Jadeja's dance of doom comes back to haunt Afghanistan as Maxwell runs roughshod | Crickit
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Don't celebrate early: Ajay Jadeja's dance of doom comes back to haunt Afghanistan as Glenn Maxwell runs roughshod

Nov 09, 2023 06:43 AM IST

Did the sight of Ajay Jadeja grooving in the change room subconsciously throw Afghanistan off their game against Australia?

Afghanistan were cruising. They were on the verge of registering the biggest upset in World Cup history. Their wins over England and Pakistan were no match to the laurels that a triumph over Australia would have fetched them. This could have been the mother of all shockers. Australia were 43/2, soon to be 49/4 and then worse in their chase of 292 when the camera panned towards the Afghanistan change room where Ajay Jadeja, the former India captain and the current mentor of Afghanistan, was spotted grooving.

Ajay Jadeja's body language changed pretty quickly(Screengrab)
Ajay Jadeja's body language changed pretty quickly(Screengrab)

He had all the reasons to. Afghanistan had been on a roll, still alive in the race for the semifinals, but little did he forget that the opposition, despite struggling, was Australia, a team he has faced so many times in his playing career. The five-time World Champions have been on a rampage since their defeat against South Africa. But unknowingly, Jadeja's act seemingly triggered a sense of complacency in the Afghanistan camp. Although they chipped away with more wickets, restricting Australia to a precarious 91/7, the wheels began to come off.

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Glenn Maxwell was on 33 when he swatted a ball from Noor Ahmad straight to short fine leg where Mujeeb Ur Rahman put down a sitter. This was a second reprieve for Maxwell, who a few overs before had survived a DRS call. A mix-up with Labuschagne had led to Marnus' wicket and Marcus Stoinis and Mitchell Starc couldn't resist. Afghanistan had a golden chance to close out the game to score their fourth straight win. Only they couldn't and set the platform for Maxwell to explode. As he witnessed the implosion of his boys on the field, Jadeja walked straight to the dugout and began shouting instructions, indicating a clear shift in his mood from an hour ago.

Until now, Jadeja's street smartness had played a key role in Afghanistan's stellar show at the 2023 World Cup, but that casual slip of emotions was reminiscent of Mushfiqur Rahim's premature celebration against India at the 2016 World T20. Bangladesh required just two runs to win off three deliveries. In a moment of exhilaration, Mushfiqur leapt in joy, but in the end, it was India who emerged victorious by a narrow margin of one run. Mushfiqur's loss of control over emotions that evening in Bengaluru has since served as an eye-opener as to how the game isn't decided until the last ball is bowled, or the final wicket taken.

Also Read: Why Glenn Maxwell didn't opt for a runner despite battling serious cramps during 201-run blitzkrieg against Afghanistan

Unfortunately, Afghanistan learned it the hard way yesterday. Tempers flew between the two teams when Labuschagne stopped Naveen-ul-Haq in his tracks as he was running in to bowl. Australia's batters had time and again complained about there being movement in the Afghanistan dressing room. Some activity in the Afghanistan even caught Marnus's attention. The players seemed to be in high spirits and a peppy mood, with plenty of cricket still ahead of them.

Close chances aren't something they can afford to take lightly, a fact lamented by Afghanistan head coach Jonathan Trott. Despite this being a young team that has lived up to its moniker of giant killers, Afghanistan, playing only their third World Cup, have punched above their weight. The Afghans can certainly defeat the in-form semi-finalists South Africa in their final league match but until the fielding standards improve, it will consistently hinder their pursuit of their dreams.

"Well, it's a case of we got ourselves into position and should have capitalised, obviously dropped two chances, and gave a person like Maxwell a chance. He's going to run with it and he almost played with a bit of freedom and almost freed him up a little bit, and gave a bit of momentum back to them. I thought it was a spectacular innings, a world-class innings. But, yeah, we certainly helped him along the way," he said during the press conference after his team's deflating three-wicket defeat.

"I always think we could have done a few things slightly different, bowled certain areas, different bowlers here or there. Obviously, there are certain things you would like to try differently now, but hindsight is a great thing. And so, it's a good lesson for our players because, in this game, if you take your eye off the ball just a little bit and you think too far ahead, and you try and start thinking about other things instead of just worrying about taking the next wicket, this game can bite you pretty quickly."

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