Afghanistan have it in them to surprise the biggest of teams in the mega-event © Getty Images
Afghanistan have it in them to surprise the biggest of teams in the mega-event © Getty Images

Afghanistan picked their World Cup squad on Sunday as they are all set to make their first-ever appearance in the biggest event in world cricket. Amit Banerjee analyses the chances of the squad captained by Mohammad Nabi in the multi-nation event.

The Afghanistan Cricket Board finalised their 15-man squad for the upcoming World Cup, which is scheduled to begin on February 14 in Australia and New Zealand. The squad will be making their first-ever World Cup appearance in the tournament, with the rise of the Afghan team in world cricket in recent years being a tale that is fit for an inspirational sports film. Afghanistan have it in them to surprise the biggest of teams in the mega-event, and propel themselves in their growth as a sporting nation.

The side is led by Mohammad Nabi, who took over the role of the captain only recently from Nawroz Mangal. While Javed Ahmadi will have a spot reserved for himself in the top of the batting order, there will be a bit of a tussle over the selection of his opening partner, which will be between Usman Ghani and former skipper Mangal.

They will be followed by Afsar Zazai (who will double-up as the wicket-keeper) , Nasir Jamal and Asghar Stanikzai to complete the Afghan top-order. The openers have been firing for their side in the last two games of the ongoing triangular series in the UAE featuring Ireland and Scotland, putting up a 121-run stand for the opening wicket against Scotland to setup an eight-wicket win.

Captain Nabi will form the core of the middle-order along with the likes of Samiullah Shenwari, Gulbadin Naib. The Afghan middle-order has been crucial in Afghanistan’s victories in recent times, especially during the series-levelling effort against Zimbabwe, as well as during the team’s successful run during the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Premier League during last summer.

Afghanistan’s bowling attack will be one of their key weapons, especially with the seam-friendly wickets in Australia and New Zealand. The bowling attack is expected to be headed by one Shapoor Zadran. The lanky pacer has been the regular choice for opening the bowling slot, along with Dawlat Zadran, whose bowling pace exceeds 140 kmph and will find tracks such as Perth ideal for his bowling. Shenwari, who is the all-time leading wicket-taker for Afghanistan, will be one of the spinners deployed and will be assisted in that department along with skipper Nabi.

The World Cup will be a testing time for the Afghans, for whom cricket is a relief from the stormy times that people going through back home. For those 43 days or so, the cricketers will take centre-stage in the lives of Afghans, including the President and the Taliban (cricket is the only sport they support). While Afghanistan enter the tournament as ‘minnows’, the men from the mountains have the ability to change their reputation to top dogs.

Afghanistan World Cup Squad: Mohammad Nabi (c), Nawroz Mangal, Asghar Stanikzai, Samiullah Shenwari, Afsar Zazai (wk), Najibullah Zadran, Nasir Jamal, Mirwais Ashraf, Gulbadin Naib, Hamid Hassan, Shapoor Zadran, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Javed Ahmadi, Usman Ghani

(Amit Banerjee, a reporter at CricketCountry, takes keen interest in photography, travelling, technology, automobiles, food and, of course, cricket. He can be followed on Twitter via his handle @akb287)