“Fifty-over cricket is also important,” Shahidi said in Ahmedabad. “Right now, there are too many leagues, too much T20 cricket and I think 50-overs and Test cricket is more important. If we have those games, we will definitely improve more. We are expecting our cricket board and ICC to give us more matches for our improvement.”
Whatever happens, Afghanistan can look forward to at least some ODI cricket in the not-too-distant future. They cannot finish lower than sixth at this World Cup, which guarantees them a spot at the Champions Trophy in 2025 and an opportunity to play against the other top seven teams in the format.
South Africa, their last group-stage opponents at this World Cup and fellow Champions Trophy qualifiers, also have questions over the relevance of the 50-over format, not least because they are due to co-host the next ODI World Cup in 2027 and have earmarked that tournament as theirs to win. They understand that in the four years between this tournament and the next, more T20 leagues, offering more money that Cricket South Africa (CSA) can match, are likely to crop up and players will inevitably be drawn to those at the expense of international cricket.
Nkwe hopes that this “new model,” as he called it, will encourage many of the current squad members to continue making themselves available for World Cups, particularly in 2027. “We are hoping the majority of the marquee players will be available for 2027. It’s an opportunity to end their career at home, with the opportunity that we are going to win it,” Nkwe said. “The marquee players are most of the players that are playing in the leagues. David Miller, Quinny [de Kock], Rassie [van der Dussen], Temba [Bavuma] – most of them are in their 30s but when I engage with them, they are so hungry for silverware for South Africa. We are going to have to be realistic and take it a year at a time. Post World Cup I would like to engage with them in terms of the future.”
The main drawcard, according to Nkwe, lies in the format itself because even though there are ICC events every year, “This (the ODI World Cup) is the main one,” he said. “They want this one.”
And by the sounds of it, so do Afghanistan.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s correspondent for South Africa and women’s cricket