World Cup 2019 Review: West Indies and Afghanistan
Had they been more flexible tactically and played a few moments differently, West Indies would have been talked about differently.
The talk of a renaissance in West Indies cricket ultimately came to naught, but the Carribean side showed that they are still a force to reckon with, and will only get better with more experience and time spent playing alongside each other.
Afghanistan's campaign was defined by the chaos and insecurity that radiated from their team environment. All this started from the captain getting replaced unexpectedly before the tournament to sending their most aggressive batsman home on dubious grounds and ending with suspending one of their own bowlers on grounds of misbehaviour.
That chaos ultimately shadowed a poor performance, leaving as the only team without a win in their name despite moments of skill and almost upstaging India and Pakistan.
Inconsistent performances as a team hurt West Indies
The performances and consistency of a few players were not enough for West Indies at this tournament.
The tactic of short pitched bowling was used to the point where everyone except the West Indies team could see that a new bowling plan was needed.
They did adapt towards the end of the tournament, but by then too much damage had been done to their chances of qualifying to the semi-finals.
Despite a poor showing, there were several positives in the form of Nicholas Pooran (367 runs with one century and two half-centuries), Shimron Hetmyer (257 runs, two half-centuries), Shai Hope (274 runs, three half-centuries), and Sheldon Cottrell (12 wickets).
Carlos Brathwaite, Jason Holder, Fabian Allen, Oshane Thomas and Kemar Roach impressed in bits and pieces, but a collective performance from all players was lacking throughout.
Andre Russell bowed out of the tournament injured, depriving West Indies of his ability to change the game in a matter of moments with bat or with ball.
Running Australia and Sri Lanka close and coming within a few feet of winning against New Zealand were highlights of their campaign, but the high point was their opening decimation of Pakistan, battering them with short pitched pace bowling and leaving them precariously placed with regard to net run rate.
Carlos Brathwaite's century against New Zealand briefly reignited hope in a seemingly lost cause before he was caught by Trent Boult on the boundary line.
Chris Gayle, in his final World Cup, had a mixed tournament with 242 runs. The fielding was a mixed bag throughout, with some excellent catches accompanied by poor fielding elsewhere.
The lack of a proper wicket-taking spinner was a misstep on the part of the selectors and management, with Fabian Allen and Ashley Nurse more suited to containing rather than aggressively bowling for wickets.
Despite the setbacks, there was a team spirit in this tournament that had been lacking before, and the team was led well by Jason Holder throughout.
There is some exciting talent in Hetmyer, Pooran, Hope, Allen, Holder, Brathwaite, and Lewis, that if managed and guided properly can help bring West Indies back towards the top of the rankings in all formats.
Chaos, insecurity, and poor performances from Afghanistan
For all the exciting potential that Afghanistan has, it is imperative that they are properly managed.
Sacking Asghar Afghan as captain and replacing him with Gulbadin Naib just before the tournament started, sending Mohammad Shahzad home on fitness grounds that were later refuted by the wicketkeeper made sure the campaign started on a sour note.
Suspending bowler Aftab Alam on grounds of misbehaviour, sacking the selectors and disagreements with coach Phil Simmons resulted in a vortex of insecurity and confusion that lingered over their campaign.
In the midst of all of that, Afghanistan lost all of their nine matches. Despite impressing occasionally and running India and Pakistan close, to go out without a single win reflects poorly on a team that everyone expected to upset one of the bigger teams.
There were a few bright spots. Mohammad Nabi's wickets against Sri Lanka gave them a chance at victory and his half-century against India brought them within 20 runs of a sensational win, only to be stopped by Mohammed Shami.
Ikram Alikhil's half-century against West Indies showed what could have been had he batted in the top 3 earlier, and Rahmat Shah led the runscoring with 254 runs.
Rashid Khan had a poor tournament, managing only six wickets in total, getting concussed against New Zealand and mauled by Eoin Morgan en route to registering the worst bowling figures at a World Cup when bowling against England.
Captain Gulbadin Naib was the second highest wicket taker (following Nabi, who had 10) with nine wickets, but tactical misteps cost his team at crucial moments. Bowling himself when Pakistan were troubled by spin and when there were overs available from Rashid and Mujeeb ur Rahman was baffling, and he did not have the technique to open the innings as he did, but to see him try was reflective of the spirit and attitude that had brought Afghanistan so far in such a short time.
That there is talent and potential in this team has long been evident. But it is imperative that they find a way to develop consistency and apply themselves better.
More ODIs would be a start, particularly against higher ranked nations. More importantly, better management and selection of the national team is a must to avoid the drama that has plagued them at this tournament.
Also read - World cup all-time records