Team Afghanistan is known for their bowling, especially spin bowling, but on a few occasions, they have shown promising signs of being a better side in international cricket. They won hearts, people say, but aren’t we hearing this from the last few years now?
No doubt about the talent the Afghanistan team has but it’s about consistency and stepping up for the team. They almost notched up a must-win game in the Asia Cup against Sri Lanka and fought till the end. If they can show the same level of attitude and hunger to take up the challenge, then we will see some unexpected things in the future, just like we saw a team like West Indies getting knocked out of the race for a spot in the World Cup 2023.
Well, they have been on a path to improve, and undoubtedly, they have bowlers who can do the job for them. To name a few, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fazalhaq Farooqi, and Naveen Ul Haq, on their day, they are enough to rattle any batting line-up in the world.
But the question is, can their batters step up and play responsibly?
In the last few years, there have been some batters who have looked promising. We saw a glimpse of Rahmanullah Gurbaz in the IPL, where he smashed his Afghan teammates and scored 81. He had a tough time at the Asia Cup, but before the tournament, he bolted two hundreds against Pakistan and Bangladesh. In 26 ODIs, he has already smashed 958 runs, including five hundreds and two half-centuries, with a healthy average of 38.
Ibrahim Zadran, who opens the innings with Gurbaz, has an even better record. In just 19 games, he has notched up 911 runs, including four centuries and four fifties and averages over 53, which is nearly as good as the top-ranked batters in the world.
When it comes to the middle order, the Afghans have Rahmat Shah. He is one of the most experienced players in the team, with 97 ODIs under his belt. He has smashed over 3200 runs in ODIs with a decent average of around 36. He needs to be more responsible and consistent with runs, as he has the skill set along with the experience.
Then comes the captain, Hashmatullah Shahidi, who made his debut in 2013 and has played 67 ODIs so far. He has scored 1775 runs in this format with a below-par average of 32. And he is yet to score a hundred in this format, which clearly shows that he lacks the ability to stay in the middle.
Even the all-rounders corner of the team has big names like Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Karim Jannat and even Rashid Khan.
But can we really call a player an all-rounder if he averages 20 despite playing 79 odd matches in international cricket? Gulbadin Naib can bowl well, but he cannot be known as an all-rounder with an average of just 20.
The most experienced cricketer in this team, Nabi, averages just 27. This is the part where the Afghanistan team must level up their game. They cannot afford to play these so-called “all-rounders” just for the sake of their bowling. Yes, Nabi is an important member of the squad, but he needs to score runs if they want to win games.
The team have the luxury of batting depth with the guys who have the potential to score runs and they have proved it on several occasions. Even Mujeeb smashed a half-century recently against Pakistan. But if the Afghanistan team wants to win games along with the hearts of the fans, then they need to step up and bat smartly.