Asian side Afghanistan have battled all the odds to be one of the rising forces in world cricket. The war-torn nation will be one of the teams to look forward to in the upcoming ICC World Cup 2019 to start from May 30 onwards in England and Wales.
The Afghans had stunned one and all to win the ICC World Cup Qualifiers last year and make an entry into the main edition.
It will be just their second appearance at the World Cup, but Afghanistan are already being touted by many as the dark horses for the 10-team tournament.
They might not go on to win the World Cup, but their spirit and character may help them to make grounds and be the party spoilers.
Afghanistan have come a long way and there is a heady mix of youth and experience. They look like a side capable of springing surprises against their more fancied rivals at the mega-event.
Most of the key players have all been named and there is a sense of understanding and comfort in the bunch as far as the atmosphere is concerned.
ALSO READ: https://kyrosports.com/world-cup-2019-india-squad/
However, in a tournament where all teams will play each other in a round robin format, squad depth is vital, and Afghanistan have the resources to look forward to in the tourney.
The major point that has been discussed since a while is the leadership change, from Asghar Afghan to Gulbadin Naib.
It remains to be seen how Naib goes about doing the business right especially with Asghar being such a commendable skipper.
Under Afghan, the team had risen through the ranks, and became a Full Member of the ICC, besides winning last year’s CWC Qualifier and also completing their first-ever Test win over Ireland.
It is a big gamble for a side whose current skipper having never captained in an international game. So handing him the responsibility in a World Cup is pretty shocking, but having said that, he could inject fresh energy into the squad.
Naib will also look to get crucial inputs from Asghar and the other regulars in the bunch.
Here we analyse Afghanistan’s 15-member ICC World Cup 2019 squad.
Afghanistan have an aggressive top order
Afghanistan have a desired opening combination that can set the tone from the onset. In Mohammad Shahzad, they already have an opener, who has the desired knowledge and experience.
His boundary-hitting abilities could be the way for the side to go out and attack. The 31-year-old has scored 2,562 runs from 79 ODIs that includes five hundreds and 13 fifties.
He will be well supported by Hazratullah Zazai. If they decide to pair Zazai and Shahzad, there could be fireworks. The two can take bowlers to the cleaners in matter of no time.
Zazai successfully announced his arrival as a hard-hitting batsman and has garnered positive reviews. He has been an instant success in T20 cricket.
Before 2019, he featured in only two ODIs for Afghanistan and had scored only 15 runs at 7.50. This year, he has played four ODIs, all of them against Ireland, and bettered his tally to 140 runs at an average of 35.
In the shortest format. But a real test will await him in a spectacle such as the World Cup, where there will be quality bowlers all around.
He will get little time to shift his momentum from T20s to ODI cricket. They also have Noor Ali Zadran, who can be an able customer against the new ball. He has 47 ODIs under his belt.
Rahmat Shah could take the number three position and its a crucial test for the player to come in and have his say. With 58 ODIs under his belt, Rahmat has been one of the regulars in the Afghan side.
He has three hundreds and 13 fifties to his name.
Middle order has a blend of experience
31-year-old former skipper Asghar has played 99 ODIs and is one of the star players. He has what it takes to be the fulcrum of this team. His presence will aid the middle order.
He is a sound customer at number four and will be required to keep his side in the hunt. Saimullah Shinwari is one of the desired names in the side.
He is more than just a batsman. His inputs as an all-rounder will help Afghanistan. He can bowl leg-breaks and can fulfil the role as a third spinner in the side. Shinwari has 81 matches under his belt.
There is the vitality of Mohammad Nabi as well. He could be a force in that number six position. Nabi has the credentials of getting those big shots and clearing the fences.
He is an able spinner and can contain batsmen on any given pitch. His experience and simplicity will be beneficial for the side. Najibullah Zadran is a solid left-handed batsman, who can add depth from the bench.
The 26-year-old is versatile in nature and looks like someone who can be trusted when called upon.
Hashmatullah Shahidi is another big name in this squad. The middle order batsman has had a good start to his ODI career. In 24 matches, he has amassed 747 runs with a best of 97*.
He is another left-handed batsman in the ranks. 28-year-old skipper Naib is a strong all-rounder and will look to lift up the middle order. He is a strong bowling-all-rounder.
Afghanistan’s bowling quartet boasts of world class spinners
Afghanistan have a world-class spin-bowling attack comprising of Mohammad Nabi, Rashid and Mujeeb ur Rahman. The trio have been excellent over the last couple of years.
This makes them a dangerous unit and the team would look to get the best out of them in the conditions that can have something for spinners.
Interestingly, they all have the capability of claiming wickets everywhere they have played. The three spinners have picked up 54 wickets between them in the last 12 months, while the rest of the bowling line-up have just claimed 26.
That’s a massive sense of comfort for the Afghans, who would be wanting to leave an impression for the fans, who have made UK their home.
Rashid is the key asset for Afghanistan. The youngster has already picked up 123 wickets in just 56 ODIs.
All three of Nabi, Rashid and Mujeeb are playing in the ongoing 12th edition of the Indian Premier League. This will give them enough confidence and the desired inputs of working with top professionals.
One wants to see the quartet ready in the mega event. Afghanistan’s main threat will come from these spinners.
Meanwhile, the seamers will be important as well specially if there’s a hint of swing on offer on overcast days.
In Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, and skipper Naib, the Asian side has a decent pace attack to complement their slower bowlers. The only surprise inclusion in the side was that of veteran paceman Hamid Hassan.
“Luckily for us, the comeback of senior fast bowler Hamid Hassan is good news. However, we will take into account his form and fitness during upcoming practice matches,” Ahmadzai said about the his comeback.
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 and Mujeeb ur Rahman.