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by Saksham Mishra Thursday 2 May 2019
The Afghanistan cricket team has come a long way over the years. They can no longer be called minnows. In fact, they beat Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the 2017 Asia Cup and gave India and Pakistan a tough time.
The last couple of years have brought several momentous occasions for them as they have also received Test recognition from the ICC. What has impressed the cricketing fraternity most about the team is the passion with which the Afghanistan players step on the field. They might not win every match but that they put all their blood and sweat till the last moment is what has helped them succeed on a consistent basis.
Afghanistan decided not to pick Zahir Khan, Ikram Alikhil, Karim Janat, Sayed Shirzad, Javed Ahmadi, Shapoor Zadran and Fareed Malik, who were earlier part of Afghanistan's ODI set-up in the recently-concluded ODI series against Ireland. Ikram, Janat and Shirzad have been named as reserve players.
Mohammad Shahzad, Rahmat Shah, Najibullah Zadran and Afghan are the lynchpins of their batting department. Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, along with Hassan, would shoulder the pace bowling responsibility.
With the likes of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi having made headlines all across domestic T20 leagues, they will certainly be a force to reckon with.
All these three bowlers ooze variety. Rashid thrives on bowling quick leg spinners and has a lot of variety which can bamboozle the batsmen. Mohammad Nabi is super consistent and can bowl on a coin day in and day out. He does not give a lot to the batsmen to play with and this is why the batsmen commit errors. Mujeeb ur Rahman has a bag full of tricks up his sleeve.
All of these three spinners have the ability of bowling in the powerplay as well and are not only capable of stemming the run flow but taking wickets on regular intervals.
In a surprise move, Afghanistan cricket board handed over the captaincy to Gulbadin Naib just before the ODI World Cup, who is green behind his ears and has no prior experience of captaining the side whatsoever.
If at all the team had to take such a decision, it would have been ideal if they had made the change at least one or two years before the World Cup. By changing the captain months before the World Cup, Afghanistan Cricket Board has created an unwanted situation in the dressing room. Former captain Asghar Afghan is still part of the team which might create a sense of uneasiness in the dressing room.
Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi have already shown their loyalty to Asghar and have spoken vehemently in his favour. However, in a press conference of the Afghanistan cricket team, Afghan advocated for Naib to remain the captain. Still, it would not be easy for Naib to command the respect of his teammates.
At the same time, it will also brings an opportunity for Gulbadin Naib to prove the critics wrong and make a name for himself as a captain at the highest level. He is an accomplished batsman and has played some match-winning knocks for the team in recent times and would do well for himself and Afghanistan to lead the side.
Mohammad Nabi, Mujeeb ur Rahman and Rashid Khan are known faces all over the world. While Rashid has already gained popularity at the international level, Nabi and Mujeeb have a long way to go. The World Cup can help them catch the eye of cricket lovers all over the globe and emphasize that they are not only good in T20 leagues but also have the talent to make a mark at the highest level.
While Afghanistan have a lot of riches in the spin department, they seem lagging behind with quality place bowlers. Keeping that in mind, Hassan has been recalled.
"Luckily for us, the comeback of senior Fast bowler Hamid Hassan is a good news. However, we will take into account his form and fitness during upcoming practice matches," Dawlat Khan Ahmadzai, the chief selector noted in a press briefing.
Hassan last played an ODI back in 2016 against Ireland and has been suffering from heel, knee and thigh injuries. He returned to the Afghanistan squad for the T20I series against Zimbabwe in February 2018 only to be ruled yet again by an injury while training.
It would be interesting to see how his body reacts to bowling 10 overs across nine matches. He might be quite rusty because of the lack of match practice and God forbid if his body gives in to the the rigours of the longer format, there is a certain void which is visible in the Afghanistan's pace department.
Afghanistan will kick off their World Cup campaign against Australia on June 1.
Squad: Gulbadin Naib (c), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb ur Rahman
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