By Rex Clementine

When the groups for the ICC T-20 World Cup was announced, it was assumed that from Group ‘C’ New Zealand will go through and either Afghanistan or West Indies will miss out. In the contrast, New Zealand lost to both the lower ranked teams and were eliminated. It was a bitter pill to swallow in the group of death.

Monday’s contest between Afghanistan and West indies has little bearing over what happens in rest of the competition as it’s a dead rubber. However, a win should be a confidence booster leading into the second round. More importantly, it gives both sides an opportunity to test their reserves.

West Indies are of course the more fancied team. They have won the T-20 World Cup twice, but in recent years their struggle has been painful to watch.

In 2021 they came to the UAE with a team full of aging stars. In 2022 they came to Australia with a young side but failed to go beyond the qualifiers. This time around they have been a treat to watch. Their quicks were sharp and their spinners have been exciting. West Indies have a top order that is capable of executing big hits to devastating effect while their middle order is capable of finishing well. Setting targets or chasing them, West Indies have been a treat to watch.

Afghanistan, meanwhile, have come up with some giant killing performances over the years. Their rise in cricket is steady and you just feel that this is their big moment to make a statement.

Afghanistan will miss spin bowler Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, who picked up an injury on the index finger of his bowling hand and has been ruled out. His replacement is quite interesting - Hazratullah Zazai. A big made hard hitting batsman is capable of taking the bowling attacks apart and has a career best score of 162 not out made against Ireland in T-20 Internationals.

So dominant have Afghanistan been in this competition that they have the tournament’s highest wicket taker and the highest run getter. While opening batter Rahmanullah Gurbaz has scored 167 runs, left-arm quick Fazalhaq Farooqi has claimed 12 wickets.

It will be a full house in St. Lucia on Monday cheering for the West Indies. They may not have a local player in the side but the Head Coach Darren Sammy is from here. In fact, the stadium itself has been named after him.