Afghanistan ready to fight neck to neck

Photo: ICC Photo: ICC

With all the political turbulence and odds, Afghanistan made a promising emergence in the cricketing arena last decade. 

Taliban takeover of the government this year has added the newest edition of turmoil which, at a point, certainly made it look difficult for the Afghans to participate in the tournament. Rashid Khan resigned as the captain in protest and Nabi was given the responsibility again.

Nevertheless, the cloud of uncertainty has gone and Afghanistan are preparing to play the ongoing T20 World Cup.

Although the Afghans don’t have much to say against the big teams, they have produced few world-class individuals. Again, they didn't play enough games against ICC full members either. Most of their success came against teams like Ireland, Zimbabwe or Scotland. 

But Afghanistan have always been competitive in the T20 format which resulted in their direct entry to the Super 12 of this World Cup, leaving behind Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. They have success against Bangladesh and the West Indies in the biggest events of T20 cricket

Afghanistan's batting looks decent with some experienced campaigners. Opener Hazratullah Zazai is currently ranked 10th in the ICC T20 batsman ranking with an average of 40.71 striking at 155.31. He made an astonishing unbeaten knock of 162 in just 62 balls against Ireland in 2019 which resulted in T20’s highest ever team score - 278/3. 

Najibulllah Zadran has crossed 1000 runs in T20Is averaging 33.12 with a strike rate of 142.28. His partner, 19-year-old talented batsman Rahmanullah Gurbaz also has a good average of 34.31 to his name. 

Wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad played his last T20 match in 2018. Scoring 1860 runs from 64 appearances, he has always been handy for the Afghans to produce fierce starts. Although his presence in the playing XI is not certain, his addition could increase experience to the squad. 

Asghar Afghan, Usman Ghani, Karim Jannat, Gulbadin Naib - none of them are in good shape in the middle order which has a high chance of collapsing against powerful opponents. Their below average strike rate might reduce the run rate in the middle overs. 

Basically, the whole Afghan team will be dependant on Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi. This trio has regularly featured in franchise leagues all over the world and has amazing numbers to their names. 

Afghan skipper Mohammad Nabi is currently the no 1 T20 all-rounder who has scored 1366 runs in 80 matches with a strike rate of 146.25. He also has 72 wickets with an economy rate as good as 7.26. Both Nabi and Rashid were the highest wicket-takers in the last T20 World Cup. 

Rashid, on the other hand, has been the face of the Afghan bowling attack for quite some time with 95 wickets in 51 matches with an excellent economy of 6.22. He has 2 five-wicket hauls as well.

20-year-old off-spinner Mujeeb too has had a good time with the ball in his short career to date. This duo of Rashid-Mujeeb has been so efficient for the Afghans that they are now regularly bowling at the death overs. 

Compared to the spin department, Afghanistan’s pace attack is not that good. Hamid Hassan is going to lead the pace attack who has a decent economy of 6.77. Fareed Malik and amateur Naveen Ul Haque have done considerably well in their few appearances.

However, this pace attack lacks experience and potential of dominating the opponent in the powerplay overs which might cause the Afghans to suffer. 

In no way does this Afghanistan side look as good as to crack something in the tournament. However, coached by the Protea legend Lance Klusener, this team is capable of producing some upsets which are highly likely. 

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