Rookie Afghanistan participated in CWC 2019 qualifying along with champions of the past world champion and cricket super power West Indies. This was their second appearance in crickets global event. With few glittering great names like Rashid Khan, Mujeeb and Nabi in the team Afghanistan was believed to cause few surprises.
But loosing all 9 group matches and some by huge margin the team from the cusp of South Asia and Central Asia dashed the dreams of their adoring fans. Not that they did not rock a few. More matured Afghanistan at global level could have shocked India and beat Pakistan. In other matches their much vaunted spin attacked failed to deliver on unsuitable surfaces or their batting performed awfully bad. Few would blame poor team selection, lack of discipline and weak leadership of the captain.
Afghanistan with Captain Asghar Afghan at the helm was achieving commendable success in world cricket .They qualified ahead of Ireland, Scotland, and UAE. Nabi, Rashid, Mujeeb and Zazai were playing with pride in different T20 franchise across the cricket world. The team had useful preparation in its adopted home in India and then in South Africa.
But few days before the world cup for reasons best known to Afghanistan cricket authority Asghar Afghan was stripped off his captaincy. Gulbadin Naib was made the captain. Rashid and Nabi clearly expressed their disapproval strongly criticizing the decision. The power hitter Shehzad was sent back home after few matches in the excuse of fitnesswhich the player bitterly criticized. Afghan players were reported for creating hustle during dining outside .AfghanAlam was suspended for his rowdy and uncivilized behavior off the field. When all these happen a team can not deliver to its potential.
No one expected Afghanistan to cause major upsets. But they definitely had the quality and strength to win at least two to three matches. Their best chances were against West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. They were well on their way to beat Pakistan squeezing them in the chase. But a very crucial strategic mistake by captain Gulbadin opting him bowling the last over caused Afghanistan the match.
Similarly they almost rocked strong India restricted them to a modest score. Great Indian batsmen Rohit ,Kohli and Dhoni even struggled to come to terms with high quality spin attacks of Afghanistan . But while chasing the modest target none but Nabi could any innings of any substance. Afghanistan lost a great opportunity for causing a major upset. We thought playing very well against two powerful cricket playing neighbors Afghanistan gave good account of themselves. Lack of experience of winning matches in global tournaments and poor match planning caused them the match.
Hope Afghans learned lessons from lackluster performances in their remaining matches. Other than the two matches mentioned above they were completely outplayed in six matches failing to create any contest. True England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were well beyond their reach. But they were expected performing much better against West Indies, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
We think GulbadinNaib failed to prove as a great leader. Team chemistry and body language did not appear positive in most matches. Pace attack in particular and batting in general was poor. When a team involves in off the team controversies one must not expect different results in global tournament.
We find no reasons why Mohammad Nabi with wealth of experience in international cricket and himself a quality all rounder, can not lead the team. The greatest strength of the team is that they have Rashid Khan an world class wrist spinner, Mujeeb Ur Rahman a mystery young spinner and Nabi a classy all rounder in the team. Couple of youngsters like Zazai is a good prospect. Something is very wrong in the thought process of Afghan cricket management. Their decision of changing captain at the last minute back fired at them. The West Indian head coach Phil Simmons was not also finding comfortable working there.
There must be positive changes in Afghanistan cricket structure. They must hunt talents for at least two quality pace bowlers, three to four quality batsmen and off course a quality player who can lead the team over the next three to five years. They must also select horses for the courses based only on merit.
BDST: 0929 HRS, JULY 20, 2019