They qualified for the tournament after beating West Indies in the final of ICC cricket world cup qualifier which was played in Zimbabwe last year. They entered the tournament with some positive intent but for the second time in four years they found it tough to adapt to the biggest stage. They carried the expectations of not just the 35 million Afghans but also over a billion cricket fans from across the globe. After their heroics in the bilateral and triangular tournaments in past few years, they have secured a lot of fans. People expected them to pull out some upsets at the world cup but unfortunately they went back disappointed.
Where they finished?
They finished last on the table after losing all of their games in the league phase of the tournament. They were the first team to be knocked out of the tournament after losing their first four games with considerable margins.
What went wrong?
Afghanistan lacked a batting order good enough to compete at this stage. They failed to score 250 eight times out of nine times they batted in the tournament with two scores of less than 200. None of their batsmen who faced 100 or more balls could manage an average of 28 or more. Entire team failed to register a hundred at the tournament with only 6 fifties coming their way. Their top guns Hashmatullah Shahidi and Najibullah Zadran misfired which left them a whole skill short throughout the tournament.
Player who disappointed the most
Rashid Khan entered the tournament with a reputation of being not just the best spinner of the tournament but also the bowler with second most number of wickets in ODIs in past four years. Unfortunately his magic didn't work at the highest stage and he finished the tournament with below average figures. In 8 innings of the tournament he could manage only 6 wickets at an ordinary average of 69.33. His economy rate was on the higher side too and he finished the tournament with a strike rate of 71.8. He narrowly missed out on an unwanted record of conceding maximum number of runs in an inning in one day cricket against England when he went for 110 of his nine overs. Would you believe that he is the same bowler who averaged 17.80 against the other nine teams in one day cricket at the world cup during the period between 2015 and 2019 with an economy rate of 4.14?
Ikram Alikhil, the 18 year old left handed wicketkeeper batsman went home with 142 runs at 28. It's not his figures at the end of the tournament that matters but the promise he has shown throughout the tournament matters the most. He got an opportunity when Mohammad Shahzad was controversially ruled out of the tournament. Initially he did not get enough opportunity but once he got it, he nailed it like a champion. He was promoted up the order against West Indies and almost took the Afghans past the line but unfortunately he had no one on the other end to support him. His foot movement, the wristwork and composure on the crease surely indicates that he is here to stay, for a long and glorious career. Ikram also became the third youngest player to score a half century at the world cup.
What's next for them?
Despite a disastrous outing, Afghanistan doesn't need to panic. They never had an international team just a decade ago and now they already have participated in two world cups. They have produced some stars who are most sought after players in the t-20 leagues all around the globe. They just need to keep on growing with their young squad. Players like Rashid Khan, Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman, Ikram Alikhil, Najibullah Zadran and Rahmat Shah could be the future stars for them if ACB and ICC are willing to invest properly.