T20 World Cup, Super 8: In the 'Big Boys Club', Afghanistan want to be giant killers

AT the start of the T20 World Cup 2024, did you bet on Afghanistan to make it to the Super 8s? Well, the Rashid Khan-led has risen through the ranks to make a mark for themselves in international cricket.

Their wins over better-ranked teams are no longer an upset. Afghanistan are now in the ‘Big Boys Club’ as they will take part in the Super 8 stage of the tournament.

The signs of this South-Asian team’s rise were evident from the ODI World Cup last year. In their very next ICC event, Afghanistan ensured that they stamped their authority and how! Mind you, they were not placed in an easy group. Group C featured the co-hosts and 2-time T20 World Cup champions West Indies and New Zealand, alongside Papua New Guinea and Uganda.

AFG brilliant run in T20 World Cup 2024

Afghanistan came out all guns firing in their very first match against Uganda to register their second biggest win in the T20Is, hammering the associate team by125 runs. However, this was just a glimpse of what followed next. This time it was New Zealand, who faced the wrath of Afghanistan’s batters as well as the bowlers and lost the match by 84 runs. It was followed by an easy win by 7 wickets against Papua New Guinea. Afghanistan laid down an early marker by knocking New Zealand out of the tournament, the team that has always done well in ICC events.

Amongst the Asian teams, India have been doing well as they advanced into the Super 8s without any hiccup. Pakistan and Sri Lanka were the let-downs as they were knocked out early. Nepal impressed with the fight they put up against Bangladesh and South Africa. Meanwhile, Bangladesh had a topsy-turvy ride before sneaking through to the Super 8s.

While Afghanistan would be proud of how far they have come, they will face India in their first Super 8 match. They have headed to the next phase on the back of a defeat by hefty margin of 104 runs against the West Indies.

How AFG need to prepare against India?

Former India cricketer Varun Aaron wanted Afghanistan to brush aside the loss and come up with a fresh approach against India.

“Tell us the truth, definitely. It’s going to bother them because you want to take momentum into a big game like against India. You want to have winning memories instead of losing memories because we all know how losses can snowball into a lot of doubts and problems within a team. But that said Afghanistan are where they wanted to be. They’ve had a really good run through these league stages and into the Super eight, so they are happy where they are. They can’t be content. They have to get their hunger back and want to beat India,” Aaron told Star Sports.

Afghanistan faced India in a 3-match T20I series, which they lost 0-3 in January 2024. They ran India close in the final game in Bengaluru as the hosts needed two Super Overs to produce a favourable result. However, the onus will be on the top run-scorer as well as the top wicket-taker of the tournament, i.e. Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Fazalhaq Farooqi — to orchestrate a threat to Rohit Sharma’s men.

Can Afghanistan cause upsets in Super 8s?

Varun Aaron showcased his confidence in Afghanistan to pull off an upset or two in the knockout stage as well. However, he wanted Afghanistan’s batting to step up. It was the batting that let them down against the West Indies.

“Also, when you have a look at that group with India, Australia, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, Afghanistan will also be looking at those fixtures and say we have drawn the two toughest teams in our first two fixtures before we play Bangladesh in the last game of the Super Eight, you know Afghanistan would fancy their chances and I would fancy Afghan definitely cause an upset or two, and they are.”

“They have that team. They have the bowling attack, especially to cause those upsets. It’s just about how they marshal their troops around Gurbaz and how they contribute because their batting is their weaker link. They just have to focus on their batting. I think the bowling will take care of themselves, but obviously not what they did today. They have to be more on target, especially with the new ball,” Aaron added.

Afghanistan’s Super 8 nemesis

Afghanistan do have an edge over Bangladesh, having won 6 out of the 11 T20I encounters. Meanwhile, Afghanistan had also given a huge scare to Australia in the ODI World Cup last year in Mumbai before Glenn Maxwell played a freak innings of 200* and sealed the deal for the eventual champions.

Afghanistan will be determined to make a mark in the Super 8s and prove that they are no longer pushovers, even for the big boys, in T20I cricket.