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ICC World Cup 2019 – Teams That Didn’t Make It To The Knockouts

July 16, 2019

******Afghanistan******

 

A tournament having an abundance of harsh lessons and full of mediocrity have bulldozed Afghanistan over more often than not. Except for the games against India where they looked in some control for most of the game-time and against Pakistan where a brief reputation-enhancing sparkle took the game deep into the final over they have played some under-par cricket throughout the tournament. Their batsmen never really got going and even Mohammad Nabi, their most successful bowler in the tournament lacked penetration. But what hurt their chances more than anything else was the absence of a leader. Gulbadin Naib gave away runs at an economy close to 6.5 and scored runs at an average of just over 21. Rashid Khan was the biggest disappointment. His T20 lengths didn’t work for him and he refused to learn from his mistakes while bowling on tracks that didn’t offer much to a spinner. He was clearly found short of creative ideas and out-of-the-box thinking and looked pretty much handicapped in front of the rampaging batsmen. While Rashid’s bad days were made really bad it was his younger peer Mujeeb ur Rahman who stood out by holding his fort and would possibly be considered as Afghanistan’s best performer in the tournament. There were too many off-the-field and behind-the-scene incidents that cumulatively got bigger on them and was enough to rock back a team of their stature. Though walking out of the tournament they found a gem in the teenaged Ikram Ali Khil who showed that it’s time to invest more in him as his talent needs to be made better use of. But overall, with 9 defeat in 9 games the Afghanistan players would look to forget the tournament and move on from here.

******West Indies******

 

As the West Indies embarked on a journey to partake in England it seemed to be a window of hope that they would perhaps revive their fortunes. They also hit the ground on a perfect note with a thumping win over Pakistan in their tournament opener. But as the tournament progressed it became more synonymous with near-misses and occasional flourish of individual brilliance. Mostly their power hitters couldn’t adapt to the 50-over format which demands a different tempo towards building an innings. It was seen in their game against Australia where they should have pulled off the chase with everything right on track, but it turned out as if they were looking to do it in boundaries only. As a result their batsmen kept falling to Mitchell Starc and having missed out on what could have been a morale-boosting win against the defending champions, the Caribbeans’ campaign fell into a secular decline from thereon. The heart wrenching defeats against New Zealand and Sri Lanka came to encapsulate the fact of their inability to blend flair with more a pragmatic approach – an approach that needed calming influence in the middle order and clever rotation of the strike. Shai Hope who came into the tournament in tremendous form was expected to fill that role, but his low strike rate pulled the team back. Having said that Jofra Archer had already slipped away from their radar, their existing bowlers could perhaps have bowled with more discipline. On a positive note, they would feel that in the trio of Hope-Hetmyer-Pooran they have got the bases covered for the nucleus of a formidable future batting suit. Nicholas Pooran lit up this campaign with some eye-catching stroke-play, especially the way he threw Wahab Riaz off his plans by tonking him across the line and into the stands. Though their innings of the tournament came from Carlos Braithwaite yet Pooran’s knock against Sri Lanka was not far behind either. However in both the games the Windies fell agonisingly short and that sums up their tale of missed opportunities.

******South Africa******

 

Never before did South Africa come into a World Cup with expectation levels on such a lower side. And that they failed to live up to such low standards as well gives a clear indication of how poor they had been in this tournament. Even before one of the 4 semifinalists was decided South Africa’s hopes of getting there had eluded. And to make matters even worse they become the drama queens of the tournament with the saga of AB de Villiers’ comeback from retirement that never happened and Kagiso Rabada’s IPL stint and whether or not that should’ve happened. Injury came to plague the Protea’s fate as 3 out of their 4 main seamers were out injured at various stages before and during the tournament. Although Rabada remained fit for the course he looked jaded during most of the games after a long cricket year. Their batters didn’t enjoy the taste of success either except their skipper. Faf du Plessis was not completely out of form as most other senior players were, but even after scoring an aggregate of 387 runs he would still regret about not posting big scores despite looking solid at the middle before getting out. Forms of veterans like Amla and Tahir came as an utter disappointment. JP Duminy could neither accelerate nor consolidate in the middle overs while David Miller remained the shadow of his “killer” avatar. Nonetheless, the manner in which South Africa defeated Australia in their final game served as a good reminder that they were still a good side that didn’t quite turn up earlier in the tournament. The victory however had more significance to India and South Africa’s World Cup journey might have ended there, still there were smiles all around. That’s not how they end their world cup campaigns but that’s not also how they come and play as this time they choked even before the stage they could potentially choke at.

******Bangladesh******

Bangladesh are no longer a side that oppositions take for granted. That they are no mere push-overs they have proved it in this edition too, the third instance Bangladesh winning 3 games in a world cup. However they had the potential of ending with more than just those 3 wins had they not squandered their positions and succeeded to seize the key moments. They made their opponents to work hard and kept pushing them right till the very end. Shakib Al Hasan had a near-dream tournament. Near because Bangladesh didn’t make it to the knockouts. His made history with one after another stellar performance of all round brilliance. He scored more than 600 runs and took 11 wickets with no other player in the world cup history had ever been any closer to him by any means. He was also Bangladesh’s best bowler in terms of economy rate. But even before he would come to deliver his first ball his teammates had let him down immensely with the ball. Mashrafe Mortaza had an insipid stint, failing to create any sort of pressure whatsoever. He picked up only 1 wicket in course of the entire tournament and even though Mustafizur plucked 20 of those he went for runs almost in every game. If we have to talk about batting, Soumya Sarkar was simply reckless, Tamim Iqbal kept searching for his form and neither Mosaddek Hossain nor Mohammad Mithun was able to make justice to their talents. It inevitably and repeatedly heaped responsibility onto Shakib who kept on responding to it again and again with some help from Mushfiqur Rahim and one match-defining knock from Liton Das. It came down to crucial moments in the field too. Against New Zealand, the match they eventually spilled by 2 wickets, had Rahim not missed the simplest of opportunities to run Williamson out, Bangladesh could have won the game. Also against India Tamim dropped a sitter to hand Rohit Sharma the one life which was proved to be sufficient for the latter to notch up another blistering hundred. Overall they had a bittersweet campaign and probably the first one where the other teams didn’t play them in the merit of an associate nation. It was just that Shakib’s string of sensational performances was Bangladesh’s sole hope for knockout qualifications but unfortunately he didn’t get the collective support from rest of team and top 4 remained far from reality.

******Sri Lanka******

 

That Sri Lanka finished sixth – ahead of South Africa, Bangladesh, West Indies and Afghanistan was not something many would have fancied considering their on-paper strength. They did punch above their weight at one point to make things interesting at the second half of the tournament, although they fell short of qualifications by quite some distance. Two of their washed out games against Pakistan and Bangladesh left them with too much to do against the likes of Australia, South Africa and India but they simply didn’t have the firepower to match the top sides. But just when we thought that England would blow the Lankans away the latter pulled off a stunner to unsettle the hosts and earn some solace for themselves. It was Lasith Malinga who starred their bowling show triggering an English collapse and thereby showing it to the other teams that England’s middle order could also be fragile, especially when it comes down to chases. He remained Sri Lanka’s best performer in course of the tournament and proved all those critics wrong who questioned his fitness and commitment. It was about 12 months back when the aging pacer looked far from his prime but a lot changed since then. He merged his IPL and domestic cricket duties to ensure a spot in the world cup squad and also dashed back and forth to the UK after a death in his family. However while doing all that he didn’t forget one thing that mattered – that of forgetting how to take wickets. Even at the age of 35 he picked up 13 wickets in 7 games as he stood head and shoulders above the other Sri Lankan bowlers. It was only Angelo Mathews and Avishka Fernando to score centuries for them with Karunaratne missing one just by 3 runs. Barring these there were no real big contributions from their batsmen resulting which they could get past 300 only once in the 6 games they batted first. Fernando was their find of the tournament. He got to play only 4 games but displayed a lot of mettle. He seems to be an investment worth sustaining and it remains to be seen if he gets better in the days to come.

******Pakistan******

 

With Pakistan, it was all about the rhythm that was found too late. It wasn’t found until their seventh game against New Zealand where they fielded the same playing eleven for the first time in two consecutive games having done all the chopping and changing in the first five that saw 4 different pairs opening their bowling. But once they sought consistency in selection and their team sheets featured the same playing eleven, Pakistan sealed thrillers and rolled over their oppositions. Heroes were born every game and it seemed that their players had aligned for them to repeat the 1992 heroics in an outrageously replicating fashion. Their opening fixture lasted only about three hours and threw their net run rate into an abyss. However from time to time they showcased the traits of cornered tigers to pounce back into contention whenever they found their backs against the wall. Their 105 all-out against the Windies was followed by a strong display of 348 batting first against the eventual champions England and their defeat against India produced an incredible winning streak. But it was between these two high points they looked out of sorts. Their missed opportunities in the field had the potential to yield crucial moments. Pakistan banked big time on two of their experienced players Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez. While Malik had an outing to forget with 8 runs in 3 games including two ducks before eventually getting dropped from the side, Hafeez regularly broke down after getting off to decent starts with the bat. There were some brilliant individual performances – Mohammad Amir’s first ever ODI five-fer, Harris Sohail’s dominating 59 ball 89, Shaheen Afridi’s 6 wickets against Bangladesh, Babar Azam’s century against New Zealand or Imad Wasim setting up the chase against Afghanistan. Then there were some incredible team efforts in the games against England, New Zealand and Bangladesh. But to me, it was Afridi’s 3 for 28 that would feature as the highlight of their world cup campaign. The left-armer bowled precised lines to account for the scalps of Munro, Taylor and Latham in a single burst of 7 overs that had 3 maidens in it while just 11 runs were conceded. It was a perfect example set by the youngster of how to exploit the English conditions earlier in an innings with a white ball in hand. He gave everything he had and perhaps with a bit of luck on their side Pakistan could have sealed a semifinal spot for themselves.

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