With their victory over England last night, Afghanistan, the team dominated by T20 globetrotters, prove they are not going to be pushovers in this World Cup.
“Tabhi aap keh rahe ho ye choti team hai, jis din badi team ko gira denge us din aap bologe ye badi team hai (you are saying they are a small team, the day they beat a big team they will become a big team)”
Afghanistan mentor Ajay Jadeja was candid in response to a question on his side’s inability to beat the big teams, even after coming close on few occasions in the past. Just few days after the interaction with a few reporters on side lines of nets, Afghanistan have now become the “badi team” as they stunned defending champions England in New Delhi on Sunday.
In context of the World Cup, this result will do a world of good to the tournament where the mood before this game had been India and the rest. The interest for 9 out of the first 12 games seemed on snooze mode and came to life on the three occasions India played. All this, however, is well going to change after Game No.13 as Afghanistan gave everyone a reason to wake up from their India vs Pakistan hangover and witness a slice of cricketing history being made.
Just like the 25,000+, who got their money worth at the Arun Jaitley Stadium, more will now queue up to watch the “badi team” challenge other teams in the tournament. The experienced spin trio of Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Rashid Khan and Mohammd Nabi showcased what they can do on even smallish grounds and how the support from Fazalhaq Farooqi and Naveen-ul-Haq lends so much bite to this attack.
Naveen picked just one wicket today but that one wicket, of dangerous Jos Buttler, was the game-turning moment. The sharp in-swinger went through the explosive right-hander’s gate and England at 91/4, were left with a mountain to climb. The defending champs had a long batting but even the longest of batting can struggle against this quality spin troika in conditions with just enough assistance.
The Chennai leg
With one win from three games, Afghanistan are tied with England and Bangladesh on points and will now move base to Chennai for their next two games vs Pakistan and New Zealand respectively. If the surface in Chennai is closer to the one used for India vs Australia fixture at the venue, Afghanistan could well have more surprises in store. They will not have too much travelling to do in the next one week and coach Jonathan Trott feels it will help but the mentality of the side remains to “try and win both games”.
“You don’t have to move, there’s no travel for tiredness or you become familiar with the pitch as well. But not to say that first game in Chennai, we’ll have a look and then we’ll only try and win the second game. We’re there to try and win both games.
“So, I think that’s the mentality. You know, New Zealand are playing really well l. They’re a good side. They had a great series against England, very competitive series. So, I know that they will, fancy themselves and they’ll probably be the favourites,” says Trott at post-match presser.
Afghanistan will be riding high on confidence after beating a side which not only won the last World Cup but gave them a serious beating last time they met in 2019. From conceding 397/6 then to bundling out the same opposition for 215 last night, the team has come a long way and would have well triggered alarm bells in opposition camps.
The next two fixtures in Chennai could well turn out to be banana peel for either New Zealand or Pakistan or even both. And if that happens, the transition of “choti team” to “badi team” would certainly be complete and Jadeja, the self-proclaimed “tour-guide” of the side, would be the happiest.