Afghanistan National Cricket Team
They say sport knows no bounds and as such Cricket had traversed through the ice cold Hind Kush Mountains and reached Afghanistan in the mid 19th Century itself. Records say that the first cricket match was played in Afghanistan in 1839, however, Cricket did not flourish in the country immediately. It was not until the 1990s that cricket became popular among Afghan refugees in Pakistan, who got caught in the fever of the game.
|Head coach||Lance Klusener|
|Sponsorships||Alokozay Group, TYKA Sports|
The Afghanistan Cricket Federation was formed in 1995 by the Afghan refugees in Pakistan. When the refugees returned home in 2001, they took their new love of the game home with them and continued to play cricket in Afghanistan, as it became the only sport which was not banned by the Taliban in the country. In 2001, the Afghanistan Cricket Federation became a part of the ICC, when it was elected as an affiliate member. From then, Afghanistan started its long journey towards attaining ODI and Test status.
They started by playing in the second tier and regional tournaments in Pakistan. By 2004, they had started participating in Asian regional tournaments. In 2006, they went on a tour of England, playing against the second tier elevens of domestic teams, and won 6 of their 7 matches. By 2008, they had started winning low ranked tournaments and in the same year, embarked on their qualification campaign for the 2011 World Cup. However, they failed to progress to the World Cup, but their efforts bore fruit as they finally earned their ODI status in 2009.
The first ODI ever played by the Afghanistan Cricket team was against Scotland in the 5th place playoffs of the World Cup Qualifiers and they won their match by 89 runs. They then went on to win the 2009 ACC Twenty20 Cup in the United Arab Emirates. In 2010, Afghanistan played their first Twenty20 International against Ireland but lost the game by 5 wickets. They then qualified for the 2010 ICC World Twenty20, their highest achievement till that time. Considering that the team had just started playing cricket in their country a decade earlier, this was a breakthrough achievement. However, their performance in the tournament was quite poor. But Afghan Cricket was on the rise and the team refused to be disheartened with their recent results. They regrouped and went on the win the ACC Trophy Elite Tournament. They even won the silver in the 2010 Asian Games in China. From then on, Afghanistan improved with leaps and bounds and broke into the top ten of the ICC’s ODI rankings for the first time in 2015.
The year 2015 was memorable for Afghanistan National Cricket Team, as they competed for the first time in the ICC World Cup. Their first opponent was Bangladesh, and they lost the game by 105 runs. Afghanistan went on to win just one of their World Cup matches, a one-wicket win over Scotland and they were eliminated from the tournament in the opening round. However, even in defeat, the World Cup turned out to be a fabulous experience for the squad, as they had come a long way from playing cricket in refugee camps in Pakistan to rubbing shoulders against some of the best team in the world. It was a fantastic achievement for the country and its battle-hardened players.
After gaining valuable experience from the World Cup, the Afghanistan Cricket Team continued their development. In 2017, Afghanistan’s four-day domestic competition was awarded the first-class status by the ICC.
The Afghanistan Cricket Team does not have a home ground in the country, as due to security reasons, their home games are not played in their country. As such, they have used various stadiums around Asia as their home ground in various occasions. In 2016, the Shahid Vijay Singh Pathik Sports Complex in Greater Noida, India, was used as a home ground for Afghanistan.
On 14th June 2018, Afghanistan played the first test match in their history against India at Bengaluru but lost the match. Afghanistan has played 101 ODIs in total since 2009 and has won 53 of those. Their record in Twenty20 is even better – they have won 46 of the 68 games they have played so far.
Mohammad Nabi is their highest run scorer in the ODIs, with 2301 runs with an average of 29.12. Nabi is also their highest wicket-taker, with 109 wickets at an average of 31.16. Afghanistan’s highest individual ODI score is 131*, scored by Mohammad Shahzad against Zimbabwe. The best ODI bowling figure belongs to the rising Superstar Rashid Khan, who ended with a figure of 7/18 against West Indies in 2017.
The Afghanistan National Cricket team is currently led by Asghar Afghan, who has played 86 ODIs and 51 T20Is for Afghanistan. He is a right-handed batsman and a right-arm medium fast bowler. The Afghanistan Skipper is one of the many good performers of the team, which also includes Rahmat Shah, right-handed batsman, who bowls right-arm leg breaks and has played 45 ODIs for his country. The Afghanistan Wicket Keeper, Mohammad Shahzad, is an experienced campaigner, who also has the eye for the spectacular both on and off the field. He has played 69 ODIs and 60 T20Is for Afghanistan and has hit 4 ODI Centuries and 1 T20I Century so far. He is also Afghanistan’s second highest run-getter after Mohammad Nabi. Nabi is another talented all-rounder in the team and is the most experienced Afghan Cricketer right now, with 98 ODIs and 60 T20Is to his name.
But there’s no denying the fact that the actual star of this team is Rashid Khan. The man who set the IPL on fire is relatively new on the circuit but is a fabulous spinner and quite a handy hard hitter in the T20 games. He has played 46 ODIs since his debut in 2015 and has picked up 105 wickets. To put matters into perspective, he does not turn 20 until the 20th of September this year!
Rashid first made his mark in the 2017 IPL Edition, when he finished with 17 wickets from 14 matches. But it was when he switched to Sunrises Hyderabad for the 2018 Edition of the IPL that Rashid Khan finally unleashed his spells. He ended the season with a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Chennai Super Kings in the Finals, but Khan had already made his mark in the tournament. He had played 17 matches, taking 21 wickets, with an economy of 6.73 and a strike rate of 19.42. He was one of the hardest bowlers to play in the tournament, but Khan contributed through the bat as well, scoring 59 runs, with a strike rate of 190.32! He hit 6 sixes and 3 fours in the tournament.
Afghanistan is currently ranked 12th in the ICC Test Rankings, 10th in the ICC ODI Rankings and 8th in the ICC T20I Ranking. All the three are the best ranks in the history of the Afghanistan National Cricket Team. While they might not be dominating the world of cricket right now, the Afghanistan Cricket Team has come a long way since their inception. They have been built out of the ashes of a country torn by war and everything they have achieved in spite of all the adversities indicates that the Afghanistan Cricketers are warriors who deserve a lot of respect.
Afghanistan National Cricket Team Players
|Qais Ahmad||Bowler||Right Arm Leg spin||20|
|Azmatullah Omarzai||Bowler||Right Arm Medium Seam||20|
|Najibullah Zadran||Middle Order Batsman||–||27|
|Gulbadin Naib||All-rounder||Right Handed||29|
|Mohammad Nabi||All-rounder||Right Handed||35|
|Usman Ghani||Batsman||Right Handed||24|
|Mujeeb ur Rahman||Bowler||Right Arm Off Spin||19|
|Hazratullah Zazai||Opening Batsman||–||22|
|Rahmanullah Gurbaz||Wicket Keeper||Right Handed||19|
|Asghar Afghan||Batsman||Right Handed||33|
|Shapoor Zadran||Bowler||Left Arm Fast Seam||33|
|Naveen-ul-Haq||Bowler||Right Arm Fast Seam||21|
|Samiullah Shenwari||Bowler||Right Arm Leg spin||33|
|Rashid Khan||Bowler||Right Arm Leg spin||22|
|Karim Janat||Bowler||Right Arm Medium Seam||22|