Afghanistan ICC World Twenty20 2016 Tournament Preview and Guide
With a strong pace-bowling core and a batting line-up filled with exciting talent, the Afghans are well-placed to make this their most memorable World T20 outing
05 March 2016 16:10
Though it could not qualify to the Asia Cup T20 this year, Afghanistan has done well in the shortest format of the game recently, winning comprehensively against Zimbabwe (2-0) and Oman (2-0). Afghanistan made it to the ICC World Twenty20 2016 after winning three out of six matches in the Qualifiers played in Ireland and Scotland last year.
They are talented cricketers who hit the ball hard; attacking players who could really hurt the senior teams. Hopefully we will surprise a few teams but we have to be realistic too
Group: Afghanistan is in Group B, alongside Zimbabwe, Hong Kong and Scotland.
Captain: Asghar Stanikzai
Preview: Afghanistan looks well-placed to qualify to the Super 10s from Group B. It will face a major challenge from Zimbabwe, but it’s past successes against the African nation will give the side confidence. Similarly, Scotland hasn’t beaten Afghanistan in a T20I, which will give the Afghans a mental edge, as will its successful record against Hong Kong.
Afghanistan’s batting revolves around captain Asghar Stanikzai, vice-captain Mohammad Shahzad, and Usman Ghani. Mohammad Nabi, the former captain, and Gulbadin Naib are capable of finding the fence, while Samiullah Shenwari has played several match-winning hands.
The bowling unit comprises of a strong pace attack in the form of Dawlat Zadran, Hamid Hassan and Shapoor Zadran. The pace trio had some very good spells during the 2015 World Cup, and would hope to continue their form in this year’s marquee event as well. Rashid Khan, the young legspinner, might also be a handful in Indian conditions, if the pitches aid turn.
Strengths: Afghanistan’s biggest strength lies in its bowling. Its biggest positive is that both Hamid Hassan and Shapoor Zadran are fit, giving the attack that extra edge. These two, alongside Dawlat Zadran, are all capable of hitting the 140 kph mark consistently. With the batting also settling down well, with a good mix of power-hitters and innings-builders, Afghanistan has its bases covered.
In Manoj Prabhakar, the former India allrounder, Afghanistan has a bowling coach who understand local conditions extremely well. His input and nous will be of enormous help to the team.
Afghanistan has also built up good momentum against its Group B rivals, and looks like a strong candidate to make the Super 10s on current form.
Recent Form: Beat Zimbabwe by five runs, beat Zimbabwe by 81 runs, lost to UAE by 16 runs, beat Oman by three wickets, beat Hong Kong by 66 runs.
Star Player: Gulbadin Naib
Gulbadin Naib is one of the crucial cogs in Afghanistan’s machinery. In the team’s recently concluded One-Day International series against Zimbabwe, Naib was instrumental in helping Afghanistan clinch the series, with 82 not out off just 68 deliveries when they were chasing 249. Staring down the barrel at 146 for 6, Naib steered the innings until Afghanistan clinched a thriller with just two deliveries remaining.
Naib’s strike-rate in the shortest format looms around the 130s, an impressive number. He is a useful bowler as well, and he showed that during the first Twenty20 International against Zimbabwe, where he was also the Man of the Match for an all-round show that included 37 off 20 balls, a wicket and a run-out.
Naib’s contribution lower down the order and in the field will be critical in Afghanistan’s plans, who will rely on him to smoke a few big hits to finish well, and keep things tight with the ball too.
One to Watch: Rashid Khan
Rashid Khan, who is only 17 years old, will be the youngest player in the ICC World Twenty20 2016. Debuting only in October last year, Khan has been impressive for Afghanistan, especially in the series against Zimbabwe. His rise in cricket has been inspirational and he has played competitive cricket at a very young age.
Relatively new to the format, in the seven matches that he has played, Khan has picked up eight wickets with his legspin, giving away 193 runs at an average of 24.12 and with an economy of 7.14.
Khan made it to the Afghanistan senior squad after notable performances against Zimbabwe and in the ICC U-19 World Cup earlier this year. He followed that up with sterling shows in the Asia Cup qualifiers, with 3 for 25 in four overs against UAE and 3 for 10 in three overs against Hong Kong. If Khan can similarly soak in the pressure of playing on the biggest stage, his bowling could prove decisive for Afghanistan, especially in Indian conditions.
#That6hitter: Najibullah Zadran
Najibullah Zadran's has a Twenty20 International strike rate of 139.56 from 20 matches. One of the indicators of his striking prowess is that he has more sixes (21) than fours (18) in his T20I career so far. In a recent Asia Cup qualifier match against Hong Kong, Najibullah smashed a 35-ball 60 with four sixes, serving notice of his hitting ability.
At 17 years, Rashid Khan is the youngest player to participate in the ICC World T20 this year. The young legspinner also participated in the recently completed ICC Under-19 World Cup.
Mohammad Nabi has been the backbone of Afghanistan side that qualified for the World Twenty20 in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. Under his captaincy, Afghanistan registered a thrilling one-run win against Scotland in the 50-over World Cup in 2015.
Afghanistan has played in seven matches in previous editions of the ICC World T20, winning one and losing six.
Afghanistan’s highest World T20 total is 154 for 3, which it achieved against Hong Kong in 2014.
Key Match: v Scotland on Tuesday March 8, VCA Stadium, Nagpur.
Afghanistan’s chances of qualifying for the Super 10s will strengthen considerably if it beats Scotland in its opening encounter. History favours the Afghans against Zimbabwe, and with Scotland also possessing a strong outfit, this match assumes greater importance for Afghanistan.
Both sides played out a one-wicket thriller in the ICC World Cup 2015, and Afghanistan will hope to repeat that result. That match was also Afghanistan’s first World Cup win. If it can get the better of Scotland once again, Afghanistan will have taken a big step towards qualification to the next round.
Afghanistan also got the better of Scotland in the ICC World T20 Qualifiers, giving the team added self-belief.
What people are saying about them:
"I am glad I can guide the Afghan team. They have immense talent and I am sure, in the years to come, the Afghanistan team would emerge as a force to reckon with in all forms of the game." Manoj Prabhakar, the former India allrounder and current bowling coach for Afghanistan.
“Our team is well equipped and we are very grateful for organizing matches and experience sharing opportunity with full member team.” - Shafiqullah Stanikzai, CEO of the Afghanistan Cricket Board.
“They are talented cricketers who hit the ball hard; attacking players who could really hurt the senior teams. Hopefully we will surprise a few teams but we have to be realistic too.” Peter Ferguson, the Afghanistan assistant coach.
Pommie Mbangwa Prediction – Afghanistan: Group Stage
They sure will be one to watch as they have some characters on their team. The wicket keeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad will not die wondering, he will give it a good go up at the top of the order but I feel however that they blow hot and cold and will miss out on getting to the Super 10.
Squad: Asghar Stanikzai (capt), Mohammad Shahzad (vice-capt,wk), Noor Ali Zadran, Usman Ghani, Mohammad Nabi, Karim Sadiq, Shafiqullah, Rashid Khan, Amir Hamza, Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Samiullah Shenwari, Najibullah Zadran, Hamid Hassan.
Tuesday March 8: v Scotland, VCA Stadium, Nagpur.
Thursday March 10: v Hong Kong, VCA Stadium, Nagpur.
Saturday March 12: v Zimbabwe, VCA Stadium, Nagpur.