Dubai: Afghanistan have been the surprise package in this World Cup, stunning defending champions England and past champions Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Afghanistan had the bowlers and the unit was one of the best bowling attacks for prevailing conditions in this World Cup. The batters have also come to the party shocking England giving them the required confidence going ahead.
The attitude of the batters to a great extend has been instrumental in overhauling the targets. Unflustered, by the big totals, the calmness with which the openers go about their tasks to set the stage for the rest to complete the task has been a revelation in this World Cup.
Afghans are no pushovers in Twenty20, but the 50-over contests require a different skillset in the middle overs, where they need to curb their attacking instincts to take their team past the line. It was the chase against Pakistan that gave the minnows the confidence, skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi told after winning against Sri Lanka.
Predictions go wrong
But one area of concern for the Afghanistan players, according to coach Jonathan Trott is their fielding standards. If they could better themselves in that area, then they could emerge a bigger threat than they are currently.
Afghanistan’s stunning run has had many predictions go wrong and should they continue to produce more shocks, then their chances of sneaking into the semi-finals could be a possibility, thought it’s just hanging by the thread given that they face Netherlands, Australia and Bangladesh in the remaining three matches.
But for what they have achieved so far in the showpiece, they deserve great credit for their attitude and bold approach.
While Afghanistan have dazzled under the Indian skies, some star-studded teams have disappeared under the clouds.
As India have remained unbeaten and are galloping their way to the semi-finals, a report card on the rest of the World Cup 2023 as the showpiece heads to the home stretch.
South Africans are another surprise package in this tournament. Eager to shed the chokers’ tag, the Proteas have been bringing their rivals to submission. However, there is a big question mark over their batting prowess particularly when they are chasing a target, though it’s a small one. While South Africa lost to the Netherlands, chasing an under-par target, they were on the verge of suffering a similar fate against Pakistan, winning narrowly by a wicket in Chennai. They need to win at least two more matches to be assured of a place in the semi-finals and teams will be looking to exploit their weakness, which comes up again when they are under pressure while chasing.
New Zealand and Australia are playing solid cricket despite a couple of reversals that they suffered. Five-time champions Australia are peaking at the right time after two early losses and are on a four-match winning streak. One after the other, their batters are striking form with the dangerous David Warner the central figure in the batting. New Zealand have been doing just the opposite to their Trans-Tasman rivals, losing their last two games against India and Australia after four consecutive wins. However, both look solid and will not drop their guard.
Netherlands too have capitalised on their stunning win over South Africa to followed it up with a victory over off-colour Bangladesh. However, those two wins will give the Associate Nation a great confidence going forward.
Sri Lanka and Pakistan have a faint mathematical chance of making the semi-finals, provided they win all their remaining matches and other contenders help their calculations. But that looks possible only on paper. In reality they could try and strengthen their position, or at best retain the current spots to book an automatic berth in the Champions Trophy. Pakistan, with a win over Bangladesh, could move one spot up, but their narrow loss in Chennai, by one wicket to South Africa have really dented their chances. The famed bowling did not live up to the expectations.
England: The defending champions have failed miserably after suffering five defeats in six matches. Their one-dimensional approach has led to their downfall. They have not adapted to the conditions and have faltered by sticking to one plan or one approach. England batters have failed to lower their gears when the going gets tough and hence the wheels have come off to leave them stranded at the bottom of the table. Attack is not the only answer to batting, even a strong defence is show of aggression. In a 50-over game one cannot play in an overdrive always. England tried to do that, with confidence as they have done in the past in other formats, but could not continue in the same fashion.
Bangladesh: The Tigers are not anywhere close to their best. The team, despite having many match-winners have been at the bottom of the table. Both their batting and bowling are not up to the mark and had just one win to their credit, against Afghanistan. There were talks of rift in the team and just before the event, skipper Tamim Iqbal pulled out due to injury. All these played a big role in Bangladesh not getting their campaign off to a good start. It is time for Bangladesh to forget this World Cup and go to the drawing board to make a fresh start.