World Cup 2019: Can Afghanistan qualify for semi-finals? We decode
The ICC World Cup 2019 is less than a month away and teams have started intense preparations for the mega event. While there are a couple of favorites, including India, to win the title, Afghanistan enter the tournament with the tag of the underdogs, but they possess the potential to reach the semis. Here we analyze as to why they are the dark horses.
Afghanistan's steady route to World Cup qualification makes them dangerous
Analyzing Afghanistan's performance, they displayed glimpses of their magic in the qualifiers. Although they were shaky in the league stage of the tournament, winning just one tie, they still managed to make it to the super-six, where they won three of their five matches. They went on to beat Windies in the final to seal their spot. Although ranked tenth, they are unpredictable.
Addition of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman key factor
It should be noted when Afghanistan had played the 2015 World Cup, they did not have the services of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman. Both of them made their debut later. They had a poor campaign, winning just one of their six matches. However, things could be well different this time, and Rashid could be their most lethal weapon.
Hamid Hassan and Dawlat Zadran have matured as pacers
Pacers in the form of Dawlat Zadran and Hamid Hassan had played the 2015 edition, where they delivered an average performance. However, in these four years, they have matured to soak in the pressure. They played a pivotal role in helping Afghanistan qualify for this edition. Among the top wicket-takers for the side, there is no doubt that they would terrorize batsmen in England.
International exposure have made them even stronger
This term, the Afghan players come into the World Cup after playing enough cricket at the international level. As a result, they have played against some of the top international teams, and this has certainly made them stronger. Having won eight of their 14 ODI series since the 2015 World Cup, Afghanistan play an aggressive brand of cricket.
Big names dominate the batting line-up
The side is stacked with big batsmen like Najibullah Zadran, Noor Ali Zadran, Rahmat Shah, while all-rounders like Mohammad Nabi and Samiullah Shinwari too can decimate any bowling attack. Asghar Afghan, being relieved of his duty as captain, will allow him to play freely and display fearless batting. Further, not to forget wicket-keeper batsman Mohammad Shahzad, who is their second-highest run-scorer.
Chief selector does not fear hiring new captain
"The team members, including Rashid and Nabi, are now happy for Gulbadin. He is not a new man. He has been playing for 17 years, and has captaincy experience at the First-Class and under-19 level," chief selector Dawlat Khan Ahmadzai assured.
Afghanistan are strong but the format will work against them
While many believe that Afghanistan, being minnows, have an outside chance of making it to the semis, they have the firepower to surprise everyone. However, this edition is being played in a round-robin format where they would have to play each team once. This can work against them as they will have to deliver several consistent shows to make it to the next stage.