After making its World Cup debut in 2015, Afghanistan is back and looking to improve on its record from four years ago. The 2015 squad won just one game against lowly Scotland but has certainly improved in the intervening four years.
In an extended format that offers a guaranteed nine group matches, the Afghans should build on that record of one solitary win, even if progression to the semifinals seems out of their reach.
Afghanistan carries the longest price of any team at the 2019 World Cup and can be backed at odds of +10000 to lift the trophy. That projection suggests they will finish at the bottom of the table but we suspect that may not be the case. The side has already beaten Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and West Indies in full one day internationals and there is every chance they can defeat at least two of those teams at the World Cup.
In terms of lifting the trophy, that is out of the question at this early stage so it’s a question of looking for value in individual match betting.
It’s a Mystery
The biggest strength in the squad lies in the spin bowling department which is led by Rashid Khan. The leg spinner has been a feature at the IPL for a number of seasons now and is in high demand by T20 franchises around the world.
In the longer form of the one-day game, Rashid’s economy rate of 3.91 will be tested in this tournament but it underlines his value to the squad. It’s not a one-man team, however, and there will be support in the spin department from Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi. Together, they combine to form what could be the most potent spin attack in the game but will there be enough backup in the Powerplay overs?
Like a number of teams at the 2019 World Cup, the issue for Afghanistan lies with their seam bowling attack. The squad will be greeted by flat surfaces where scores of 350+ can be achieved with regularity and the new ball bowlers will be put under immediate pressure.
Spinners of the class of Rashid Khan will enjoy assistance from any deck but the quicker bowlers could see their economy rates soar by the end of the tournament. Dawlat Zadran and Aftab Alam can be useful when the conditions are in their favor but if the skies are clear, then the wickets will be flat and this is the area where Afghanistan will struggle.
We’ve already mentioned the key man in this squad and there is very little in the way of opposition. Other Afghanistan cricketers have played in limited overs tournaments around the world but the man they all want is Rashid Khan.
Coming into the 2019 World Cup, Rashid had taken 125 wickets from 58 ODI games with a seriously impressive best of 7/18. It’s that economy rate of 3.91 that really stands out in an era where batting totals of 400 are becoming unremarkable.
He’s also developing as a batsman and, while not in the true all-rounder class just yet, Rashid has now registered four half centuries in this format.
There should be some interest in Rashid Khan as the tournament’s leading bowler. The leg spinner is on offer at +2000 to take most wickets overall and many punters are taking that price. It’s certainly an option but we can’t see Afghanistan making it to the semifinals and the winner of this market is likely to go deeper into the tournament.
If we take a look at the batting options, the most dangerous hitter for the Afghans is Mohammad Shahzad and he holds a number of national records in the ODI format. Shahzad is, however, a very distant pick at +10000 to be the tournament’s leading run scorer.
Those two figures simply underline where Afghanistan’s strengths will lie. They are a competitive bowling unit — at least as far as spin is concerned — and their slow men have the quality to get purchase out of these flat tracks. Seam bowling is an issue, however, while the batting can be dangerous but it lacks long-term consistency.
At the 2019 World Cup, the mission for Afghanistan is to improve on the performances from four years ago. In Australia and New Zealand in 2015, they recorded one win over lowly Scotland and they certainly have the ability to improve on that. Picking up two or more victories is their aim and they can even pull off a shock against a major ODI nation but a place in the knockouts will have to wait for another four years at least.
Prediction: Group Stages
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ICC World Cup News
Odds Shark Staff Thu, Feb 17, 9:14amICC World Cup