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Afghanistan - A tournament full of mediocrity and harsh lessons

11 Jul 2019 CricBuzz

What worked for them?

With nine matches and nine losses, not much really. Apart from the 11-run loss against India, they were never really convincing and were bulldozed over more often than not. They did briefly sparkle against Pakistan - taking the game into the final over - and that helped them enhance their reputation a bit but the reality remains they were pretty mediocre in the World Cup.

Walking out of the tournament, though, they found a gem in Ikram Alikhil as the young 'keeper showed it's time to move away from Mohammad Shahzad and invest in him. His knock of 86 against West Indies showed the talent should be made better use of.

What pulled them back?

With the wooden spoon in their hands, it's easy to point out a lot that went wrong for them. Let's get the off-field issues first. Even before the World Cup began, the captaincy change rocked the ship with several players protesting the sacking of Asghar Afghan. The handling of the Shahzad issue and then the exclusion of Aftab Alam made it clear plenty of it went wrong behind the scenes.

Afghanistan's top-scorer was Rahmat Shah with 254 runs from nine games. The next best was Najibullah Zadran with 230. Batsmen never really got going and that hurt the team's chances. Mohammad Nabi bagged ten wickets but the bowling lacked penetration.

What did they sorely miss?

A leader - Gulbadin Naib gave away runs at more than 6.39. He scored runs at 21.55. As a leader of the side they paint a pretty damning picture. However, a dip in form could have happened to any captain. Naib, for all his efforts, lacked the tactical nous to give the side a boost.

Best player - Mujeeb Ur Rahman

Ahead of the tournament, a lot of the chatter was about Rashid Khan. Mujeeb played seven games to end with seven wickets at an average of 37. However, he gave away runs at just 4.47 in the 57.5 overs he bowled in the tournament. His 1 for 26 against India - where he dismissed Rohit Sharma - gave the side a chance to hold Virat Kohli and Co. to a very manageable target. In the massive loss against Bangladesh, it was Mujeeb who stood out with 3 for 39 when others leaked runs.

Disappointing player - Rashid Khan

The No.1 T20I bowler walked away with some harsh lessons with six wickets from nine games at an average of almost 70. His T20 lengths never worked but he refused to learn from his mistakes and with tracks not offering much at the start of the tournament he felt handicapped. The out of the box thinking - the creative elements needed to stop rampaging batsman - was missing as he clearly lacked ideas. There were no good days and the bad days were really bad. In the game against England, he leaked 110 from his ten overs and overall was a huge disappointment for the side.

What's on the highlights reel?

Mohammad Nabi's four-wicket haul against Sri Lanka. Playing their second game, Afghanistan once again found themselves in trouble when Sri Lanka reached 144 for 1. That's when Nabi turned the game on his head as he dismissed Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews. Nabi had already accounted for opener Dimuth Karunaratne. In the second burst, all three wickets were picked in the same over as Sri Lanka were then left struggling at 159 for 6. Afghanistan, however, were again let down by their batsmen as they lost the contest by 34 runs.


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