Tuesday, June 18, 2024

‘Fearless and gifted’: Afghanistan poised for T20 World Cup knockouts

Must read

Rashid Khan’s men must dig deeper in tough situations to push for a place in the ICC T20 World Cup semifinals.

Captain: Rashid Khan
Fixtures: Uganda (June 4), New Zealand (June 8), Papua New Guinea (June 14), West Indies (June 18)
Best finish at T20 World Cup: Super Eight.

Afghanistan enter the ICC T20 World Cup 2024 as one of the dark horses poised to cause an upset and put their fearless brand of cricket on show, according to their former coach Stuart Law.

The 2010 debutants have reached the Super Eight stage in each of the last three editions of the tournament – steady progress from the first-round exits in their first three attempts.

Law believes Afghanistan are not far from reaching the knockouts and it could happen in the 2024 edition of the tournament in the United States and the West Indies in June.

“I love the way they play their cricket. There’s no fear in the way they go about it,” Law, who is now in charge of the USA team, told Al Jazeera.

“They are always aggressive, always attacking. I haven’t seen too many defensive players and the defensive players don’t seem to be thrust into the main team a lot.

“So they are very positive the way they go about it.”

Their grit was on display late last year in India where they finished sixth, by the barest of margins, behind Pakistan and failed to qualify for the semifinals despite an inspired run in the second half of the round-robin stage.

After only three appearances at the Cricket World Cup, Afghanistan finished ahead of former champions England and Sri Lanka.

This time around, they open their tournament campaign on June 4 against debutants Uganda, in a group that also includes New Zealand, co-hosts West Indies and Papa New Guinea.

(Al Jazeera)

‘Strong and powerful boys’

Law, who coached Afghanistan in 2022, believes the side led by Rashid Khan are ready to do more than just cause the odd upset.

“They are all naturally gifted and they have got stature as well – they are strong and powerful big boys,” Law said.

“They just need that smartness at times to get through certain situations.”

Afghanistan have one of the strongest bowling line-ups, with top limited-overs spinners Rashid, Mujeeb ur Rahman and Noor Ahmad in the side, along with the richly experienced all-rounder Mohammad Nabi.

It is in the batting department that Law believes Afghanistan must improve to move forward.

“Their batting has improved with some of the younger players that have come in,” Law said.

The former Australia player singled out Ibrahim Zadran as “one of the nicest players to watch”.

“He has learned a lot in the last couple of years and is starting to put together some really positive performances in international cricket,” Law said.

“Afghanistan need a few more batters that can grab it by the scruff of the neck and drag it forward in order to do some damage in big tournaments.”

Rahmanullah Gurbaz, the swashbuckling wicketkeeper-batsman, has shown the pedigree to support Zadran at the top of the batting order.

He will join the Afghan team after a title-winning stint with his Indian Premier League franchise Kolkata Knight Riders.

Captain Rashid himself is a destructive middle-order batter and has helped post near-match-winning targets on several occasions.

Rashid, Nabi and the other “big boys” will have to dig a bit deeper to make a push for the knockouts.

Three players to watch

Rashid Khan: Arguably their biggest star and most important player. For Afghanistan to have a great World Cup, Rashid must shine as a bowler, lower-order batter and captain. The wily leg spinner is capable of halting the charge of some of the biggest batsmen in the world.

Mujeeb Ur Rahman: Rashid’s spin partner and another lethal weapon in his armoury. Mujeeb’s ability to stem the flow of runs in the early part of the innings and help his side knock over opposition batsmen will be key in what could be spin-friendly pitches in the US and the Caribbean.

Mohammad Nabi: Nabi brings decades of experience to this Afghanistan side that will hope to go one step further than their last three outings at the T20 World Cup. His tidy off-spin and responsible batting in the middle order can be a calming influence on his young teammates.

INTERACTIVE - Men's World Cup-stadiums-venues-map-2023 copy 2-1716469524
(Al Jazeera)

Latest article