Mature Afghanistan leave with immense pride after statement World Cup campaign

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They came. They saw. They even won. Just don’t finish Friday.

Afghanistan 2023 as the team of the tournament for some despite being eliminated before the knockout matches of the World Cup. They are all but sure a Sixth place finish – and with it, a spot in the 2025 Champions Trophy – and have presented a mature style of play that suggests they will be serious contenders in tournaments to come.

After that, Afghanistan will focus on their batting Against BangladeshAnd dropped catches – against New Zealand and especially against Glenn Maxwell Australia game When he was dropped for 33 before hitting a match-winning double century – a huge opportunity was missed. But when they take a broader view, they should reflect it with greater pride in their statement campaigns, to build on collective and individual performance.

Against South Africa in Ahmedabad, came the loudest Azmatullah Omarzai, the all-rounder who finished three short of becoming the second Afghan batsman to score a century in a World Cup and finished as the second-highest run-scorer with the highest average. As far as breakout World Cup performances go, Omarzai certainly had one.

Prior to this World Cup he had only 14 ODIs to his name and had never batted at number one. 5 for the national team. He scored 62 runs in Omarzai’s first outing against India In Delhi, where Afghanistan unveiled Batting blueprint They will use it for the rest of the tournament. He then scored two more unbeaten half-centuries- Against Sri Lanka and South Africa – and picked up seven wickets along the way. From what we have seen of Omarzai so far, he is a clean ball-striker and a strong off-side player, who can pounce on anything too wide.

“I’m always amazed at how he can time the ball,” Jonathan Trott, the Afghanistan coach, said about Omarzai in the post-match press conference. “We saw the other night – he hit Mitchell Starc over his head or even over mid-off. It was the same today, above mid-off. You rarely see players who can time the ball. , and to hear the sound the ball makes as it comes off his bat…”

Omarzai hit three fours through cover on Friday, but his shot of the day was a six over Aiden Markram’s head. Even through the glass of the press box – and perhaps because the stadium was less than a tenth full – there was an audible thump and chorus of oooohs and aahs, all agreeing with Trott’s sentiments.

“He’s a very special talent,” he said. “I’m anxious to see the IPL auction when his name comes up.”

Apart from his obvious talent, another reason to be delighted by Omarzai’s performance is that it represents the depth of Afghanistan. Omarzai is part of the next generation of Afghan players, who came after pioneers like Mohammad Nabi and Hashmatullah Shahidi. Omarzai was part of the Afghanistan U-19 team that played in the 2018 age-group World Cup and reached the semi-finals, and also included Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ibrahim Zadran, Ikram Alikhil, Nabeen-ul-Haq and Mujeeb ur Rahman.

All of them have had some sort of impact in this tournament, and have created a pipeline of Afghan talent for selectors that Trott will continue to look up to.

“The next step is to have a squad with more players,” he said. “For the first time, we are able to really select a team depending on the situation, whereas before we had 11, and if we had an injury. [it would be a problem]. Now you see the rise of players. There’s definitely a bigger pool than in the past to be able to choose from.”

In this World Cup, Afghanistan managed to adapt their batting – they brought in Omarzai for Najibullah Zadran – and more so their bowling. They started with two frontline seamers in Naveen and Fazalhaq Farooqui and when they felt the conditions would allow, dropped Farooqui for a fourth spinner. Noor Ahmad, who is part of the youngest generation of talent. Noor played in the 2022 U-19 World Cup and already has experience in major leagues like BBL, PSL, CPL and IPL.

Which brings us to the section where Trott said Afghanistan are expected to be “generally” strong in spin. Rashid Khan, who started slowly amid many questions about whether he would be able to translate his T20 form into ODIs, finished as Afghanistan’s leading wicket-taker. Afghanistan’s spinners took a combined 32 wickets in this World Cup, the most by any slow bowler so far. It is followed by New Zealand and India with 27.

Their spinners were also instrumental in helping Afghanistan control the middle overs. From 11 to 40 overs, Afghanistan conceded the second lowest run rate in the tournament: 4.97 from the over. Only India, at 4.47, is better.

Afghanistan will look at all these numbers – and they will, as we have already seen that Trott is a meticulous planner – and recognize them as building blocks for a team that can do more. They will remember that they have completed them Highest successful chase in ODIs When they were beaten against Pakistan, and then scored clinically against Sri Lanka and the Netherlands. They showed “we can win in different ways”, as Trott said.

But mostly they will look back on this campaign as a capsule in which they enjoyed some of the best moments of their careers and showed the world a side of their country that is not often seen: a happy, united and victorious country – at least in this World Cup – and the players. A group who had the time of their lives.

“They’re a bunch of guys very proud to represent them. I enjoy it,” Trott said. “When you’re proud of who you are and the challenges you represent – perhaps personal challenges in the past – being able to be a cricket player, and keep it [challenges] A side for a common goal [is great].

“It’s been a long time – definitely a tough testing time – but these four wins in this World Cup, joy on their faces [on] Beating Pakistan for the first time – that makes it all worthwhile. It’s really a moment I won’t forget, along with a lot of other guys.”

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