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Afghanistan are currently on a tour to Zimbabwe as they have commenced preparations for the ICC 2015 World Cup. Having come through tough times, this team is now ready to take on the stronger nations and improve as they move along. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes that Afghanistan needs more tours like these, to play stronger sides, to prepare for the ICC 2015 World Cup.
Afghanistan cricket has set its sights high. Having overcome numerous hurdles beyond the cricket field and then fashioning a meteoric rise through the numerous World Cricket Leagues (WCL). That doesn’t come without an unshakable spirit, but there are bigger things they have in mind. As Kabir Khan, the coach told CricketCountry, earlier in 2014, “The aim is to raise the bar and be consistent. At our level we have been consistent, but at the top level we haven’t shown that much.” The tour to Zimbabwe is an opportunity to do just that.
Through 2014, Afghanistan have had a few encounters at the international level. These games have shown their talent, but also exposed the areas they fall short. Take the Asia Cup 2014 for example. They beat Bangladesh in a good game, gave Pakistan a scare, but India and Sri Lanka beat them comfortably. In the World T20 that followed, Bangladesh bowled them out for a paltry score and then they also lost to Nepal. Those weren’t results Afghanistan expected and certainly left them disappointed.
Afghanistan’s road to the 2015 World Cup begins now as they get their first full series in Zimbabwe. Instead of a few sporadic games, they can now test themselves over a period of several games. When you get a full series, you can plan better and execute them in the course of a few games. You get a sample space to test all your players and can learn from mistakes over a period of time.
The thing that has troubled Afghanistan in the big games is the inconsistency in batting. Many times, they have lost momentum as batsmen have played too many shots. Thus, instead of reaching a score closer to 250, they end up making something much lesser. This is one aspect they have to focus on as they build for the next World Cup. The bowling isn’t a big worry as they have some good pacers and some spin to go with it. But, for that department to function, they have to put the runs on the board.
There seem to be a few changes in the side with some of the under-19 players coming in. Earlier this year, Afghanistan’s under-19 side progressed to the quarter-final of the ICC Under-19 World Cup. The captain of the side, Nasir Jamal is now in the senior side. Mohammad Mujtaba, Afghanistan’s best batsman in the tournament, is now a part of their senior side for the longer formats. There are other under-19 players such as Hashmatullah Shaidi, Sharafuddin Ashraf and Usman Ghani in the main side. This is an important move as these youngsters have to be groomed for the World Cup. With a few months to go, it is the ideal time for them to blend them into the setup.
Afghanistan need more tours to other countries before the World Cup in order to prepare for it. It won’t help if they only play fellow associates and they need to take on the stronger sides more often. That is the way they will improve. Though the journey has been long and wonderful so far, there are still miles to go. They know it more than anyone.
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