CWC Match 42 Preview: Afghanistan’s Impressive Fightback Sets Up Exciting Finish Against South Africa

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SA vs AFG

It may be hard to believe, but The World’s Biggest Cricket Stadium surprises you as you approach it. Once you leave behind the chaotic traffic of Ahmedabad’s city center and head northwest on well-maintained roads towards Motera, you’ll encounter a landscape of villas, schools, hospitals, temples, and even a metro rail above it all.

This stadium is a grand stage for cricket as a spectacle, a place where fans gather to passionately support or oppose their favorite teams and players. Here, every tiny detail, from the blink of an eye to the trajectory of a cricket ball, is meticulously scrutinized by the 132,000-strong crowd watching on large screens, dissecting every aspect until it’s been thoroughly analyzed and discussed, both in reality and in the realm of imagination. Is it a suitable venue for a men’s World Cup final, the pinnacle of white-ball cricket’s spectacles? Without a doubt.

For those who cherish cricket played on open fields, in local clubs, small villages, scenic meadows, by the beach or under the shade of a tree, with a mountain or a gasometer in the background, or in front of an iconic pavilion and a humble set of stands, this grand stadium may not resonate with their cricketing sensibilities.

This stadium is a magnificent platform for cricket as a spectacle, a place where fans passionately support or oppose their favorite teams and players. Here, every tiny detail, from the blink of an eye to the trajectory of a cricket ball, is scrutinized by the 132,000-strong crowd watching on large screens, analyzing it until it has been dissected from every angle, both in reality and in the realm of imagination. Is it a suitable venue for a men’s World Cup final, the ultimate spectacle in white-ball cricket? Without a doubt.

On Friday, this stadium will host a relatively smaller event. Afghanistan and South Africa are set to compete in their final league match of the tournament here. Unless some extraordinary turn of events occurs, which would challenge the imagination of even Bollywood scriptwriters, Afghanistan’s journey in the tournament will come to an end. Meanwhile, South Africa has confirmed their place in the semifinals, where they will face Australia at the Eden Gardens next Thursday.

The match will undoubtedly be watched with great interest, particularly if South Africa finds themselves batting second. In this tournament, they have struggled to impress in that role. If they get to bat first, the outcome of the contest could be decided before the sun sets over Ahmedabad. South Africa has an impressive track record when batting first, having won 62.57% of all ODIs in which they have done so, and 65.52% of their matches in India when they’ve batted first. In the current year, they’ve won a remarkable 90.91% of the matches when batting first. Therefore, it’s clear that South Africa has been significantly more successful when setting a target.

It’s worth noting that South Africa will have to deal with Rashid Khan and the formidable spin attack of Afghanistan, especially after Ravindra Jadeja’s impressive 5/33 performance against them in Kolkata on Sunday. Whatever approach they choose, the South Africans will be determined not to create unpleasant memories at a venue they aspire to return to for the final on November 19.

Afghanistan’s supporters will be eager to see how their team bounces back after Glenn Maxwell’s incredible unbeaten 201 against them at the Wankhede on Tuesday. Maxwell not only etched his name into cricket’s history with a remarkable performance, but he also snatched what appeared to be Afghanistan’s fifth win in eight matches and their fourth victory over teams considered stronger than them. This setback undeniably affected the credit Afghanistan had earned for their victories over cricketing giants like Pakistan, England, and Sri Lanka, all former World Cup champions.

Afghanistan, both as a cricket team and a nation, has been in the headlines far too frequently for deeply troubling and tragic reasons that extend far beyond the realm of cricket. In such a context, any source of positivity is highly valued. One of these sources is the treatment of women in Afghan society, which is a critical issue. While it might seem like an obvious topic for questions posed to the players at press conferences, the potential repercussions of their answers for their family members back in Afghanistan must also be carefully considered. This delicate balance reflects the complex reality that many Afghan cricketers face, where their words can have far-reaching consequences.

The presence of The World’s Biggest Cricket Stadium in this remote location in western India also reflects the role of politics in its establishment. It’s not necessarily a negative view of how this stadium, along with the broader infrastructure development in Ahmedabad, came into existence. Rather, it serves as a reminder that it would be beneficial if more elected representatives, when they attain positions of power, remember their roots and the people who supported them to get there. Recognizing and addressing the needs of less-developed areas and smaller cities is crucial for a more inclusive and equitable development in any region.

John Arlott’s statement, “Say that cricket has nothing to do with politics and you say that cricket has nothing to do with life,” underscores the deep interconnection between cricket, politics, and life itself. Arlott, with his extensive knowledge of cricket, politics, and life, recognized the intrinsic links between these facets of human existence. Speculating what he would have thought about The World’s Biggest Cricket Stadium, given its political and social context, would have been intriguing indeed, and his insights would likely have shed valuable light on the subject.

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