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Shapoor Zadran returns to Afghanistan's T20I squad

Shapoor Zadran in action during training Hindustan Times

Shapoor Zadran's time away from the game comes to an end having been named in the Afghanistan squad for the upcoming T20I tri-series against Ireland. The 32-year-old left-arm fast bowler is one of the most recognisable faces in Afghanistan cricket, gaining cult-hero status when he starred in their first-ever World Cup win back in 2015. But he hasn't played for them since March 2019.

That too was a game against Ireland - an ODI, though Zadran's career, over the last five years has largely been limited to T20I appearances. He sticks to the shortest format in domestic cricket as well and was a notable performer in the final of Shpageeza Cricket League in October 2019. He picked up 4 for 31 for Amo Sharks but ended up on the losing side. Zadran then played T10 cricket in Abu Dhabi in November, picking up three wickets in six matches for Karnataka Tuskers. That was his last piece of top-flight action.

Afghanistan will face Ireland over three T20Is to be played in Delhi on March 6, 8 and 10 with Asghar Afghan back as full-time captain across formats.

There are a couple of new faces in the squad as well. Qais Ahmad, the 19-year-old legspinner who shocked Andre Russell with a bouncer and subsequently took the Big Bash League by storm, gets a chance to play T20 internationals. So does Azmatullah Omarzai, who was part of the Under-19 team that made the semi-finals a couple of years ago. The 19-year-old seam-bowling allrounder has not played any T20 cricket since October 2018, but he has been moving up the ranks in regional 50-over cricket. In the September tournament, he emerged as Speen Ghar's leading wicket-taker with eight strikes at an average of 17.50.

Afghanistan T20I squad: Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Hazratullah Zazai, Karim Janat, Najib Zadran, Asghar Afghan (capt), Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Naveen ul Haq, Shapoor Zadran, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Qais Ahmad, Azmatullah Omarzai, Samiullah Shinwari, Usman Ghani.