ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan were far below their best against India Wednesday in the T20 World Cup match reminding the fans about their early days of cricket when they were just novices, learning the cricketing skills, and reluctant to play their best game when pitted against an established side.
There was more than one reason to believe there was something astonishingly wrong with their body language. The spirit, enthusiasm, and will to take their opponents head-on were missing from their game altogether. Even the quality bowler like Rashid Khan was struggling with his line and length. The spinner who has tormented the strongest of batting lineups was seen bowling below par, conceding nine per over. So much so that Naveenul Haq, who had been too miser in conceding runs during previous matches was hit for a record 59 of four.
The bowler in question has been so immaculate in previous matches that scoring runs freely of him had been really challenging for batsmen. Against India, on Wednesday there was no such issue as Indian batsmen who were provided with all the opportunities to open up their arms and strike at well to plug the gap of 61 runs that India required to turn the run-rate in a positive direction-after they lost considerable ground against Pakistan and New Zealand in back-to-back defeats.
Hazratullah Zazai and Mohammad Shahzad’s handling with the power play in wake of huge total amid prospects of dew was also questionable and so was the pathetic fielding and lack of concentration the Afghanis have shown in catching.
Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi’s conversation with Indian counterpart Virat Kohli where he declared his decision to him even before talking to the host was seen at least in bad taste in cricketing terms. Usually, the captain winning the toss reveals his decision to host of coin-toss ceremony rather than expressing his views to the opposing captain.
In the end, it was all made easy by Afghanistan cricketers for India to get on the points table in the third game. Admitted that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has invested heavily in Afghan cricket and its teams in recent times but just presenting them with a cakewalk at the expense of the tempo they have set for themselves in the World Cup T20 could never be termed a gentleman approach.
Usually, such a lackluster performance that Afghanistan has shown against India is enough to believe that the menace of match-fixing is still ripe around. Whenever and wherever the Indian fixing syndicates want their presence they look at ease to do so. Nabi’s decision to open the bowling with spinners on a track that has something for seamers early on and later his shuffling with his resources all strengthen the suspension that there was something seriously wrong here. One hopes that ICC would have been keeping a close eye on what has happened Wednesday and will make an effort to dig the truth for the benefit of cricket-though chances look bleak considering the Indian stranglehold on its resources.
India may have been helped in getting on the points table, it would not be easier for Afghanistan to pin down a highly professional New Zealand team on November 7 to help India further to earn a place in the semi-finals.
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