What Afghanistan have done that Bangladesh haven't in more than two decades to quickly rise as World Cup semi-finalists | Crickit
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What Afghanistan have done that Bangladesh haven't in more than two decades to quickly rise as World Cup semi-finalists

Jun 25, 2024 03:24 PM IST

In such a short time, how have the Afghans become the second-best white-ball team in Asia, even ahead of Pakistan and Sri Lanka?

From Kabul to Kandahar to Peshawar to New Delhi, Afghanistan's victory against Bangladesh in the T20 World Cup on Tuesday is being celebrated with great enthusiasm, and rightly so. The Afghans deserve every bit of it. It’s amazing how in such a short time in international cricket, they have made themselves a massive force to reckon with.

Afghanistan's captain Rashid Khan, with teammates, acknowledges fans after advancing to the ICC Men's T20 World Cup semis by beating Bangladesh(PTI)
Afghanistan's captain Rashid Khan, with teammates, acknowledges fans after advancing to the ICC Men's T20 World Cup semis by beating Bangladesh(PTI)

How did it happen? What have Afghanistan done that Bangladesh haven’t? How in such a short time, the Afghans have become the second best white-ball team in Asia, even ahead of Pakistan and Sri Lanka?

It's not talent at all. Pakistan and Bangladesh have massive populations and cricket is the only sport they are good at. And they, as well as Sri Lanka, abound in talent, but what separates Afghanistan is their understanding of the tactical side of things. Game awareness. The ability to foresee how a game will unfold is what has made the difference for them. They have learnt it fast.

They appear involved and informed in relation to the net run rate, required run-rate, which bowler to attack, which bowler to respect, opposition batters’ strengths and weaknesses and accordingly they place their fielders. How rain can impact the scenario. The whole shebang!

Yes, it’s no exaggeration to say they are tactically operating on the same level as India or Australia. There is no element of fluke in what the Afghans have achieved in recent years. Since beating the West Indies in 2016 T20 World Cup in India, they have gradually improved to be where they are today because they quickly learn from their mistakes. For example, only last year they missed out on the World Cup semifinals after they loosened their grip against eventual champions Australia. They had beaten England and Sri Lanka prior to that game.

Also Read | Adam Zampa, Michael Vaughan fume at Gulbadin Naib's unacceptable act as Afghanistan knock Australia out of T20WC

When they met the Aussies again in the West Indies on Sunday, they were out there to avenge their defeat and they did so masterfully. The 50-overs match they had lost on account of poor fielding but in the T20I match they were spot on with their fielding and took quite a few spectacular catches. Not just Mitchell Marsh’s men, the Afghans, under the leadership of Rashid Khan, had dispatched another team from the Antipodes, New Zealand, earlier in the tournament.

Unlike Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the Afghan team doesn’t look fragmented, either. They all look dedicated to the cause. And if there is some period of nervousness, there will always be someone who will do their damnedest to bail the team out.

In their match against Australia on Sunday, Gulbadin Naib put his hand up and took the important wicket of Glenn Maxwell to pave the way for victory. Against Bangladesh, after Rashid set the tone with four wickets, Naveen-ul-Haq took wickets off successive balls to stun Bangladesh right when their hopes were fading. The way Liton Das was playing, with 9 runs needed off 8 balls, it didn’t look like much of a task for Bangladesh. This is the sign of a united team. That somebody will put their hand up in the hour of need.

Yes, Afghanistan needed some kind of support which came from India’s win over Australia on Monday night. But in such tournaments, teams more often than not bank on other results. Nothing new!

It’s a red-letter day in Afghanistan cricket. Everyone involved with the team, from head coach Jonathan Trott to Ajay Jadeja, who coached them in the 2023 World Cup to bowling consultant Dwayne Bravo, kudos to all of them. In fact, it’s a triumph for all who, in their big or small way, helped Afghanistan players to learn and very much master the white-ball game. It’s a joyous moment for all the global franchises who have had Afghans in their ranks all these years. In their early years, Pakistan too helped them. That fact should not be forgotten.

Brian Lara had predicted Afghanistan to be one of the semifinalists before the tournament got underway and how well they have proved him right. But not for a moment think that this is all they can achieve. This team is not done yet. They look determined to go all the way. Frankly speaking, if I were South Africa, I would be extremely worried ahead of the semifinal. The next few days could be even more glorious for Rashid and his men.

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