CricketNext takes a look at the 5 players from the Afghanistan outfit who would look to make it a match to remember for the new boys on the Test block:
He is to Afghanistan what Virat Kohli is to the Indian team — a match-winner. The wicket doesn’t really matter when the new spin sensation has the ball in his hand. His spells over the years in different T20 leagues as well as for the national team has bamboozled batsmen all over. Be it his fast leg-spinners or his ripping googlies, it is on the back of sheer consistent performance that he earned the tag of the best T20 bowler at present from the legendary Sachin Tendulkar during this edition of the Indian Premier League.
A T20 hero in his own right, it is now time for Rashid to up his ante and show that he can get the red ball to rip just as much as he has managed to get revolutions on the white ball. If Afghanistan is to make a match of their inaugural Test match, then Rashid will definitely have to lead the show from the front. His experience in the IPL will come in handy as the nature of the Bengaluru wicket won’t be a surprise for him, having played for Sunrisers Hyderabad against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman
An unknown identity on the world stage till Kings XI Punjab picked him at the auction at this year’s IPL, for a staggering Rs4 crore, the 17-year-old reposed the faith of the owners with sterling performances, the highlight being the dismissal of RCB skipper Virat Kohli. Injury saw him miss a few games, but the spinner still finished with 14 wickets from 11 games at an economy of 6.99.
A mystery bowler, Mujeeb bowled the perfect googly to sneak through the bat and pad of Kohli and rattle the stumps. Kohli couldn’t believe his eyes as the youngster celebrated one of his best wickets.
Despite no experience at the first-class level, it was Mujeeb’s performance in the IPL that earned him a place in the Test squad and his mixture of off-spin, leg-spin and googlies could be quite a handful for the Indian batsmen even if there is an inch of turn on the M. Chinnaswamy wicket. The fact that he has performed well against some of the best sides at the U-19 level would further act as a confidence booster when he takes the field in Afghanistan’s first Test, especially the five-for he took against Pakistan in the final of the Asia Cup.
He is the captain of the ship and while the team is set to play its maiden Test against India, Stanikzai has already made a name for himself in the international arena. While associate team players have over the years had a habit of playing reckless cricket, trying to attempt a shot off every ball, the 30-year-old is one of those batsmen who have the mindset to spend long hours at the crease without losing his focus. He was out for 10 days with appendicitis surgery earlier this year — Rashid Khan led the team at the World Cup qualifiers — but the man is back and he would definitely want to show that his knocks against the minnows of world cricket were no flashes in the pan.
He was an integral member of the Afghanistan team that beat Bangladesh to register their first win over a Test-playing nation and his knock of unbeaten 90 off 103 balls was one of the cornerstones of the team’s 32-run win over the Bangla Tigers. As skipper, Asghar will look to take on Ajinkya Rahane and his boys on the front-foot, much like his batting.
The burly wicketkeeper has an eye for headlines. Be it with the bat or his statements, Shahzad believes in living life to the fullest. Add to that his prolific numbers in T20 cricket and you have the complete package. Earmarked a T20 specialist due to lack of opportunities in the longer formats, the 30-year-old has shown that he is no ‘see ball, hit ball’ batsman when he hit a quality unbeaten 214 to chase down a target of 494 in a 2010 Intercontinental Cup match against Canada.
Coming to his off field antics, he recently stole headlines when he said that he didn’t need to work on his diet as he could hit longer sixes than India skipper Virat Kohli. With the world watching when his team plays its inaugural Test against India from June 14, Shahzad would definitely look to use the opportunity to once again steal the limelight on the field. In 2016, he was named the ICC Associate & Affiliate Cricketer of the Year, thereby becoming the first Afghan player to get the award and a successful outing in his country’s inaugural Test would be another feather in his cap.
One of the senior-most members of the team, Nabi has also been the leader of the pack in the past on a couple of occasions. In fact, along with Rashid Khan, he was the first Afghanistan player to be picked up by Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League. The experience of playing against some of the best Indian players in the IPL will definitely come in handy as he will look to guide the young Afghanistan players, bound to be nervous in their first Test match.
Apart from leading the team in the past, Nabi is another Afghanistan player who has been a part of the various T20 leagues across the globe like the Big Bash League, Bangladesh Premier League and Pakistan Super League among others. Also, he is a handy customer with bat and ball and could be the answer to skipper Asghar Stanikzai if he needs a gritty knock in the middle or a couple of wickets with the ball.
At 33, Nabi is not getting any younger, but his fitness is an inspiration to the rest of the team. Not to forget, Nabi was an integral part of the Afghanistan side that qualified for the World T20 in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016, as also the 2015 World Cup.
Ajinkya Rahaneasghar stanikzaiIndia vs AfghanistanIndia vs Afghanistan 2018India vs Afghanistan TestMohammad NabiMohammad ShahzadMujeeb Ur RahmanRashid Khanvirat kohli
First Published: June 13, 2018, 10:39 AM IST