The 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.
The lead-up to Afghanistan’s World Cup Squad announcement was an affair dominated by much drama. First, Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) shocked everybody in the cricketing fraternity by naming Gulbadin Naib as the skipper for the World Cup campaign instead of a well-established Asghar Afghan.
The decision got a huge backlash on, especially, the electronic media where even senior players like Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan voiced their dissent over the unceremonious sacking of Asghar from the captaincy duties. The two players’ wailings, along with a lot of criticism from the cricketing fraternity, fell on deaf ears as ACB, today, has announced their 15-member contingent which will represent Afghanistan in the World Cup scheduled to be held in England this June.
Naib has been retained as the skipper of the squad while, interestingly, Asghar’s name also finds mention in the list of England-bound players. Another interesting announcement came in the form of a surprise call-up of 31-year old pacer Hamid Hassan, who last featured in an ODI game in July 2016. Hassan put up a good show in his last World Cup sojourn in 2015 where he picked up 8 wickets and was a key contributor in Afghan team’s attention-grabbing performance in the mega-event. He boasts of a very good bowling average of just over 20 runs apiece for his 56 ODI wickets. Here is a look-up at how Afghan team shapes up for the marquee event.
Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, and Najibullah Zadran
Afghan batting looks quite deep with seven frontline batsmen assisted by at least three proper all-rounders. Mohammad Shahzad’s aggression, besides his glove responsibilities, makes him a sure starter at the top who will need either one of Hazratullah Zazai or Noor Ali Zadran’s company.
Zazai’s megaton blast against Ireland might well give him an upper hand for the role which will be backed up by some quality middle-order bats like Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi and Najibullah Zadran. Asghar’s role in the middle-order will be under the spotlight because of the captaincy drama which happened before the squad announcement.
Gulbadin Naib, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan
Naib will be donning the skipper’s hat for the campaign because of which, his own role as a seam-bowling all-rounder will be under intense scrutiny. Afghan squad doesn’t lack on the variety front in all-rounders.
If Naib has the ability to bowl some quality medium pace along with his batting abilities, Nabi provides an experienced off-spinning all-round option. Rashid and Shinwari complete the circle by chipping in with their leg-spin bowling abilities capable of hitting those lusty blows down the order.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Mujeeb provides the mystery option in a well-diversified bowling attack. He is a wicket-taking option capable of bowling with the new ball as well as in the middle phases. Besides his spin prowess, Mujeeb is no novice with the bat.
He can also chip in with some crucial runs, in case his team looks up to him. He might find himself on the receiving end of the seamer-friendly English conditions which can restrict the spin count in the XI to just two – Nabi and Rashid.
Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan
Because of picking plenty of all-rounders, mainly spin-bowling all-rounders, the Afghan team management has opted for just three outright pace options in Dawlat, Aftab and Hamid.
That might come back to haunt them during the campaign as Hamid is quite prone to injuries and Afghan team management will be keeping a very keen eye on his progress during the tournament. Presence of Naib means that only two of these three options can be a part of the starting XI. It might be prudently utilized as an opportunity to rotate the three pacemen to better manage their workloads.
Probable XI: Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hasgmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Gulbadin Naib ©, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Hamid Hassan and Dawlat Zadran/Aftab Alam.