We examine how Afghanistan are shaping up ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, as they bid to rattle the cages of some of the big boys.
ODI ranking: 10
World Cup wins: 0
Final appearances: 0
World Cup record
Tournament appearances: 1
Ways they can win it
They can’t, probably, but they’re well-equipped to bloody some noses along the way, particularly if the sun beats down and the pitches start to turn. Rashid Khan, the formidable, record-breaking leggie, is the best white-ball bowler in the world and leads the most potent spin attack in the tournament. Watch out for his deputy, the teenage mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who will have benefitted from his spell with Hampshire last year.
Their batsmen are blown away by the seaming ball, failing to give their spinners enough runs to work with and a succession of heavy defeats give those in the corridors of power a sense of misplaced justification at restricting the World Cup to 10 teams.
Team professor: Mohammed Nabi
The 34-year-old off-spinning all-rounder has been there from the very start of Afghanistan’sincredible journey and can draw upon experience garnered from playing against 45 (FORTY FIVE!) international teams during his decade on the circuit.
Mad dog: Hamid Hassan
The team’s posterboy during their breakthrough years, Hassan’s trademark warpaint and bandana, not to mention those 90mph induckers, made him an instant cult hero. The 31-year-old’s career has been decimated by injuries since but he received a shock recall for the tournament, despite not having played international cricket since 2016.
Your next favourite player: Hazratullah Zazai
Assuming you’re already familiar with the work of Afghanistan’s ineffable keeper/batter Mohammad Shahzad, keep an eye out for Hazratullah, a 21-year-old southpaw dasher who bludgeoned 162* from 62 balls in a T20I against Ireland in February, including 16 sixes. He won’t die wondering.
Weak link (by CricViz)
They have a real problem at the top of the order. Since the last World Cup, their top three have averaged just 30.28, the lowest of any team at the upcoming tournament*. There is understandable concern that on flat pitches – which we expect to see plenty of in the group stage – Afghanistan’s lack of batting firepower could come to haunt them.
*As of May 2, 2019
Gulbadin Naib (c), Asghar Afghan, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan, Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Shahzad, Samiullah Shinwari, Najibullah Zadran, Noor Ali Zadran, Dawlat Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai
Betfair Exchange odds: 220.0
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