Aakash Chopra has praised Afghanistan's performances heading into their 2023 World Cup clash against Australia and opined that they have been the team of the tournament thus far.
The two sides will square off in a league-stage game at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Tuesday, November 7. While the Aussies are favored to reach the semi-finals, the Afghans will make the knockout stages if they win both their remaining league games.
Previewing the game in a video shared on his YouTube channel, Chopra placed Afghanistan on a high pedestal, saying (7:40):
"Afghanistan have a lot to play for, all to play for. They are playing extremely well. In my opinion, they are the team of the tournament thus far, the way they have played. They have won while chasing and done well while setting targets as well."
The former India opener highlighted that Hashmatullah Shahidi and company have caused a few major upsets in the tournament. He elaborated:
"They have been able to knock down big-big teams. They knocked down Pakistan and England. They defeated Sri Lanka as though they had come for timepass. They also said tata bye-bye to the Netherlands. So. it's a very decent team."
Afghanistan lost their first two games of the tournament to Bangladesh and India respectively. They have won four of their last five matches, with their only reversal coming against New Zealand.
"You can only stop Australia with spin" - Aakash Chopra urges Afghanistan to play Noor Ahmad
Aakash Chopra urged Afghanistan to play Noor Ahmad as a fourth spinner. He reasoned (7:15):
"I would say you can play Noor Ahmad because you can only stop Australia with spin but the scales are tilted towards Australia. Australia also know that qualification is on the line."
The cricketer-turned-commentator pointed out that Australia can sleep peacefully if they win Tuesday's game. He explained:
"They can finish either second or third, neither can they go to No. 1 nor will they finish at No. 4. So if they win this match, they can keep the qualification aside and relax a little. If they win this match, a 'Q' will be written in front of their name."
While observing that everyone has great expectations from Afghanistan, Chopra acknowledged that the Wankhede pitch won't assist their spinners and that Australia are the better team. He expects Pat Cummins and company to set a 300-plus target even if they get to bat first on a generally chase-friendly ground.
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