Mumbai: 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup – the England and Wales-based showpiece -- will start on May 30, and will go on till July 14. However, this year the cricket governing body has decided to change the format of the tournament -– where ten teams will play versus other nine teams, and the four teams that comes out on top will advance to the semi-finals.
Nonetheless, today we look at the teams which have a good shot at the title. We will also look at some of the key players who may turn the tide in their team’s favour at any given moment.
Since making its mark in international cricket, the Afghanistan cricket team has made huge progress. And, all credit goes to the British troops who left their legacy of cricket behind in Kabul after they played a match in 1893. Since then Afghanistan hasn’t looked behind.
The Kabul-based team got its ICC status was back in the year 2001, and two years later, it became a member of the Asian cricket council (ACC).
Although, there were some initial struggles before Afghanistan got its ICC status. Taliban, the Afghanistan-based extremist group opposed cricket, but in 2000 the militant group had a change of heart, and it allowed cricket to be the only sport to be played.
The Afghanistan cricket board was established during the year 1995, and since then it along with the help of Pakistan Cricket Board requested the governing body of cricket – The International Cricket Council – to allow Afghanistan as an official cricket playing nation.
However, the Kabul-oriented side doesn’t have much to tell, yet the Afghanistanis made their people proud by claiming their first-ever trophy in 2007. In 2007, the Afghanistan cricket team won their maiden tournament – the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Twenty20 Cup. Nonetheless, the trophy was shared with Oman since both the teams tied in the final.
During the year 2011, the team made yet another feat when they grabbed their ODI status, despite failing to qualify for the 2011 World Cup.
For the seventh ranked ODI team gaining an ODI wasn’t just enough; in 2012 the unit took its cricket to another stride when it played its first official ODI match versus Pakistan.
On June 27, 2013, the official member of the ICC reached another stage as it received the associate ICC membership due to its continuous progress
For the ACC cup winner, 2014 was a year which saw the team enter the top 10 ODI ranking list for the first time.
In 2015, the Afghanistan cricket team debuted in the World Cup for the first time. It played its first-ever World Cup match against Bangladesh, and it lost the game by 105 runs. The unit managed to register its only win versus Scotland and that too by just one wicket.
Afghanistan penetrated through the 2019 ICC World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe to be the ultimate winners of the tournament, and hence qualify for the England and Wales-based showpiece event.
Having said these, it can be said that the winners of the 2019 World Cup qualifiers endured a lot to make it to the 2019 World Cup.
However, it will be foolish of us to completely write off Afghanistan. In 2018, the winners of the 2019 World Cup qualifiers proved they have in them to destroy any big team on their given day.
During the 2018 Asia Cup, the 2019 World Cup qualifiers creating history by defeating the one-time World Cup winners, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The 2019 World Cup qualifiers also drew against the two-time World Cup winners, India.
Nevertheless, it will be intriguing to watch how the Rashid Khan’s team performs at the World Cup.
Here, in this article, we will analyse four players – four game changing players – out of the 15-member Afghanistan squad.
Afghanistan declared their 15-member World Cup squad, which is as follows:-
Afghanistan World Cup squad: Gulbadin Naib (captain), Rashid Khan (vice captain), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan, and Mujeeb ur Rahman..
Afghanistan’s progress majorly depends on Rashid Khan, Mohammed Nabi, and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who were the star performers for the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the 2019 Indian Premier League.
Ahead of the World Cup, the ACB took a controversial step; it changed its long-term captain, Asghar Afghan, and replaced him by Gulbadin Naib.
The board’s decision raised eyebrows, as Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi raised doubts regarding the timing of the decision. Asghar was the captain of the Afghani team from mid-2015 after Nabi decided to relinquish his role of captaincy.
Nabi’s captaincy saw Afghanistan qualify for the World Cup, as well as win their first-ever Test match against Ireland. ACB’s controversial decision indicated there was some kind of external influence.
Just like the England cricket team had before the 2015 World Cup replaced its long-time captain Alastair Cook with Eoin Morgan. The controversial move saw England crash out of the World Cup.
The Afghanistan cricket team too replaced its long-term captain, and this move may result in their exit.
Having said that, the declared squad indicates that the board believes in experience and keeping the same team that won the 2018 qualifier and regularly featured in Afghanistan’s ODI squad.
Mohammad Shahzad, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi and Asghar Afghan form the team's batting shield and are expected to fetch a large volume of the unit's runs. Shahzad's aggressive approach as an opener is equalised by the encountering method of Asghar and Rahmat.
The large reserves of all-rounders and bowlers shows the importance on bundling teams out, after the selection of Nabi, Rashid, Gulbadin, Samiullah Shenwari and Aftab Alam. Nabi, Gulbadin and Rashid are blind selections in the first eleven, with Nabi acting as batting all-rounder and Rashid and Gulbadin playing as prime bowlers.
Hamid Hassan's selection was unexpected because he last played for Afghanistan in 2016 and since then he has not played any international match. Though, his return will bolster a bowling squad comprising of Hassan, Dawlat Zadran, Naib and Aftab Alam.
Mohammad Shahzad is expected to lead Afghanistan towards a large total. Shahzad’s only option is to attack the bowlers’ right from the start. The 31-year-old has already 13 half-centuries, and five centuries under his name.
Shahzad registered his highest score of 131 against Zimbabwe, equalising with Shahid Afridi's top score.
Rashid khan will be leading the bowling department. Rashid khan was the fastest to reach 100 ODI wickets in 44 matches. Rashid is effective in the power-play as well as in the slog overs.
Rashid Khan grabbed all the headlines when he achieved the feat of taking seven wickets in an ODI against West Indies. Generating pace and variating his leg breaks lead to West Indies batsmen succumbed to Rashid. Furthermore, he only conceded 18 runs in his spell.
Adding one more feather to his cap, Rashid became the fastest and youngest player to take 100 wickets in ODI cricket. He has already shown glimpses of Shahid Afridi due to his explosive batting and varied bowling. Currently, he has 127 ODI wickets under his belt, with an impressive economy of 3.91.
Rashid will serve the purpose of an anchor for his national side in the upcoming World Cup. Not many people would have anticipated five years ago that Afghanistan will rise to the international scene within such a short amount of time.
Afghanistan’s former-captain, Mohammad Nabi needs to deliver with both bat and ball to help his team progress. Nabi’s best international performances came against Ireland in a bilateral T20 series in which he scored 81 and produced an economic spell of 0-28(4) to win the man of the match and man of the series. In the first match he raced to 49 runs and took 2 wickets.
Afghanistan’s current captain, Gulbadin Naib doesn’t have any notable international performances to show. Despite that he has helped Afghanistan to stand where it is today.
In December 2011, Naib scored 57 runs off 50 balls in the ACC Twenty20 Cup final that helped Afghanistan to an 8 run win against Hong Kong, leading Afghanistan to their third ACC Twenty20 Cup title.
Afghanistan’s performance at the World Cup will depend on how quickly their bowlers are good at taking wickets in the middle overs. Dependence on Shahzad for quick start might bug them down.
Even too much reliance on Mujeeb Nabi, and Rashid may dent their progress. However, the final prediction remains that the squad may or may not progress beyond the group stage....