ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2022: Balanced Afghanistan all set to fire in big event; Leggie Qais Ahmad gets a place. Afghanistan T20 World Cup complete squad analysis.
With close to a month left for the start of ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia, almost all the teams have announced their squads for the tournament, and the emerging Asian giants Afghanistan have named their squad as well a few days back.
The team has done quite well especially in the shorter formats of the game for quite some time now and they will be eager to put on yet another spirited show and if possible, go the distance.
Afghanistan led by Mohammad Nabi are one of the teams where players play leagues across the world and might need very less time to get acclimatised to the conditions of Australia as some of their player play the Big Bash League (BBL). Their participation rate in BBL is more than the other participating nations, so they will come better prepared in that aspect.
Afghanistan players also have an advantage of playing most of their cricket in United Arab Emirates (UAE), where the boundaries are bigger and the case with respect to most of the Australian stadiums is the same. The Afghanistan players are better served in that respect too.
Leg Spinner Qais Ahmad gets the nod
As expected, Afghanistan selectors retained most of the first-choice players who featured in the playing XI during their recent Asia Cup campaign. But the one surprise inclusion in the squad has to the selection of leg spinner Qais Ahmad, as Afghanistan already have three of their first-choice spinners in their ranks.
The players who featured in Afghanistan’s Asia Cup campaign but missed out on World Cup selection are left-arm pacer Samiullah Shinwari, batters Hashmatullah Shahidi & Afsar Zazai (in reserves), all-rounder Karim Janat and 17-year-old spinner Noor Ahmad. Apart from Qais Ahmad who was not part of the Asia Cup, middle-order batter Darwish Rasooli and the right-arm quick Salim Safi have been added to the squad.
Afghanistan chief selector Noor Malikzai felt Asia Cup was a great preparation for the team going into the World Cup. He stated, "The Asia Cup was a very good opportunity for the team to build up things nicely for the much important global event in Australia.”
Malikzai also praised the hugely talented middle-order batter Darwish Rasooli, who was unfortunately injured before Asia Cup 2022 but has now recovered. He is seen as a possible option to accelerate in the middle-overs which was a concern in the just concluded Asia Cup.
"Fortunately, Darwish Rasooli has recovered from injury (broken finger) and we are happy to have him available for the World T20; he has demonstrated good glimpses of himself in the Shpageeza Cricket League 2022 organised by Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) and offers an additional batting option in the middle order,” the Afghanistan chief selector added.
Afghanistan Squad for ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022
Mohammad Nabi (captain), Najibullah Zadran, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Azmatullah Omarzai, Darwish Rasooli, Farid Ahmad Malik, Fazal Haq Farooqi, Hazratullah Zazai, Ibrahim Zadran, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Naveen ul Haq, Qais Ahmad, Rashid Khan, Salim Safi, Usman Ghani
Reserves: Afsar Zazai, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Rahmat Shah and Gulbadin Naib
Let’s analyse Afghanistan’s squad which bodes a lot of talent, mixture of both experience & youth and some global T20 stars.
Afghanistan Openers are a treat to watch when in flow
Afghanistan have one of the most breathtaking opening combinations amongst the participants in the upcoming World T20. The duo of Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Hazratullah Zazai is clearly one of the strong points of Afghanistan’s batting group, especially the former.
The exciting wicketkeeper batter was a shining star in the Asia Cup and made 152 runs at an astounding strike rate of over 163 in five innings including a stunning knock of 84 from 45 balls against Sri Lanka. Though Zazai was not at his usual best (94 runs from 5 innings), the powerful left-hander is a match-winner on his day. He strikes at 139 in his 33-match T20I career with a personal best of 162*, which shows the level of impact he can create.
Afghanistan will hope the opening duo will give the team starts they need quite often in this World Cup. However, they don’t have a quality back-up option apart from Usman Ghani (who hasn’t done well in this format) might become a cause of worry.
Afghanistan Middle order is quite solid with Zadran and Nabi
Najibullah Zadran is one of the most explosive middle order batters in the tournament and will be a player to watch out for. The left-hander made only 72 runs in Asia Cup 2022 but showed a glimpse of his prowess during his match-winning knock against Bangladesh (44 from 19). He has a strike rate of 142 and has scored over 1500 runs in 73 innings. If he improves his consistency, Afghanistan will largely benefit as a batting unit as they have a solid number 3 in Ibrahim Zadran.
Right-hand batter Zadran was the 3rd highest run-getter in Asia Cup 2022, behind Mohammad Rizwan and Virat Kohli, with 196 runs at a strike rate of just below 105. So, if the top four start to fire on a consistent basis, the Nabi-led team will have highly competitive totals in this World Cup. Darwish Rasooli will also play a key role in the middle order.
Skipper Mohammad Nabi who has featured for many teams in the BBL will complete the middle order. Though Nabi just took three wickets and scored 16 runs in the 5 games he played in Asia Cup 2022, the 37-year-old veteran’s capabilities will be beneficial for the team. He has a strike rate of 140 in his 101-match career so far, with 1669 runs and 83 wickets.
Bowling all-rounder Azmatullah Omarzai who was used in a limited capacity in the Asia Cup may get a bigger responsibility in the forthcoming World Cup as the 3rd pacer if he does play.
Except for any injuries, the middle order that featured in Asia Cup will take the field in Afghanistan’s first group game against England on October 22 in Perth.
Afghanistan have strong spin options coupled with some quality pacers
Left-arm pacers, Farid Ahmad Malik and Fazal Haq Farooqi were sensational in the Asia Cup. Farooqi was a known name even before the tournament started as he was part of the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) team in the Indian Premier League (IPL), but the former was a largely unknown commodity.
The duo bowled an inspiring spell, each taking three-fers against Pakistan in a match that was so near yet so far for Afghanistan. Farid took 5 wickets in 2 games while Farooqi was consistent in the tourney picking 6 wickets.
Rashid Khan continues to be the leader of this bowling pack and was consistent as always in the Asia Cup. The ace leggie will have a great idea of the Australian conditions and will likely cause trouble. The 23-year-old spinner will be eyeing to add as many wickets to his tally of 118 wickets from 73 T20Is. He is an able lower-order batter who can add double quick runs as a finisher.
Mujeeb ur Rahman had a great Asia Cup picking 7 wickets and was the leading wicket-taker for the team. The mystery spinner might face stiff competition from Qais Ahmad for a place in the playing XI as they have two spinners in their ranks, namely Rashid and Nabi.
Like in case of batting, Afghanistan lack depth in the bowling department in terms of bench strength. Naveen-ul-Haq, a right-arm medium pacer, didn’t have a great Asia Cup but has been included in the World Cup squad and might have to play an important role.
Afghanistan have a settled and sorted playing XI on paper, but if any of their regular player gets injured or gets out of form, they don’t have an international fixture before the World Cup but only a couple of warm-up games against Asian teams, Pakistan and Bangladesh in Brisbane.