Naib has made his mark…..
After beating Sri Lanka in their first match, Afghanistan proved that it was no fluke by thrashing Bangladesh at Abu Dhabi in their second match of the Asia Cup 2018. Afghanistan batted with a simple strategy – Get at least 250 on the board and then back the bowlers to defend it – Which is something they used against Sri Lanka as well. On Thursday, an unbeaten 95-run stand between in the final 9 overs of the match, not just gave Afghanistan the momentum going into the break, but also tilted the match in their favour. Bangladesh did not have their death over specialist Mustafizur Rahman, neither did they have the hero against Sri Lanka, Mushfiqur Rahim to get them out of trouble.
We all know what Rashid can do with the ball and is now slowly improving a great deal with the bat as well. However, Naib, who is Afghanistan’s all-round cricketer too is slowly, but steadily, becoming a key member of Afghanistan’s limited-overs side. With Afghanistan playing all three formats now, they have to look for more players, performing different roles, which would add to the depth of the team.
While Naib did not get a chance to make his Test debut in his nation’s first ever Test, one can imagine that a Test cap is not far away. Especially when Afghanistan our seam friendly nations like England, South Africa or Australia, Naib’s role as an all-rounder could come in handy in those circumstances.
It took India many years to find a fast bowling all-rounder. They have not found anyone, who could hold his place for long, until the arrival of Hardik Pandya. Pandya, still in the early days of his international career, has shown glimpses of his talent with both bat and ball, but what he lacks is consistency with both. Naib with the talent he has, he could very well be Afghanistan’s first choice all-rounder in all formats.
In the match against Bangladesh, Afghanistan were on the cusp of being bowled out for under 200, before Naib joined hands with Rashid Khan. Initially, it was Naib, who was getting the boundaries, but once Rashid got his eye in, he too was finding the fence at regular intervals. Seeing how well Rashid is doing, Naib decided to hand the youngster as much strike as possible. He was going at almost run-a-ball, which worked fine as Rashid was plundering the bowlers away from the other end.
We knew Afghanistan would unleash their spinners of Bangladesh, however, Naib, bowling first change did his bit by picking up 2 wickets for 30 from his 6 overs. While Rashid will walk away with all the laurels, Naib’s contribution also deserves a mention if not more.
Cricket was not Naib’s first choice, as he was more into bodybuilding. He still is an avid gym-goer, but now the reasons for him to go are different – Only to remain fit. Naib has been part of the team right from 2008, although his official List A debut was only in 2011. He has been associated with the Afghanistan cricket team right from when they were in Division 5. Afghanistan then won Silver in the Asian Games, before which they even made their debut in the ICC World T20. Naib along with Afghanistan rose up the ranks and in just about a decade are now ICC full members, ready to take on some of the best teams in the world.
In the absence of Mirwais Ashraf, Naib has become Afghanistan’s first-choice fast bowling all-rounder – A role which he must take very seriously. Teams across the world seek depth in their batting and bowling and Afghanistan seem to have that at the moment. They are a settled limited-overs side, who have shown they can beat any side in the world. With Test cricket also coming in for them, the fight for every spot will only increase.
Naib is yet to play a magical innings or even take a 5-wicket haul in competitive cricket. There is nothing flashy about him, but he is still an integral part of this team. Every team has someone who goes about doing his business and not hogging the limelight. For this Afghanistan side, it is Naib.
Due to war in Afghanistan, Naib had to study in a private school in Pakistan, where cricket was a very famous sport. He has seen difficulties within his family as they struggled to meet ends and also take care of his disabled sister. Cricket has helped Naib take care of all such difficulties and you can rest assure, he will do his best to deliver every time he takes the field.
With Afghanistan set to play India and Pakistan in this tournament, we might see the best of Naib in those matches.