When big seasoned teams like Australia, South Africa, India and a few other Test playing nations are competing at the big stage, one would hardly take notice of Afghanistan let alone giving them a chance. But somehow they have made their presence felt, after qualifying for the 2012 T20 World Cup.
Afghanistan beat Namibia in the finals of the qualifiers to book themselves a ticket to the ‘Emerald Isle’. The Afghan cricket team was formed in 1995 and was officially affiliated with the International cricket committee (ICC) in 2001.
Strength: Due to the absence of big names, the unity of the Afghani contingent has always been their big strength. Keeping the format of T20 in mind , the shortest format, this would possibly enable them to shock a few big teams. The presence of Mohammad Shahzad, Noor Ali would strengthen the batting department. Karim Sadiq and Javed Ahmadi would lend a lot of stability and balance at the top. In-form Dawlat Zardan will play a very crucial role as he is looked at as someone who will provide the early breakthrough. Samiullah Shenwani and Shapoor Zardan will also have to play crucial roles for the success of Afghanistan. The trump card for the Afghans will be their talismanic all-rounder Mohammed Nabi.
Weakness: The fielding has always let them down. If we see over the years, their fielding is one aspect of the game, which has just not improved. Losing wickets and not converting starts into big scores due to lack of exposure at the highest level is a point of concern. The bowlers have also not hit the target consistently, which is why they cannot restrict teams to low scores.
Opportunity: They would be expected to give a good account of themselves at the ‘Emerald Isle’. Possibly an upset here or there could go a long way in making their mark. They are in the same group as India and England. A solitary win could see them advance to the next level. An individual could have the day of his life, and that is very much possible considering the nature of the format.
Threat: The presence of big teams is more than just a threat. Though their chances are minimal but still their show could inspire a lot of Afghanis to take cricket as a real career option.
PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR: Mohammad Shehzad