On the face of it a team with a record of played nine, lost nine would be treated with scorn. They obviously don’t belong in the elite group would be the immediate reaction and questions would be asked as to how they got there in the first place. Afghanistan’s campaign in the World Cup however will not receive this disdainful treatment. In the first place their losing all nine games they played was very much on the cards given the competition. But the manner in which they played, the way they fought gallantly before going down in most of the games marked them out as fighters and a team that is bound to improve with experience.
The story of Afghanistan’s entry into international cricket has been well documented. A war ravaged country, citizens learning the rudiments of cricket in refugee camps across the border in Pakistan and the several heartwarming tales about how the players made it first to limited overs cricket and finally the Test ranks. Afghanistan first played in the World Cup four years ago and immediately served notice with a famous victory over Scotland, winning with one wicket and three balls to spare. This meant that they avoided finishing in the cellar position in their group that unwanted place going to Scotland.
Last year Afghanistan was elevated to the Test ranks and though India demolished them in two days they performed admirably in getting the better of Ireland who were also elevated along with Afghanistan. They still might be debates about whether Afghanistan deserves to be playing Test cricket but there is no doubt of their rightful place in the limited overs game. After all they earned their ticket for England entirely on merit defeating West Indies not once, but twice during the World Cup qualifying tournament. And even during the competition they were not overawed by any of the opposition. After all given their background the Afghans are the original bravehearts who love fighting the odds. In almost every one of their nine games they went down with their guns blazing, doing particularly well against India and Pakistan when the result was in suspense till the last over. And in their final game against West Indies they went down by just 23 runs in a high scoring encounter. Yes, the batting and bowling could have been more consistent while the failure of Rashid Khan to live up to his lofty reputation was a major blow. But overall Afghanistan’s was a performance which should not be judged only by the final result.
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