When Afghanistan qualified for the 2010 T20 World Cup, it was one of the most beautiful stories in world cricket of how a war-torn nation started from scratch to establish a team that could compete with the world’s heavyweight cricket nations. .
However, they had to wait until 2014 to record their first mega event victory when they defeated Hong Kong in the group stage. But it was in 2016 that they made a stamp on the world map by upsetting the eventual champions, the West Indies. Everyone called it a dislike at the time.
Fast forward to the 2022 Asian Cup, the Afghan team thrashed Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the group stage, but this time no eyebrows were raised. This has been the rise in Afghanistan cricket in recent years.
The Mohammad Nabi & Co. are not easy to convince ahead of the big T20 show in Australia. They have some of the best T20 players at their disposal and can give any higher ranked side a run for their money. Pakistan felt the heat last year in the T20 World Cup as they almost succumbed to the Blue Tigers and this time many teams could face the same.
Here is the SWOT analysis of the Afghanistan T20 World Cup 2022 team led by Mohammad Nabi:
Formidable Trio of Twists:
Afghanistan has some of the best spinners on the T20 circuit in its ranks. The Afghan arsenal consists of Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Rashid Khan, and Nabi, who have taken a total of over 1,000 wickets in the shortest format in the game. Although the T20 World Cup is in Australia, which is considered a pacer’s paradise, the trio have the power to bring even tame surfaces to life.
Additionally, the trio have done extremely well in Australian conditions, which is evident from their numbers in the Big Bash League. Rashid has played 61 matches and bagged 92 wickets with an economy of 6.44, while Mujeeb has picked 37 wickets in as many games in the Australian T20 league. Last but not least, the Afghan skipper has taken 28 scalps in 43 starts at an economy of 7.40.
Afghanistan has built its bowling strategy around the world class spinners it possesses and the same seems to be the case this time around. Mujeeb has been known to strangle the opposition on the power play, while Rashid has been the team’s bowler in critical situations. While the duo are aggressive with their lines and looking for wickets, Nabi makes sure the run rate stays in check.
The rotating troika has been instrumental in making Afghanistan a formidable team on the T20 circuit and they will be trusted to do the heavy lifting on the ball in the main tournament.
Fearless Batting Approach:
In a fast-paced T20 format that has continually evolved over time, Afghanistan has quickly understood the importance of an aggressive batting squad. Taking the attack on the opposition has been at the heart of their hitting and they have players who have bought into this ideology.
Nabi & Co. have people like Hazratullah Zazai and Rahmanullah Gurbaz to start the paperwork in favor of the side and both are known for leading the attack on the opposition. Back in the day, even the highest quality bowling lineups can be put under the pump. His go big or go home approach to hitting is evident by his scoring rate. Zazai scores 138.92 in T20I, while Gurbaz in 32 T20 matches with the national team of him has a rate of 138.46.
Afghanistan also has Najibullah Zadran who is a ferocious striker of the cricket ball and has proven his prowess to hit hard time and time again. In his 83 T20I’s he has racked up 1559 runs with an excellent strike rate of 142.89. If the Blue Tigers are to emerge as a force to be reckoned with in the T20 World Cup, the power hitters need to be at their best.
Inexperienced Rhythm Attack:
Afghanistan has entered the big T20 show with a very inexperienced paced attack. Naveen-ul-Haq has played the most T20Is among their fast bowlers, which is just 21, followed by Fareed Ahmad Malik with 20 T20Is under his belt.
Arriving to Fazalhaq FarooqiThe left-arm pacemaker impressed on the ball at the 2022 Asian Cup bagging six wickets in five games and will lead the pace attack. But he is fairly new to the international circuit and has played 14 T20 matches for his national team.
Also, none of the closers have any kind of experience playing in Australia. Although the pacemakers have shown great promise, they will have their homework ahead of them to deliver the goods against some high-quality batting sides in high-voltage competition.
Unfamiliarity with Australian conditions:
Though afghanistan cricket has risen from the dead and become a formidable force, they have yet to play a T20I game in Australia. And this factor could prove to be an Achilles’ heel and pose a major threat to the Blue Tigers’ World Cup hopes.
The T20 World Cup will be played in a total of seven venues and each field has its own pace and bounce and there will be different types of challenges in each of the venues. With Nabi & Co. fairly lacking in experience playing in Australia, it could prove a daunting task to thrive in the conditions.
Golden opportunity to turn the tide:
Afghanistan cricket has risen and risen in the last decade or so. They have been quite competitive and posed a tough challenge to the top ranked cricket nations. From playing in the World Cup qualifiers to being in the top eight teams and getting a direct entry into the big T20 extravaganza, they have certainly come a long way.
But despite being a tough opponent, the Blue Tigers have not had many opportunities. They have not played much against the countries that are part of the top tiers of cricket circles. Yes, cricket pundits and commentators have stated many times about the need to give them more chances, but when it comes to leading by example, no one has come forward.
And Afghanistan not having played a single T20I against Australia is a testament to that. But the tides could turn and the T20 carnival could be a driver of that change.
If Nabi & Co., who have so far failed to make it through the group stage in major tournaments, can overcome the initial hurdle and threaten to go all the way, the entire cricket fraternity will take notice. And they will prove once and for all that they belong to the level.
Hesitate in critical situations:
Yes, Afghanistan’s stature in cricket circles has grown by leaps and bounds, and they have been breathing down the necks of top ranked teams lately. However, there have been times when they have come close but fallen terribly short.
Whether it’s the 2019 World Cup match against India or the T20 World Cup 2021 match against Pakistan last year or the recently culminated Asian Cup match against Pakistan, they have failed to deliver during crucial moments in multinational tournaments time and time again.
It seems that succumbing under scorching pressure has started to become his habit. And this will be a great danger for Nabi & Co. in the face of the world tournament. They have been eliminated from ICC tournaments in the past due to their inability to control their nerves and could suffer the same fate if they don’t change this pattern.