Five takeaways from Afghan’s CWC team

Afghanistan has named their 15-member squad for the Cricket World Cup 2019 on Monday, 22 April. There’s the surprise inclusion of pacer Hamid Hassan, who last played an international game in 2016. While the leadership change, from Asghar Afghan to Gulbadin Naib, is no surprise, having been announced before the preparatory camp, it is notable that Afghan has also been named in the squad.

Here we list the five main takeaways from Afghanistan’s CWC team list.

A brand new captain 

The Afghanistan Cricket Board’s announcement earlier this month, naming Naib as the new one-day international captain, took not only the followers of Afghanistan cricket by surprise but also their own players. Under Afghan, the team had risen through the ranks, becoming a Full Member of the ICC, winning last CWC Qualifier and also completing their first-ever Test win over Ireland last month.

Five takeaways from Afghan’s CWC team
Five takeaways from Afghan’s CWC team

Naib’s nomination as the new skipper was taken keeping the long-term goals in mind. He has never captained in an international match, so handing him the responsibility in an event as big as the World Cup is a gamble, but he could well inject fresh energy into the squad.

The return of Hamid Hassan

Hassan, arguably one of the best pacers from Afghanistan, last played a game at a senior level in 2017; his last international appearance was in 2016. He has been out of the picture due to prolonged injuries. His fitness is still going to be a topic of discussion – the selectors said as much at the announcement – but his experience on the grand stage could be a vital addition to the squad.  Hassan was an effective – and entertaining! – presence in the CWC 2015, picking up eight wickets in five matches, including 3/45 against SL. If he can rediscover that pace and precision, he will be a vital part of the team.

Five takeaways from Afghan’s CWC team
Five takeaways from Afghan’s CWC team

World-class spinners but how to fit them all in 

Afghanistan stuck to having just three front-line spinners in Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, which meant there was no place for Zahir Khan. In their main spin trio, they have world-class skills. Rashid and Nabi, who are No.1 and No.3, are likely to feature in most, if not all playing XIs. Rashid, who is also the No.3-ranked bowler, has distorted into a reliable finisher with the bat and Nabi’s middle-order experience is valuable.

Five takeaways from Afghan’s CWC team
Five takeaways from Afghan’s CWC team

Rahman, on his day, can win games for his team too. He is the kind of mystery spinner that every team wants in their side. But can the selectors fit all of them in? It might give them a happy headache while picking the playing XI.

The year of Hazratullah Zazai

Zazai successfully announced his arrival as a hard-hitting batsman this year. Before 2019, he featured in only two ODIs for Afghanistan and had scored only 15 runs at 7.50. This year, he has played four ODIs, all of them against Ireland, and scored 140 runs at an average of 35 and a strike-rate over 100. In the shortest format, against the same opponent, he scored 204 runs from three matches at 102, including a personal best 162*.

The matter of experience

“We selected the best squad considering factors such as experience, fitness, team balance, current form, and conditions,” selector Ahmadzai said at the announcement.

And the experience is something Afghanistan has in spades. They have valued the experience that Afghan brings to the squad, with his 99 ODIs. Nabi is 111 ODIs old, while Shinwari, Shahzad, Najibullah Zadran, Naib and Rashid have all played 50-plus ODIs for their side, and were in good touch in the series against Ireland. They do have a good mix of experience and youth; however, the onus will be on the veterans to help win matches for their side.

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