Cricket is considered as the second most popular sport in the world after football. It is played in almost all regions of the world, but the Indian sub-continent, Africa, Australia, and the British Isles are the regions where it is more famous.
Among all the regions, the Indian sub-continent has the most cricket following nations. It was Pakistan and India dominating cricket a decade ago in the region. But now, the time has changed. Other teams have also emerged to be strong enough to compete with any other world-class cricket team. One of them is the Afghanistan Cricket Team.
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EVOLUTION OF AFGHANISTAN CRICKET TEAM
Afghanistan has been playing cricket for almost last 2 decades. But they didn’t achieve much until 2013 when they qualified for the ICC T20 World cup for the first time. This was a great achievement for the Afghan side although they couldn’t perform well in that World cup and was knocked out in the initial stages.
Afghan cricket team earned their ODI status back in 2011. Their first ever opponent was Scotland where Afghanistan won the match by an 89 run margin. They played their first-class match against Zimbabwe. It was a four-day match which resulted in a draw.
It was then in 2013 World cup qualifier matches where Afghanistan beat Kenya to qualify for the World cup 2015. They were only able to beat Scotland in the group stages of the World Cup and failed to advance to the next stage.
ASIA CUP 2018
Afghanistan put on quite an impressive show at the recently held Asia cup in UAE. They were the most entertaining side as each of their match was a stunner. They started with a big up set by beating one of the tournament favorites – Sri Lanka, that too by a huge margin of 91 runs.
Then it was Bangladesh’s turn who was defeated by the Afghan team by 136 runs. However, in their second encounter, Bangladesh won by a narrow margin of just 3 runs.
The highlights of the Asia cup for the Afghan team were their fixtures against Pakistan and India. Their match against Pakistan went to the last over and it seemed that they will create history by beating Pakistan. But thanks to the experienced Shoaib Malik who kept his calm and saved his team.
In another nail nail-biter against India, Afghanistan did the unexpected. First they bowled the whole Indian team out, restricting them to a total of 252. Then they did a great run chase but unfortunately fell short of just 1 run to their victory. They leveled the score with India and the match ended as a draw.
The International Cricket Council awarded Afghanistan and Ireland the Test status in 2017. With the addition of both teams, now the number of ICC Full Members is 12.
Afghanistan played their first Test match against India in June 2018. It proved to be one of the shortest Test matches in cricket history when India beat them quite easily by a heavy margin of an innings and 262 runs. Afghanistan is now scheduled to play 19 Test matches for the session 2019-2023.
T20 WORLD CUP
Afghanistan Cricket Team participated in the T20 World Cup 2016 along with other 15 teams. This time, the Afghan side performed much better and gave much improved performance.
They not only beat Zimbabwe but also were able to grab the match against the eventual tournament winners – West Indies. But still, that wasn’t enough for them to lift the trophy or to reach the finals of the tournament.
WORLD CUP 2019
Afghanistan has been improving their cricket quite impressively. The Afghanistan Cricket Board is aiming for the top 4 spots in the upcoming cricket World cup in 2019. Their recent performance in the Asia cup has already alerted the other cricketing nations.
Afghanistan cricket team may be the underdogs of the upcoming World Cup and have the potential to surprise their tough opponents. They have the ability to produce some big upsets in the biggest cricket tournament with their aggressive style of play.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Following are some of the Afghan national players against which the opposing teams should consider to do homework:
Rashid is currently no 1 ranked ODI bowler in ICC rankings. Within just 3 years Rashid Khan has become a superstar. The 20-year-old has the deceives the batsmen with his magical leg spin bowling. He will be the key player for Afghanistan in World cup 2019. He was also added to the PSL 2019 platinum category players list.
Nabi, who was the also former captain of the Afghan national side, performs well with both bat and the ball. The all-rounder plays for many international leagues including IPL, PSL, Big Bash and CPL.
The wicketkeeper-batsman can do some serious damage in opening overs with his hard hitting. He’s also known as the Afghan Dhoni for having a good command on Dhoni’s signature helicopter shot. He does some brutal hitting with the bat and is also an experienced wicketkeeper.
He is the one who recently got fame hitting six 6’s in an over in the Afghan cricket league. With his aggressive batting, Hazratullah can prove to be a match winner for Afghan side.
Keeping in view the improvement Afghanistan cricket has made in such a short time, we can assume that soon they will be among the big names of International Cricket. According to the latest ICC Rankings, they have already surpassed the likes of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in T20 and are ahead of Zimbabwe and Scotland in ODIs.
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Picture Credit: NDTV Sports