Afghanistan technically fall in the category of minnows at the 2019 World Cup, if that term is to be used at all this summer in England.
They had to qualify for the tournament, though they shouldn’t have as they are a Test nation and the ICC has squeezed the tournament down to 10 teams. Anyhow, for the purpose of discussion, Afghanistan can be termed ‘minnows’ as they have the least international experience among the teams at the World Cup.
But for a team light on experience, Afghanistan pack a huge punch when it comes to team combination and resources. While Test cricket has probably come too soon for them, white-ball cricket is right down their ally.
Afghanistan openers Mohammad Shahzad and Hazratullah Zazi are undoubtedly the most devastating openers of the World Cup; during the T10 League in the UAE Shahzad helped chased down 95 in four overs while Zazai smashed six sixes in an over in the Afghanistan Premier League.
Their middle order of Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan and Mohammad Nabi is brimming with quality and experience. But it’s their bowling that truly sets Afghanistan apart.
Ask any cricket fan about Afghanistan’s bowling and the first name that comes to most minds is Rashid Khan. Fair enough as the young leg-spinner has quickly become the premier white-ball spinner anywhere in the world.
- Afghanistan victory - against Pakistan -,wasn’t a fluke but a reflection of their all around strength. They are capable of upsetting settled units in the World Cup for sure.— Asif Khan (@mak_asif) May 25, 2019
But right after Rashid are equally remarkable one-day bowlers, as Pakistan found out during their defeat to the Afghans in the World Cup warm-up match.
Mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman and veteran fast bowlers Dawlat Zadran and Hamid Hasan provide a decisive edge to their attack that can take wickets at any stage of the match.
Pakistan found that the hard way as they bowled out inside 48 overs on a good pitch in Bristol.
It should come as no surprise that Afghanistan are where they are the moment; they were the most consistent team in the Asia Cup in the UAE last year, defeating Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and tying a game against India. They have conceded more than 300 just four times in 114 ODIs and that is a staggering achievement over a decade.
Three world-class and varied spinners in Rashid, Mujeeb and Nabi, plus quality pacers give Afghanistan the ammunition to remain competitive against any team. They are the absolute masters of the 250-270 run one-dayer and if conditions are not as flat as some expect them to be this World Cup, watch out for Afghanistan.
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