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Shapoor Zadran's last chance saloon for T20 World Cup


32-year-old Zadran would know that he has to make a mark in the three T20Is against Ireland on the 6th, 8th and the 10th of March at the Greater Noida Ground in India to extend his international career.

"I am angry every time I bowl. A bowler has to be angry, so that his reaction can carry over to the batsmen, who get unsettled and end up making a mistake," these words from Shapoor Zadran explain him the best.

Standing at well over 6 feet tall, Shapoor formed a formidable pair with Hamid Hassan as the two terrorised the opposition batsmen in their hey day. With the left-arm pacer closing in on 33 and fresh talent lining up outside the Afghanistan cricket team's door, his call-up for the three-match T20I series against Ireland is a make or break situation for him.

The last bit of competitive cricket that the pacer played was for the Tuskers in the Abu Dhabi T10 League in November last year, where he did a fine job. Zadran has a decent record with 71 wickets from 66 T20s at an average of 21.98 and an economy of 7.01.

His numbers are quite similar in international T20 matches as well where he averages 24.08 and has conceded runs at 7.81 while picking up 35 wickets from 34 games. At his age, a quota of four overs is probably the best deal that the pacer can get.

He has been picked in the squad on the back of his performance in the Shpageeza Cricket League, including 4/31 in his last match. The pacer last played a T20I in June 2018 and has been out of international cricketing action since his ODI appearance against Ireland at Dehradun in March, 2019.

“For one year I wasn’t in the team. Injuries hampered my progress. But I have developed several skills for T20’s during that period. I am focussing a lot on variations as well. But pace remains my primary weapon as batsmen find it difficult to negotiate,” Zadran had said in an interview in 2018.

But, things did not go as planned for him as injuries and some ordinary returns saw him get dropped from the national team. The tall pacer returns to the fold again on the back of a resurgent domestic performance and he would expect to carry his form against Ireland.

Afghanistan are currently banking on Naveen-ul-Haq and Karim Janat in their T20 pace department and they do need some experience to make a dent at the T20 World Cup. It will only help that, with his height, Zadran will be able to extract good bounce from the Australian pitches. We have already seen the pacer in action Down Under when he was the only bowler from Afghanistan to reach the double-digit wickets mark in the 2015 World Cup.

Zadran will also see a few new faces alongside him in the 15-man squad for the three T20Is against Ireland. The first among them is 19-year-old leggier Qais Ahmad, who recently featured in the BBL for Hobart Hurricanes, and has also played only the solitary Test match for Afghanistan so far.

Other names include 23-year-old opening batsman Usman Ghani, who wasn't picked for the West Indies series late last year. Uncapped 19-year-old allrounder Azmatullah Omarzai, who made a dream start to his first-class career averaging close to 50 with the bat while averaging just 20 with the ball, has also been included.

The three matches against Ireland that Zadran has been picked for will be played on the 6th, 8th and the 10th of March at the Greater Noida Ground in India. And he would know that he has to make a mark here to extend his international career.

Zadran would also know that possibly, he doesn't have much left in the tank, because in the words of the pacer himself: "Bowlers work the hardest, more than the batsmen. We have to do extra training, swimming, and we need a lot of stamina."

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