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Afghanistan's incredible journey to the semi-final stage of T20 World Cup 2024

Afghanistan's journey to the maiden ICC Men's T20 World Cup semifinals. What makes their campaign so successful and what lies ahead of them?

Afghanistan qualify for the semi-finals of ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2024 | Walking Wicket (Source_ ©acbofficials_X)
Afghanistan qualify for the semi-finals of T20 WC 2024 (Source: ©ACBofficials/X)

Afghanistan secured a historic berth in the semi-finals of the ongoing ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024, marking a monumental achievement in their cricketing journey. The match against Bangladesh on June 25 was more than just a game. It was a narrative of determination, resilience and growth.

Afghanistan entered the contest needing a victory to advance, having already shown their potential by defeating heavyweights like Australia earlier in the tournament. The stage was set in St Vincent, where spinners revelled in the conditions, extracting turn and uneven bounce from the surface. Rain interruptions added further drama to an already tense affair, complicating strategies and altering the course of play at crucial junctures.

Afghanistan pip Bangladesh to semi-finals

Batting first, Afghanistan faced a daunting task against Bangladesh's bowlers. Setting a modest target of 115 runs, Afghanistan batters, however, played cautiously, mindful of the challenging conditions. Despite the low total, they banked on their spin-heavy attack to defend it. Rashid Khan, their dynamic captain, and right-arm pacer Naveen-ul-Haq emerged as the chief tormentors with the ball, each claiming four wickets to restrict Bangladesh to a narrow defeat.

The victory not only propelled Afghanistan into the semi-finals but also knocked out Bangladesh and Australia from contention.

From refugee camps to global stage

Their journey from refugee camps in Pakistan to the global stage has been nothing short of remarkable, symbolising the triumph of perseverance and talent over adversity.

The Afghanistan team's rise in cricketing circles has been gradual yet spectacular. Since their inception into major tournaments, they have steadily improved, earning respect and admiration for their spirited performances. This World Cup campaign was a culmination of years of hard work and dedication, highlighted by their ability to compete with and defeat more established cricketing nations.

Key to Afghanistan’s success

Key to the success of Afghanistan in this World Cup has been the emergence of young talents like Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran, who provided solidity at the top of the batting order. Their aggressive approach laid the foundation for many of Afghanistan's victories, including the crucial win over Australia that set the stage for their semi-final qualification.

Captain Rashid Khan's leadership and prowess in all-round cricket have been instrumental throughout the tournament, showcasing his ability to inspire and lead by example. The contributions of their spinners have often been lauded, but in this tournament, even the pacers stepped up when needed, proving the team's depth and versatility.

Also, the reason behind their success are also the brains off the field, especially the coaching staff who are with the team right now. The head coach, Jonathan Trott, has been one of the key figures behind the team's success in recent years. He was appointed the head coach in July 2022. And since being named the head coach, he has overseen some of their great fightbacks.

On the other hand, former West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo was named the consultant of the team just ahead of the T20 World Cup 2024 for his home knowledge with the tournament being played at the Caribbean.

In this World Cup, Afghanistan's journey mirrored their broader evolution in cricket. From being considered minnows to becoming genuine contenders, they have shattered stereotypes and proven their ability to compete at the highest level.

Afghanistan qualify for the semi-finals of ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2024 _ Walking Wicket (Source_ ©acbofficials_X)
Rashid Khan led Afghanistan to maiden semis of ICC event (Source: ©ACBOfficials/X)
Credit to IPL and franchise cricket

The likes of Rashid Khan, Azmatullah Omarzai, Noor Ahmad, Mohammad Nabi and Naveen-ul-haq have all been regulars in the IPL and other leagues around the world. The Afghanistan cricketers move around the globe and play cricket, especially T20 cricket. It must have surely given them the upper hand in understanding the gameplay of the all the teams from world cricket and playing conditions in different countries. Coach Trott has observed significant improvements in their performances after each stint.

“Well, I think the more exposure players have got to the IPL and different franchises where there’s pressure all the time in this format of the game, I think that’ll only do us well and serve us well going forward,” Trott said during the press conference before Afghanistan’s final Group C match against the West Indies.

"I know that the players – and we had a lot of players at the IPL every time they come back, I can see a little bit of a difference or a change every time they go away to franchise good and bad changes. It’s just about holding on to those good ones and making sure that we address things that need to be addressed,” Trott added.

Afghanistan journey till now & What lies ahead

For Afghanistan, qualification for the semi-final was another step on the remarkable journey they've taken since first qualifying for a T20 World Cup in 2010.

The Rashid Khan-led side progressed from the first of two group stages, finishing runners-up in Group C, but lost heavily in their final match against the West Indies, and were easily beaten by India in the first match of the Super Eights.

However, they came roaring back to defeat previously unbeaten Australia on Sunday to put themselves in the driving seat for semi-final qualification against Bangladesh.

Looking ahead, Afghanistan faces South Africa in the semi-finals, a challenge that promises to be their sternest test yet. Victory would not only secure a place in the final but also solidify their status as a rising force in world cricket. The prospect of facing either England or India in the championship match underscores the magnitude of their achievement and the enormity of their ambitions.


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