World Cup 2015: Associate Nation Watch - Afghanistan
Afghanistan – The one team which is almost impossible to hate. Considering the geopolitical and radical problems that were shrouding the nation till early 2000s, the thought of seeing their team counted among the leading cricketing nations would have been a long-drawn thought. But their brisk rise to the top of the cricketing world, just 14 years after the national cricket team was formed, has been a cricketing story to savour.
Starting in division 5 of the ICC World Cricket League in 2008, it hacked its way through divisions, gained promotions with considerate ease, and came up to Division 2 in 2013. The Afghans then defeated Kenya in late 2013, to finish 2nd in the ICC World Cup League Championship. And hence, their spot in the ICC World Cup 2015 was secured.
The World Cup Story
This will be Afghanistan’s maiden appearance in the theater of dreams, and they will be looking to etch their names in the cricketing annals. Afghanistan’s success has been adored, celebrated, and enjoyed by natives and cricketing fans alike. Their performances through the next month will be closely followed, if not scrutinized.
Afghanistan’s preparation for the World Cup has been pretty respectable. They have spent considerable amount of time in the Oceania to get acclimatized and get used to the pitches. They notched up 4 wins out of the 8 matches they played in, and they will look to carry forward their form into the tournament.
Afghanistan has three ICC World T-20 appearances to their name, and also have a win against a Test team when they defeated Bangladesh in the Asia Cup. They do have sizeable experience against the big teams, but the momentous occasion of the World Cup might just overwhelm the team. Nerves and anxiety may just have a bigger say than absolute cricketing skills in Afghanistan’s World Cup campaign.
Afghanistan has a zestful set of players who genuinely look like they love just being there in the field. The team has abundance of youth which will certainly help them with the fitness and physical ordeal of ODI cricket. Captained by all-rounder Mohammad Nabi, who is ranked 8th in the ICC ODI All-rounder ranking, they have ample experience under the captain’s hat. Afsar Zazai will don the wicketkeeping gloves.
The batting will be shepherded by Nawroz Mangal, who Afghanistan will hope can play the anchor role through the tournament. The experienced trio of Asghar Stanikzai, Samiullah Shenwari and Nabi will look to control the middle overs. Youngster Usman Ghani will be the one to watch out for. Just 18 years of age, he has had a respectable 12-ODI career till date, which includes a century and 2 fifties. Their batting looks to be in a pretty decent shape for an associate nation.
The bowling unit looks strong but inexperience and the ability to maintain consistency through the 50 overs will be severely tested. Dawlat Zadran, the most consistent of the lot, will be leading the bowling attack. He will look for support from the bowling arms of Hamid Hassan and Shapoor Zadran. The Afghan pacers are known to be pacey, skiddy customers, and with the right amount of control they should be a handy unit for most teams.
What to Expect in 2015
The game of cricket is believed to have arrived in Afghanistan through the refugee camps in Pakistan. With minimal infrastructure, funding, and scope for development of the sport, playing in the World Cup in itself is a tremendous achievement for the team. Plugged in Pool A with England, Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Scotland, Afghanistan will not have it easy. They may not be able to push the envelope and proceed to the knockouts, but beating Scotland and pulling another one over Bangladesh should be their aim.
They start their campaign against Bangladesh on 18th February. Bangladesh will be up for revenge and Afghanistan will be looking to make a statement. They face Sri Lanka next, followed by Scotland, which will be one match they will be looking to have in their pocket. Australia, New Zealand, and England will bring up the rear for the team, where they should be satisfied with a good showing.
Afghanistan will have the backing of fans from all over the globe. They will be one team who everyone will be egging till the finish line. With tremendous support on their back, and some good, dedicated performances, Afghanistan should be able to capture a couple of victories and some memorable performances against the big teams.