Cricket World Cup 2019: Minnows Afghanistan eager to cause upsets

Featuring only in their second World Cup, Afghanistan can be termed as the ‘darkhorses’ going into the big event as they have grown in stature in terms of their performance over the last few years.

No team can take the men from the war-torn nation lightly as they are capable of causing few upsets in the upcoming edition.

In 2015, they entered the tournament as minnows and could manage just a solitary win. However a lot has changed during the last four years in which they gained full membership after getting the Test status.

Playing in a marquee event like the Asia Cup in 2018 they managed to beat Sri Lanka to advance into the Super Four and then beat West Indies to win the World Cup qualifier tournament.

Afghanistan has got the right mix of youth and experience in their squad who will be daring to show their prowess in the big stage. Their major strength lies in their spinners Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammed Nabi, the trio who are the most sought after bowlers in T20 leagues across the world.

While youngsters Rashid and Mujeeb will play in their first World Cup, they have already bamboozled many batsman with their spin and also have the experience of playing in England in the NatWest T20 blast. Ably supported by the experienced Mohammad Nabi, the troika forms a lethal weapon for Afghanistan.

The batting department contains big hitting openers Mohammad Shahzad and Hazratullah Zazai, followed by a strong middle order that includes Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah and Rahmat Shah. The opposition bowlers would have to be wary of the batters as they have the capability to post big totals.

The only weakling for Afghanistan is their fast bowling. Led by skipper Gulbadin Naib, a medium pacer, Aftab Alam, Dawlat Zadran and Hamid Hassan complete the line-up. Playing in conditions that aid swing and seam it will be interesting to see how the inexperienced line-up perform in such conditions.

Having played under Asghar Afghan in the last few years, another challenge for the team is to acclimatise under the new leadership of Gulbadin Naib. Currently playing an ODI series in Ireland, Afghanistan would aim to make optimum use of the series to prepare for the World Cup.

With a right mix of youth and experience, this World Cup gives Afghanistan an opportunity to exhibit their skills on the big stage and Gulbadin’s men would want to make it count.

NT Bureau