Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi made what may be his second-to-last appearance in front of the world press during this tournament, pressing the ICC and his board to give ODIs priority moving ahead. Afghanistan, with eight points and a spot in sixth place, will need to defeat South Africa handily in their last league match on Friday in Ahmedabad and pray that Pakistan loses to England in order to advance to the semi-finals.
“It’s not just about 50-over cricket,” Shahidi declared in Ahmedabad. “There are currently too many leagues and T20 cricket matches, and I believe that Test and 50-over cricket is more significant. Having those games will undoubtedly help us get better. We anticipate receiving more matches from the ICC and our cricket board in order to progress.”
In contrast to what he had anticipated, Afghanistan is no longer assured a series against the supposedly stronger teams due to the World Cup Super League’s discontinuation, and the latest FTP calendar indicates a more streamlined schedule. Between the end of the last World Cup and the beginning of this one, they played 29 ODIs, including series against the West Indies, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan (keep in mind that two-and-a-half of those years were severely disrupted by Covid-19 disruptions). They are scheduled to play 33 ODIs in the upcoming cycle, but only six of those matches will be against teams in the top eight, and none will be against Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa, or Pakistan. Shahidi believes that will come to pass. “We hope they take a number of series with other teams. We have a cricket board and management. Cricket in 50 overs will be played. I anticipate that.
Afghanistan will hopefully be able to enjoy some ODI cricket in the not too distant future, regardless of what occurs. They will compete against the other seven best teams in the format and will be guaranteed a spot at the Champions Trophy in 2025 if they finish no worse than sixth in this World Cup.
South Africa, their final opponents in the World Cup’s group stage and fellow Champions Trophy qualifiers, are equally doubtful about the value of the 50-over format, in part because they will co-host the next ODI World Cup in 2027 and have set their sights on winning it. They are aware that new T20 leagues with higher payouts than Cricket South Africa (CSA) will probably spring up in the four years between this tournament and the next, and that players will unavoidably be lured to those at the expense of international cricket.
A prime example is Quinton de Kock, who has chosen to play for the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League and skip South Africa’s home series against India in addition to retiring from Test cricket and bidding adieu to ODIs at this event. That would have disqualified him from the T20 World Cup in the past, but the CSA has modified their selection procedures and will now allow players who don’t participate in bilaterals to be considered for internationals. “Our approach is not predetermined. We are receptive to the new environment. The way major players are managed will be crucial.
Nkwe is hoping that many of the existing squad players will be encouraged to continue making themselves available for World Cups, especially in 2027, by this “new model,” as he described it. “Our goal is to have most of the top players accessible for 2027. They have the chance to finish their career at home, and we have the chance to win it,” Nkwe stated. “The majority of the players in the leagues are the marquee players. Even though the majority of them are in their 30s, David Miller, Quinny [de Kock], Rassie [van der Dussen], and Temba [Bavuma] are incredibly hungry for silverware for South Africa when we talk. We will need to exercise realism and approach the situation one year at a time. I would like to talk with them about the future after the World Cup.”
Nkwe is optimistic that De Kock can be persuaded to change his mind in the future, as he has already indicated that it would be challenging to convince him to come out of retirement. “We’ll give him the room he requires. I’m hoping he’ll take a break and then reconsider. He’s thrilled. He enjoys representing his nation. I’ve witnessed his vigor. And I hope that after a few months, we can have a different discussion.”
Although there are ICC events held year, Nkwe maintains that the format itself is the primary attraction. “This (the ODI World Cup) is the main one,” he stated. “They want this one.”
And from the sounds of it, Afghanistan does as well.