ICC World Cup squad profile: Afghanistan—still searching for the winning habit

Decision to appoint former India all-rounder Ajay Jadeja as a mentor may prove to be a prudent move

Rashid Khan (front), Afghanistan's T20 star, will have a tougher challenge to weave his magic in this format demanding he perform consistently for 10 overs (photo: ICC)
Rashid Khan (front), Afghanistan's T20 star, will have a tougher challenge to weave his magic in this format demanding he perform consistently for 10 overs (photo: ICC)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Afghanistan, the bravehearts of world cricket, may have produced some of the finest talents of franchise cricket over the past decade but when it comes to the 50-overs World Cup – they have failed to live up to their promise so far. The task will be cut out for them to buck the trend in the high-pressure event, and that too, before full houses in India.  

The recent example of their chaotic two-run defeat to Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup, which cost them a berth in the last four, is symptomatic of how they could be prone to nerves on the big stage. They were apparently unaware of the permutations needed to qualify for the next stage and it was a prudent move on part of the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) to appoint Ajay Jadeja, former Indian allrounder and now a TV pundit, as their mentor for the World Cup.  

Jadeja, a white ball specialist in the ‘90s who led India in 13 ODIs, is considered a shrewd cricketing brain who can give Hashmatullah Shahidi’s team the much-needed direction in this format. Jonathon Trott, one of England’s 2005 Ashes triumph, is also at hand to provide inputs to their often suspect middle order.  

Rahmanullah Gurbaz, their highest ranked batsmen at No. 38, will be the key to provide the team with strong starts in the powerplay in the company of Ibrahim Zadran while the likes of senior allrounder Mohammed Nabi and Rashid can pack a punch in the lower order. It’s the middle order which looks short on experience and quality and will have to show much more discipline in innings building to give their formidable spinners something to bowl at.   

Rashid, acknowledged by the ICC as the T20 Cricketer of the Year, will be hard pressed to keep the batsmen guessing through his quota of 10 overs. Nabi, alongwith off spinner Mujeeb ur Rahman (their highest ranked ODI bowler at No.3) and left-arm wrist spinner Noor Ahmad who made a major impact in IPL 2023, offer some excellent options to choose from.    

Naveen-ul-Haq, who made news for the wrong reasons in the last IPL when he got involved in an on-field brawl with Virat Kohli, returned to their ODI squad after a two-year gap. Naveen has played only seven ODIs to date, taking 14 wickets at an average of 25.42. The pace attack also features Fazalhaq Farooqi, Abdul Rahman and Omarzai. 

Despite a so-called lack of balance in the team, Afghanistan’s recent performance in bilateral: T20I and ODI series wins against a second-string Pakistan and Bangladesh, respectively, have shown that the team has what it takes to beat full members. One has to wait and watch to see if Afghanistan – for whom this will be the third back-to-back appearance in the 50-overs World Cup – can improve upon their record of only one win in 15 matches so far.  

Afghanistan squad: Hashmatullah Shahidi (c), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ibrahim Zadran, Reyaz Hassan, Rahmat Shah Zurmati, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi Eisakhil, Ikram Ali Khil, Azmatullah Omarzai, Rashid Khan Arman, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Noor Ahmad Lakanwal, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Abdul Rahman Rahmani, Naveen ul Haq Murid. 

Best performance: Group stages in 2015, 2019 

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