CWC 2023: Afghan defeat, a wake-up call for England
In the eyes of several observers, England, despite getting walloped by New Zealand in the tournament’s lung-opener, was the prohibitive favourite to win a second successive World Cup.
CHENNAI: Upsets in the world of sport, as the meaning inherently suggests, tend to arrive unannounced, and much before the unsuspecting victim even realises there’s an intruder at his home, the place is merrily ransacked, and the party hopelessly gatecrashed, leaving the victim flabbergasted at the speed and alacrity with which the havoc was wreaked upon.
Afghanistan inflicted a similar blow on defending champion England at the Arun Jaitley stadium on Sunday. Such few and far-between fairy tale occurences can be heartwarming, especially if you owe your allegiance to the winning team, but spare a thought for the English, who must be finding it undeniably hard to come to terms with what just hit them.
Indeed, this was one outcome that no one would have seen coming. In the eyes of several observers, England, despite getting walloped by New Zealand in the tournament’s lung-opener, was the prohibitive favourite to win a second successive World Cup.
And its thumping victory over Bangladesh in its subsequent outing had lent credence to the belief that its slip-up against the Kiwis was just a one-off.
On the contrary, Afghanistan slumped to two big defeats in its first two matches with the second of those coming at the hands of India just four nights earlier at the same venue where it savoured the fragrance of success against England.
This isn’t the first time England has been at the receiving end of shock results at global events. Cast your mind back to the 1992 World Cup when Zimbabwe pulled off a nine-run win in a low-scoring thriller at Albury. Or the 2009 World T20 when, as the host nation, England went down to the Netherlands in the tournament’s first match at Lord’s. And the list doesn’t end there with Ireland and Kevin O’ Brien in particular donning the robes, and performing with the valour, of David to vanquish the Goliath that England was at Bengaluru in the 2011 World Cup.
Four years later, it was the turn of Bangladesh to knock England out of the tournament at the Adelaide Oval with the all-encompassing darkness, accompanied by stony silence — barring the sounds of revelry of a handful of Bangladesh players — of the night threatening to gorge itself on the leftovers of what was an unmitigated disaster of an event for the Three Lions.
But what makes this latest defeat all the more galling is that all those painful losses had come before English cricket’s white-ball renaissance had taken shape. In fact, from the nadir of Adelaide rose a dominant, vibrant England that challenged the established order of white-ball hegemony that caught others unawares, not knowing how to respond to that newfangled might.
After decades of neglecting the white-ball format, with the 2010 World T20 triumph being a notable exception, the team’s think-tank put their collective heads together to map out a way forward and so refreshingly different has it been that other countries were forced to take a cue from that blueprint.
It wouldn’t be prudent to say that England has regressed to pre-2015 days on the basis of one defeat, no matter how gut-wrenching it was, but Jos Buttler and Co would do well to not let lightning strike again.