The Afghanistan Cricket has come a long way in a pretty short span of time. When other associate nations like Scotland and Ireland have failed to deliver, despite showing promise in the initial years, Afghanistan has produced great results with limited amount of resources.
The War-torn Afghan nation has overcome all odds to enlist their name in the cricket map within just seven years of their first appearance on the big stage.
Each and every member of the Afghan team-from the support staff to the players has worked with passion and love for the game. Although their sudden surge during the past one year has been mainly due to the success of three of their players.
They are none other than the swashbuckling wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad, the dynamic all-rounder Mohammad Nabi and the young leggie Rashid Khan. A couple of years back, Afghanistan's only lethal weapons were Nabi and Shahzad. But with the arrival of Rashid Khan, an X-factor has arrived in the team.
Rashid Khan – The X Factor
Rashid Khan’s arrival has been like a fresh breeze invoked into the Afghan side. His arrival and spell-bounding performances with the ball has made the world sit up and down in excitement. The fans and pundits soon realised that a future star has arrived and he is delivering on the promise even after a year since his debut.
We seldom get to see an 18-year old bamboozling the best batsmen of the world with his deceptive art of leg-spin bowling. The world can hardly ignore, when a kid bowls it with so much accuracy, precision and deception.
Within just 18 months of his arrival in international cricket, he has played the same number of ODIs and T20Is (24) and has claimed 47 and 40 wickets in the formats respectively; that too at an impressive average of less than 20 in both the formats.
Mohammad Nabi – The Old War-Horse
While Rashid is the young blood infused into this team, Mohammad Nabi is the old war-horse of this Afghan side and has offered reliability with both bat and ball to this side since the beginning of their dream run in international cricket seven years back. With 2,689 runs and 137 wickets in 133 international matches to his name, Nabi is one of the finest all-rounders among the associate nations if not in the world.
His clever off-break bowling has always got Afghanistan out of trouble in difficult situations. And his handy batting has often shocked the opposition as he has produced some stellar performances with the bat as well. Recently, his innings of 89 off just 30 deliveries against Ireland in a T20I took the world by storm as Afghanistan recorded another victory against their associate seniors.
Mohammad Shahzad – The Entertainer
Nabi and Rashid may be Afghanistan’s most valuable and dangerous weapons, but what sets this team apart from any other associate nation and helps them win Afghanistan’s fans’ hearts is the presence of Mohammad Shahzad in the team. He is an entertainer with the bat in his own. Although a man of small physical stature, Shahzad doesn’t hesitate to take on the most dangerous bowlers of the world.
With 3,666 runs in 114 international matches for Afghanistan so far, Shahzad is one of their most prolific, reliable and dangerous batsmen. Being a fan of MS Dhoni, Shahzad has mastered the helicopter shot as well and he has put it on show time and again at the international stage.
Making History in IPL
The trio tried their luck in this years’ IPL auction as well. Although Rashid and Nabi were grabbed up by Sunrisers Hyderabad for whopping prices, Shahzad remained unsold. But that does not take anything away from all the contributions he has made to Afghanistan Cricket over the years.
Rashid and NABI will become the first Afghanistan players to feature in the IPL this year.
However, Nabi and Rashid’s IPL stint will help cricket in Afghanistan in many ways. For more and more kids would want to think about the sport as a profession rather than being afraid to play it due to unavailability of resources and the political tension in the war-torn country.
The trio’s success in world cricket will only inspire the young blood and weave many dreams in their eyes. Afghanistan, a nation that was sharp with Nabi and Shahzad at the helm, is now a trident with the X-factor in Rashid Khan. They will continue tormenting the opposition in the coming years and will take Afghanistan to even bigger heights in world cricket. Long live the Afghan trident!