T20 World Cup 2021: Why Afghanistan’s huge win against Scotland should worry India

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Afghanistan’s resounding victory over Scotland in Sharjah on Monday (October 25) could prove to be a dent to India’s chances of securing one of the two semi-final slots available from Group B of the T20 World Cup 2021.

With Virat Kohli and company going down heavily against Pakistan a day earlier in Dubai, they risk having to play catch-up cricket if they face any further hiccups and other results also ruin the equation for them.

Firstly, the specifics. Afghanistan’s win over Scotland by a whopping 130 runs after dismissing the opposition for just 60 has taken their net run rate to an astonishing +6.50. Pakistan’s net run rate after their unprecedented ten-wicket win against India is +0.97.

In an important game on Tuesday (October 26) night, Pakistan will be taking on New Zealand. With their confidence sky high and given the spin-friendly surface in Sharjah, the Asian giants start off as favourites for the game.

Even though the Kiwis have previously sprung up surprises over the subcontinent sides in such conditions, one would be quite an optimist to bet against a Pakistan win. And that would hurt India.

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Loss against Pakistan could come back to haunt India.

But how does that matter to India’s T20 World Cup 2021 hopes?

It does. A lot. That is because if Pakistan do get over the line against the Kiwis, India could well be left fighting for only one remaining semi-final spot from their group. This, with the idea that if Pakistan beat India and New Zealand – their two strongest Super 12 oppositions – they look more or less certain to top the group, defeating Afghanistan, Scotland and Namibia along the way.

Pakistan’s win over New Zealand would still only be a dent to India’s chances. What could spoil their campaign completely is a loss versus New Zealand of their own next Sunday (October 31). Since that would mean Kohli’s men having to depend heavily on other teams’ fortune.

Yes. In that scenario, India will have to not only beat all three of Afghanistan, Scotland and Namibia but also hope that one of them – most likely Afghanistan – defeat at least one of Pakistan and New Zealand to derail those two teams’ progress.

Here, too, Pakistan has an edge because they can play Afghanistan’s spinners better than most teams, arguably even India, and exploit their weaknesses. Also, they’ll be facing the trio of Rashid, Nabi and Mujeeb in Dubai (October 29), unlike Scotland, who played them in Sharjah – a more spin-friendly track.

New Zealand could be slightly vulnerable, though. They’ll be taking on the Afghans in Abu Dhabi (on October November 7). But if their batters, including the great Kane Williamson, manage to keep the spin trio at bay, they can then target Afghanistan batters with a lot of pace – which is a longstanding weakness of the Asian giantkillers.

If Pakistan and New Zealand both win their tricky fixture against Afghanistan – that is after the former defeating the latter and the latter pulling off a win over India – India could be out of the semi-finals race unless Afghanistan do the unexpected against any of those two oppositions.

Or, it could come down to the net run rate and this is where we come back to our initial point. While Afghanistan’s net run rate of +6.50 is likely to go down in the coming matches, it would still be in reasonably good shape when they face India on November 3 in Abu Dhabi.

India net run rate after the Pakistan loss is in the negative (-0.973) and if they lose to New Zealand also and face a further dent to their NRR, they’ll have to defeat all three of Scotland, Afghanistan and Namibia by a big margin. This scenario may still be comfortable versus the two associates. But against Afghanistan’s spinners on a dry wicket in Abu Dhabi, that’s a risky proposition.

All in all, India’s game against New Zealand has attained great importance because of the defeat against Pakistan. If India lose, they could be nearly out of the competition. For Kohli & company to reclaim the T20 World Cup crown from here, it’s now about winning all of their remaining matches.

Kashish Chadha

A cricket writer by heart and profession. Currently at work for CricXtasy. Previously with Circle of Cricket. You can find him on Twitter @crickashish217

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