The rise of Afghanistan in the cricketing world has been nothing short of unbelievable. The Afghanistan Cricket Board was established in 1995, becoming an affiliate member of the ICC in 2001, and a member of the Asian Cricket Council in 2003.
A decade ago the team was playing in ICC World Cricket League Division Five, coming up the ranks quickly by winning ICC World Cricket League Division Four in Tanzania followed by Division Three in Argentina, helped the Afghan’s gain ODI status in April 2009.
In 2013 Afghanistan was promoted to associate member of the ICC. The next step would be the most monumental in Afghan cricket, as a Mohammad Nabi led Afghanistan beat Kenya by seven wickets to finish second in the ICC World Cricket League Championship thereby securing a place in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.
Their first World Cup went as many expected, losing five of their six group matches, but the team also created history when the recorded their first ever win in a World Cup match courtesy of a one wicket victory against Scotland.
Afghanistan’s journey to England & Wales for the 2019 edition of the Cricket World Cup was no easy ride. The team took part in the 2018 Cricket World Cup Qualifier, a tournament consisting of nine other teams including hosts Zimbabwe, Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Nepal, UAE, and West Indies, with the top two securing qualification.
Entering the tournament as one of the favourites, defeats in the opening three games left their World Cup dreams in tatters. Afghanistan were in a precarious position of having to win their final group game in addition to requiring other results in the group to go their way to have any chance of qualifying for the super-six stage of the tournament, as luck would have it, it did.
Once in the super-six stage, the team would capitalize on their good fortunes by winning three of their five matches to qualify for the World Cup, the cherry on top of the cake coming with their seven wicket victory against the West Indies in the finals to finish the tournament off in style.
Rashid Khan is probably the most recognizable name among the Afghan cricketers, the right arm spinner was thrust in to the limelight for his performances in the IPL, however, his ODI record is impressive as well with 123 wickets in 57 matches, boasting a bowling average of 15.00, including four five wicket hauls.
Stalwart Mohammad Nabi and newcomer Mujeeb Ur Rahman complete the team’s spin trio, undoubtedly the Afghanistan’s most potent weapon. It will fall on Gulbadin Naib’s shoulders to lead the team in England & Wales, the all rounder has never captained in an international game but perhaps this was a decision taken with long term goals in mind.
In comparison to their maiden World Cup foray in 2015 the current team is much more experienced, their evolution have been unrelenting, with wins against Bangladesh and SriLanka in the Asia Cup, as well as a draw against the mighty Indians in their final game of the tournament. Afghanistan has shown promise, a team who aren’t happy just to make up the numbers, they go in to the World Cup with lofty ambitions.
ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 Betting Odds:
Afghanistan to win: 100/1