Afghanistan vs Zimbabwe 1st T20I Preview: Will a depleted Afghanistan prove too good or can Zimbabwe make it count?
Afghanistan are unlikely to have Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Gulbadin Naib available among others due to visa issues which presents Zimbabwe an opportunity to run their opponents close.
Zimbabwe's tough going
All has clearly not been well in Zimbabwe cricket of late. They were suspended by ICC in July 2019 for issues related to governance, a decision which was only reversed in November the same year.
The last time Zimbabwe won a T20I was against Singapore in a tri-series at the Indian Association Ground in October 2019. Their last win against against a top 12 ranked cricketing nation came way back in July 2019, which was against Ireland by 8 wickets.
Afghanistan win more than they lose
Afghanistan, on the other hand, have won more than they have lost of late. In fact, for a team so young in international cricket, their 55 wins and 26 losses out of the 81 T20Is they have played in quite impressive.
The last time Afghanistan featured in a T20I was against Ireland when they were beaten via a Super Over.
Mujeeb and Gulbadin unavailable
As Afghanistan get ready to take on Zimbabwe in the 3-match T20I series, their prime focus will be to prepare for the the upcoming Asia Cup and T20 World Cup this year.
Despite several of their players being involved in various leagues across the world, the team was expected to have a full squad available for selection. However, some last-minute visa issues have thrown a spanner in the works for Afghanistan as five of their players including gun all-rounder and former captain Gulbadin Naib and mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman who are yet to arrive in the UAE.
As things stands, it seems unlikely that they will be able to make it to the playing XI not only for the series opener but perhaps for the last two matches of the T20I series as well with a short turnaround between games.
This might change the make up of the Afghanistan playing XI and presents Zimbabwe an opportunity to give their opponents a run for their money.
Williams, Madhevere and Muzarabani - Zimbabwe's leading men
Zimbabwe have some quality players in their ranks, not least Sean Williams, who is coming on the back of a brilliant test series where he scored 105 in the first test match and an unbeaten 151 in the second test match while also turning his arm over.
He will be complemented by young and upcoming 20 year old Zimbabwe all rounder Wesley Madhevere who has just played 5 T20I matches but has already impressed with his ability to affect the match in all the three facets of the game. Apart from the all round ability of Williams and Madhevere, Blessing Muzarabani is expected to shoulder the Zimbabwe bowling attack.
Afghanistan eye T20 WC
Afghanistan captain Asghar Afghan is looking at the three-match T20I series as build-up to the two showpiece events coming up this year - the Asia Cup and the T20 World Cup.
"The T20I series comes at a good time for us as we prepare for the Asia Cup and T20 World Cup. It will give us a good idea," Afghan said ahead of the series opener."We have good experience already in T20 format but the more we play, the better we adapt ourselves."
Afghan also credited the involvement of the Afghan players in the T20 and T10 leagues around the world for the team's good returns in the shortest format of international cricket.
"Of course the leagues (franchise-based) have a good effect on our players and the best thing was that these leagues kept them in touch with cricket. Credit goes to these leagues as it helped keeping the love for cricket alive during the pandemic," he said.
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, will not be part of the T20 World Cup after they failed to participate in the T20 Qualifiers, owing to their suspension. They will be committed on their part to prove that they belong.
Here are the squads of both teams:
Afghanistan - Asghar Afghan (c), Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Afsar Zazai, Usman Ghani, Ibrahim Zadran, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najib Zadran, Karim Janat, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Amir Hamza Hotak, Fazal Haq Farooqi, Naveen ul Haq & Farid Malik.
Zimbabwe - Sean Williams (c), Ryan Burl, Regis Chakabva, Faraz Akram, Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, Kevin Kasuza, Wesley Madhevere, Wellington Masakadza, Prince Masvaure, Brandon Mavuta, Tarisai Musakanda, Richmond Mutumbami, Blessing Muzarabani, Richard Ngarava, Victor Nyauchi, Milton Shumba, Sikandar Raza, Donald Tiripano
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