Stumbling Afghanistan need a dose of anti-chaos

The playing of the Elton John and George Michael ballad ‘Don’t let the sun go down on me’ added a poignant touch at Sophia Gardens. Not only had the sun just begun bathing the beautiful stadium with its shine after days of gloom, but the legendary Sir Elton John himself was out to perform this 1974 hit about unrequited love at the Cardiff City Stadium on his farewell Yellow Brick Road tour.About a few minutes after the scheduled start of the concert less than two miles away from Sophia Gardens, the sun went down on Afghanistan for the fourth straight time in this World Cup. True to spirit, the spunky Aftab Alam kept the fight going through to the wire, bouncing Andile Phehlukwayo with South Africa needing five runs to win to loud cheers from the Afghan fans, many of whom had made a three-hour trip down from Stoke-on-Trent. When Phehlukwayo smashed a six in the next over to close out a nine-wicket win, the same bunch in the crowd were hushed into a deathly silence, as if something unexpected had just taken place.
“Ooooh!, people back home have very high expectations from us. They want us to win every game. They are coming and supporting us from all around the world. They do not want us to lose the games at all,” Hashmatullah Shahidi remarked with a shrug at the end of the game.All too often, reality doesn’t match the hype, and anticipation is usually followed by disappointment. When Afghanistan toppled Pakistan in a warm-up at Bristol, there was a sense that the team, just a year on since becoming an ICC full-member, was taking strides more rapid than the ones it had already taken to make it to a 10-team World Cup.“We have three players playing the big league, we are much more mature than were at the last World Cup. From the last one year we are full members and it is the best feeling in the world for us. There are a lot of problems in our country and cricket is one reason that gives people happiness. So we are very eager to do well” Shahidi said.Four matches into the tournament, chaos is the overriding subtext of the Afghanistan campaign, as opposed to maturity. Nothing exemplified it more than the team’s two most experienced players – Rashid Khan and Gulbadin Naib – comically combining to let an under-pressure Hashim Amla off the hook in Cardiff. In the fifth over of the chase, Rashid pulled off a brilliant diving save at cover off an Amla drive.