unlike teams like Australia, South Africa and New Zealand who are more used to pace-friendly pitches. The inclusion of right-arm pacer Naveen-ul-Haq, who received some flak for his tussle with Virat Kohli, and Azmatullah Omarzai, a handy batter down the order, will provide some boost to Afghanistan.
Inexperience is something the Afghans will have to overcome to pose a serious challenge to the top teams in the World Cup. Afghanistan have just 14 years of international experience, and that is something which is affecting their performance in ICC events.
The Afghans will need to keep their composure and be mentally strong to compete against the likes of India, Australia, England and New Zealand. PTI SSC SSC UNG
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