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Opinion

Opinion: Afghanistan can lift the trophy – and no-one should be surprised if they do

Reaching the final of the World Cup will not only be good for the proud nation of Afghanistan but it will also be great for cricket.

By Shahid Afridi

info@thearabianstories.com

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Afghanistan’s progress in this ICC Men’s T20 World Cup has been fantastic to witness.

They have truly earned their first-ever spot in the semi-finals. A team that beats New Zealand, Australia and Bangladesh in competitive cricket can’t be taken lightly. They have demonstrated great teamwork, ability to handle pressure and a positive mindset.

Reaching the final of the World Cup will not only be good for the proud nation of Afghanistan but it will also be great for cricket. It will help promote the great game of cricket in nations where they are no longer considered ‘minnows’ and will inspire young cricketers to dream big and elevate nations.

Afghanistan have some key players who have shone in this tournament and will play a crucial part in the semis.

They have great match-winners throughout the side. Rashid Khan is leading from the front, they have a great opening pair who have produced amazing partnerships, and pacers who are bowling great line and length and taking vital wickets. Rahmanullah Gurbaz is the leading run-scorer in the competition and Fazalhaq Farooqi has taken more wickets than anybody else – he, Rashid Khan and Naveen-ul-Haq have done wonders with the ball.

They should take a lot of confidence knowing that they have already beaten New Zealand, Australia and Bangladesh in a fantastic, low-scoring thriller. If they can do that, they can also lift the trophy and if they do, no one should be surprised.

Ability to handle pressure in big moments is important. Players must maintain a positive approach and take one game at a time. Even though it’s a team game but when everyone takes the responsibility to perform, the team just works. Key to producing in big games is to control the six inches of real estate between your ears. The one who controls the nerves takes the glory.

I was able to do that in our 2009 semi-final against South Africa, a day I still cherish. It is still fresh in my mind and brings a heartwarming smile whenever I reminisce about that time.

It was one of my memorable performances, with a half-century and two wickets while going at four an over, and it helped the team reach the final, which we also won.

This year’s competition will see a new finalist, Afghanistan or South Africa, which is refreshing – after all, the only constant in life is change.

South Africa have match-winners of their own – Quinton de Kock has exhibited some of his brilliant ball-striking skills, while Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada have shown great discipline with the ball.

Seeing how they fare against Afghanistan will be intriguing, as will the other semi-final between India and England.

Rohit Sharma’s innings against Australia was a phenomenal one and having Virat Kohli in your team always gives you an edge. Arshdeep Singh, Jasprit Bumrah and Kuldeep Yadav have performed superbly while Adil Rashid, Phil Salt and Jos Buttler’s performances have led England to some great wins and their place in the semis. Liam Livingstone can also be a crucial man on a big day.

More generally, seeing new teams make to the top four is wonderful.

The game of cricket wins in that scenario and the ICC has done a remarkable job promoting cricket to new nations and in the United States, which will serve this great game of cricket for generations to come.

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