ICC World Cup Qualifiers 2018
On March 23rd, 2018, Cricket unveiled its true nature as a sport; one that fetches unbridled excitement to the winning team but at the same time, results in a prolonged state of suffering for the other. Today, fans and critics alike must celebrate Afghanistan’s famous win resulting in 2019 World Cup qualification and at the same time, reserve a moment for acknowledging the fighting spirit of Ireland.
If you rewind the clocks back to the past, you’d find that Ireland have made it not once but twice in the ICC World Cup. Those held in 2011 and 2015. For the last half a decade, their cricket has been rising. A feeling of immensity and having made it to the pinnacle of sporting extravaganza has ideally summed up their approach to the game: unfaltering, passionate and, driven to achieve.
On the other hand, in booking their maiden trip to the Academy Award equivalent of a cricketing fest, Afghanistan are rejoicing in the same air of immensity that enveloped those who were vanquished. This could well be a moment that marks a new beginning for Afghanistan Cricket. It, in someway, also brings to life that very truth about modern sport: it’s not over until it’s over.
At one stage, it weren’t ever certain if Afghanistan would make it to the Super Six stage. Scotland were going strong, as were the Windies. Today, they are following in the footsteps of the West Indies, only after having smashed them in a league tie. So which five players have resulted in Afghanistan scampering home in a fitting spectacle?
1. Mohammad Shahzad
A thrilling player and someone who emotes passionately, whether it is with the brisk striking through the bat or the vocal support his lads behind the stumps, Mohammad Shahzad is a vital cog of this Afghanistan team. He brings that excitement into a game that can be dulled by periods of utter inactivity.
In this vital competition, Shahzad contributed with the bat when it most mattered. Usually, his brisk cameo’s as an opening batsman enabled Afghanistan to break the shackles in scoring, his valuable 54 against Ireland in a virtual final game made it a fitting sight to behold.
2. Mohammad Nabi
Graceful and thoroughly competitive, at a time where much of the focus rests with Rashid Khan being the talismanic force for Afghanistan, their former captain brings a world of experience into the game. He can flight the ball just as well as he can bamboozle batsmen with clever variations. Throughout this tournament, Nabi kept pressure on the scoring rate of his competitors and, didn’t allow them an easy escape. He has picked up 13 brilliant wickets from the tournament and helped his team register match-winning performances against Nepal and West Indies.
3. Gulbadin Naib
It could be said, Afghanistan didn’t particularly ace the competition by an absolute dominance of their bat. In their crucial games against West Indies, UAE and Ireland, Naib grabbed the opportunity to score when others had failed. None demonstrates this better than his rescue act against UAE- wherein he scored an unbeaten 74. Previously, his vital accumulation 45 in the game against Ireland, made Naib blossom as a rose amid what were periods of decaying.
4. Najibullah Zadran
Despite his slender frame, Najibullah Zadran is a player most oppositions would be better off from taking lightly. His unhurried, unassuming approach to the game doesn’t exactly seem threatening but this clever batsman, adept at maneuvering the ball in the final few overs knows a thing or two about strike rotation and accumulating runs cautiously. At the same time, he can burst into a muscled whack over mid-wicket and long on region, his favourite areas. He demonstrated just that as he powered a magnificent six that against Ireland that brought the target down to 8 off 13 in the final overs. Throughout the tournament he has chipped in with vital fifties- 3 of them, thus becoming an important cog of Afghanistan’s batting.
5. Rashid Khan
One of those players from Afghanistan who could truly become an outstanding great of the sport, there’s never a dull moment with holding the white ball in hand. What lie ahead for batsmen are onerous challenges to counter. He was, by his standards of excellence, the pick of the bowlers and scalped an amazing 16 wickets, including a 5-for in a must-win against UAE. His googlies are yet to be decoded by batsmen and even in periods where it seemed the wickets weren’t coming, he kept inducing pressure by virtue of dot-balls, perhaps his silent middle name.