World Cup 2019: Afghanistan stand tall in defeat
They might be the only team in the competition with a 100 per cent loss record, but Afghanistan can finally hold their heads high at the biggest stage after a heroic performance against a star-studded Indian team. This was the Afghanistan that people had expected would turn up in England and Wales.
Until Saturday, the Afghans had disappointed all and sundry with their insipid performances, culminating in a hammering by hosts England. The team that had made everyone take a note of them in the Asia Cup had disappeared, leaving behind a trail of frail shadows.
Afghanistan's ascent to the biggest stage was itself a fairytale, and some would have said they have done enough just to be here. But the group of unconventional cricketers, who represent the hopes and dreams of an entire nation, are made of sterner cricketing stuff. And they finally brought it to the table by nearly upsetting one of the pre-tournament favorites.
From the ashes
The Afghan cricketers have risen from a war-torn nation and, in many ways, are the glue that holds that ravaged nation together. Their cricket bears signs of that battle-hardened origin story.
They have a group of wonderful spinners who, for the first time, came into their devastating best on Saturday. While Rashid Khan and Mohammed Nabi really spun a web around the much-vaunted Indians, youngster Mujeeb Ur Rehman was the pick of the lot as the unusual opening bowler.
Having restricted India to a below-par score, the Afghans threatened to chase it down for large swathes. When Nabi, the veteran, came in to bat, they had undergone a temporary setback. But his astonishing counter-attack nearly took them home to a famous upset.
In the end, the Indian bowlers, rotated dexterously by their captain Virat Kohli, had a little too much know-how. They came out on top in a tense finish made even more electric by Mohammed Shami's hat-trick, but the Afghans have proved their point.
Finally, the team that has survived many a storm, both on the field and outside it, has emerged at the Cricket World Cup. And the tournament is better off because of it.
Also read – World cup 2019 highlights