Afghanistan aim to spin a web around the T20 World Cup

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17 Oct 2022 | 05:59 AM
authorShweta Haranhalli

Afghanistan aim to spin a web around the T20 World Cup

With improved performance in the Asia Cup, Mohammad Nabi's men will be itching to punch above their weight at the mega event

Over the past 18 months, the people of Afghanistan have been through a challenging situation amidst the political turmoil that has crippled the nation. 

While it is fair to say cricket has not been affected directly, as far as the men's team is concerned, the 15-member squad will be well aware that the World Cup provides a golden opportunity for them to get a smile on millions of fans back home.

Despite a lukewarm show in the last edition of the extravaganza, Afghanistan will be keen to showcase their talent on the biggest stage, especially after their spirited performance in the recently concluded Asia Cup.

In an exclusive conversation with Cricket.com, Dan Weston believes this is the best chance for Afghanistan to create a bit of a stir at the world event. 

"This is their best opportunity out of any tournament played thus far. There is a potential to upset the higher-ranked teams if all of them fire on that particular day," he said. 

There ain't any doubt that they will be tested to the hilt, and the pressure of playing in a high-voltage clash will take precedence, considering most of the players are inexperienced to the nuances of the international level. 

It is fair to say that the fortunes of the Afghan side will largely depend on the performances of Rashid Khan and their skipper, Mohammad Nabi. And as we wait for the action to unfold and witness their heroics, here are some of the critical factors that could decide their fate in the competition. 

Fortunes at 2021 T20 World Cup

Afghanistan were eliminated in the Super 12s after finishing fourth in Group 2. 

Top run-scorer - Najibullah Zadran: 172 runs in five innings at an average of 34.4 and a strike rate of 135.4

Top wicket-taker - Rashid Khan: Eight wickets in five innings at an average of 14 and an economy rate of 6.1 runs per over

What can win them the World Cup?

Bowling is most certainly the stronger suit for the Afghan side heading into the iconic tournament. With larger boundaries on offer and conditions conducive for the bowlers, Afghanistan will fancy their chances, especially in the powerplay. 

Over the past season, one of the most improved areas for them has been their ability to rattle teams with the new ball. With the emergence of Fazalhaq Farooqi, Naveen-ul-Haq and the mystery spin of Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Afghanistan have managed to scalp 28 wickets in 15 innings at balls per wicket ratio of 19.3, which is the second-best among the top ten nations. 

To add more misery, the opposition cannot heave a sigh of relief post the six overs because the introduction of Rashid and the off-spin of Nabi has often stifled them and resulted in losing their way in the middle overs. 

In the 15 innings played thus far after the T20 World Cup, Afghanistan have conceded at an economy rate of 6.9 runs per over in the middle overs (7-15) and picked up 46 wickets at balls per wicket ratio of 16, which is the best among the top ten teams. 

With Rashid and Mujeeb plying their trade in the Big Bash League, the duo will bring in a wealth of experience on the conditions Down Under and will hold the key for the Afghan side.

A move that could work:  Afghanistan can try to utilise the skills of Rashid Khan at number four or five. The right-handed batter has a wealth of experience in this format and scored at a strike rate of 147.4, which is the second-best among all the Afghan batters, with a minimum of 150 runs last season. 

Another aspect of the game that works brilliantly in his favour is his ability to play shots off the back foot and square of the wicket. Out of the 349 runs, he scored last season, 76 have been courtesy of the pull strokes, which is the highest, followed by 41 off square cut, which will help the team, especially in bouncy conditions on offer in Australia. 

The 24-year-old has not been provided opportunities to bat with plenty of overs in the bank, and with Afghanistan rapidly searching for options, he indeed provides them with all the ingredients to succeed in this role. 

What can get them eliminated?

While the bowling unit looks settled, to say the least, Nabi and the team management will be looking to their batters to take the attack to the bowlers in the field restrictions. 

With Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Hazratullah Zazai opening the batting for them, the onus will be on the duo to lay a solid foundation for the side at the top of the order. 

However, Afghanistan will be well aware of their demons in the middle overs as they have struggled to get going and scored at a run rate of 6.7 runs per over and a boundary every ten deliveries, the worst among the top ten nations. 

Squad

Predicted Playing XI

Afghanistan will bank on their new ball bowlers, Naveen-ul-Haq and Fazalhaq Farooqi, along with the spin trio of Rashid, Nabi and Mujeeb, to form a formidable bowling unit. 

In the batting unit, they will rely on Gurbaz and Najibullah Zadran to shoulder the bulk of the responsibility of the side with support from Zazai and Ibrahim Zadran and the all-rounders in Nabi and Azmatullah Omarzai. 

Probable XI: Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Ibrahim Zadran, Najibullah Zadran (vice-captain), Mohammad Nabi (Captain), Fareed Ahmad Malik, Rashid Khan, Azmatullah Omarzai, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Naveen-ul-Haq, Fazalhaq Farooqi

First Match

Afghanistan will lock horns against England in their opening clash on Saturday, October 22, in an evening encounter at the Perth Stadium. 

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England vs AfghanistanICC Men's T20 World Cup, Australia, 2022AfghanistanMohammad NabiRashid KhanMujeeb Ur RahmanRahmanullah GurbazFazalhaq Farooqi

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