Appearing in their second-ever Asia Cup, world number 10 Afghanistan would look to fare better this time round as compared to the previous outing in 2014, where they ended fourth. They’re placed in one of the tougher groups (B), and but have it in them to sail through to the next round of the tournament.
Here is a SWOT analysis of the team along with a prediction for the tournament.
Strengths: Rashid Khan, also referred as world’s best leg-spinner, will once again have his task cut out: Picking wickets at regular intervals. This is something he has been doing ever so consistently since his debut in 2015. Fastest to 100 ODI wickets, Rashid will look to continue his wicket-taking spree against Asian giants. Their bowling will further be strengthened by the presence of off-spinners Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Nabi. Not known for producing express fast bowlers, Afghanistan will look upto Aftab Alam to deliver.
Afghanistan's biggest assets are the all-rounders like Rahmat Shah and Samiullah Shenwari, who form the core of the team. They contribute in multiple departments, and the team doesn't have to depend on any particular star player to get desired results.
Weaknesses: Still in a transition phase, Afghanistan don’t play as many ODIs as they should, and hence could get inconsistent. In August they played a three-match ODI series against Ireland and won it 2-1. Barring that, the last ODI tournament they played was way back in March, the ICC World Cup Qualifier. Afghanistan do not get to play against the world's best teams regularly, and might be found wanting against them.
Another problem that could hamper their chances is the absence of quality batsmen. Though Mohammad Shahzad has been doing a great job for them, and has four tons to his name, he usually doesn't have the support of any other top-order batsman.
Opportunities: While almost all teams in Asia Cup play each other regularly, that is not the case with Afghanistan. They might spring a few surprises in the tournament considering the vast pool of talented players they have.
This tournament will give a clear indication whether this team has the temperament to deliver against top teams of the world. But the first challenge will be to clear the group stage. If they manage to get some wins under their belt and prove their mettle, they could get rid of their minnows tag once and for all.
Threats: A knockout berth might sound tempting and could be a reality too, but there are chances that the team might falter in that pressure. They face Sri Lanka side in their first match on September 17, and a loss against them could do irreparable damage to their campaign.
Prediction: It's a tough ask for Afghanistan to make it to the Super Four, but they have the team that could go far in the tournament.
First Published: September 17, 2018, 8:17 AM IST