World Twenty20 2012

Big stage, big dreams

Umar Farooq and Mohammad Isam

September 18, 2012

Comments: 9 | Text size: A | A

Offspinner Mohammad Nabi took two wickets, Afghanistan v Australia, only ODI, Sharjah, August 25, 2012
Mohammad Nabi will have a big role to play © AFP
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Series/Tournaments: ICC World Twenty20
Teams: Afghanistan

Overview


The Afghanistan team's growth will get a boost when they play their second major international tournament over the next few weeks. Their matches against Pakistan and Australia earlier this year drew a lot of interest among cricket fans despite the contrasting calibre of both teams. But away from the mystique attached to a cricket team from a troubled land, and the live television coverage, they are a team that is simply a work in progress at a competition to which they bring an unmistakable spirit.

Like other top Associate and Affiliate nations, Afghanistan's enthusiasm for the game hasn't been satiated by participation in the Intercontinental Cup and the World Cricket League Championships. After completing qualification for the Sri Lanka event, they were invited to take part in the Port-of-Spain Twenty20 tournament. They ended up as champions, winning $50,000 ahead of Bangladesh (playing as BCB XI), Barbados and the hosts Trinidad & Tobago. But these competitions are still a world away from the cauldron of the World Twenty20s where they have to get everything right against India and England, their group stage opponents.

As can be expected from a team that relies on raw skill, Afghanistan have plenty of batsmen who take the aerial route. Mohammad Shahzad will get things rolling alongside the young Javed Ahmadi. Karim Sadiq, captain Nawroz Mangal and Asghar Stanikzai make up the middle-order, with all three capable of attack. Mohammad Nabi is the star big-hitter and has been recently used up the order to further their attacking ambitions.

They missed fast bowler Hamid Hassan for eight months this year but his return as the team's leading bowler would help the likes of Dawlat Zadran and Izatullah Dawlatzai who carried the attack in the interim, with left-arm pacer Shapoor Zadran also helping out. Samiullah Shenwari's leg-breaks and the off-spin of Nabi bring variation but against the big hitters of England and India, the spinners' eight overs would be heavily tested.

Afghanistan should give their group A opponents, as strong as they maybe, reasons to worry. After all, England knows all too well what it's like to lose to one of the smaller teams in the opening game of this competition.

Key player


Mohammad Nabi can hit the ball out of a stadium, as Xavier Doherty would know so well. Despite the big-hitting ability, he is still regarded mainly as an offspinner. He has form on his side though, having won the Man-of-the-Series award in the Trinidad tournament. And if the four sixes against Australia is any evidence - three belted down the ground and one high over midwicket - he could be a threat to a few reputed bowlers.

Surprise package


Though Hassan would roar in with the new ball, with or without the head-band, as the team's most recognisable player, Mohammad Shahzad's aggressive start with the bat could make him the headliner. He is the team's leading scorer in ODIs and T20Is, with more than 1000 runs which includes three hundreds and six half-centuries. The 24-year-old Shahzad also doubles up as Afghanistan's wicketkeeper.

Weakness


Afghanistan are still relatively an inexperienced side and are yet to get enough exposure at the highest level. They might have improved as a team, their batsman and bowlers have all the basic skills, but they lack the experience which other teams fall back on in times of distress.

World T20 history


Afghanistan began playing ODIs in 2009 and the next year they secured a berth in the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean. They were expectedly knocked out from the preliminary stages after losing to India by seven wickets and South Africa by 58 runs, though they did restrict the latter to a score below the 150-mark. They made it to this tournament through a long qualifying campaign held in the United Arab Emirates in March this year.

Recent form


Afghanistan has had a quiet build-up to the World Twenty20s after confirming participation in this tournament. They were beaten by Australia by 60 runs but it didn't break their spirit. They won two games in the Trinidad tournament and also defeated Sri Lanka A in their first practice game in Colombo. They however lost to West Indies by eight wickets on Monday.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent; Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by emmersonne on (September 19, 2012, 16:02 GMT)

I really hope this amazing team will have a positive impact on the Afghan youth of today. Ten years of upheaval and violence - but still these lads have achieved fantastic things. Amazing role models, and hopefully a source of great joy to their fans.

Posted by Waheed-Shirzay on (September 19, 2012, 9:08 GMT)

@biggus

I agree with you. our people do not need to keep their expectation so high because our team needs more games to have experience of winning big games and it is too early to talk about that. let's enjoy see Afghanistan are playing in high level and this itself means alot.

Posted by Waheed-Shirzay on (September 19, 2012, 8:26 GMT)

To see Afghanistan playing likes of India and England is itself is a big achievement. Afghan government have no proper facilities for these boys, no proper salary and they still play with their soul and this is what called Real Afghans. Afghanistan already won by coming and playing in this tournament twice in their 3 years cricket history.

Posted by Biggus on (September 19, 2012, 7:46 GMT)

Good luck Afghanistan, you'll need it as India are one of the power sides in the competition. Having said that, Afghanistan have shown they are a dangerous side and could beat anyone on their day. @CrICkeeet-I think it's a little early to be making such claims mate. There's nothing wrong with supporting your team but there's no need to be disrespectful of others. This game has a habit of making people eat their silly predictions and those who mock other teams usually have to eat humble pie soon afterwards. Afghanistan have shown great promise in the short time they have been competing and the rest of the cricket world is pleased and impressed, but there are still many mountains to climb before you have earnt the right to talk so big.

Posted by Mollakhel on (September 19, 2012, 6:58 GMT)

Go Afghan You are afghan Different from others we support you

Posted by CrICkeeet on (September 19, 2012, 1:16 GMT)

AFGHANISTAN IS BETTER THAN IRELAND......

Posted by Rahul_crick_talk on (September 19, 2012, 1:03 GMT)

Good luck to Afghanistan!

Posted by Hagi on (September 18, 2012, 18:37 GMT)

I request ICC on behalf of all Afghan cricket supporters that we want more matches against ICC full member teams. I hope this message is read by ICC member... Thank you...

Posted by Azooz-Afgfan on (September 18, 2012, 14:44 GMT)

Guys we are preety sure this time that u guys are Capable of making a huge upset. Inshallah Afghanistan will win either of the two group stage matches.

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Tournament Results
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West Indies won by 36 runs
Australia v West Indies at Colombo (RPS) - Oct 5, 2012
West Indies won by 74 runs
Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Colombo (RPS) - Oct 4, 2012
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Pakistan won by 32 runs
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