After coming into the 2019 World Cup with high hopes, Afghanistan endured a harsh lesson in terms of both off-field and on-field professionalism. But most of Afghanistan's problems can be attributed to turbulence off the field. There have been constant changes within the administration, shocking alterations within the national team and this has hurt the team immensely. If these issues continue, Afghanistan might have the danger of falling down the pecking order quickly like Kenya and Zimbabwe. While teams like Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands are rapidly improving with their performances, they also don't have ego, corruption among their officials.
While this may give a gloomy picture to Afghanistan's future, their talent reservoir promises to defeat the system and rise up the ladder. Like most other South-Asian countries, Afghanistan are also a cricket-mad nation and that will ensure that they stay afloat in international cricket. A glimpse of Afghanistan's talent was seen when their U-19 team reached the semi-finals of the World Cup last year.
Apart from that, the country also has a lot of talent within its domestic circuit. Even Afghanistan senior team skipper Gulbadin Naib indicated the same during a post-match talk after their last World Cup game against the West Indies. He said, "Ikram AliKhil isn't the only talented cricketer in Afghanistan, there are a lot of other youngsters back home." So, let's have a look at five of the best upcoming Afghanistan players.
Off late, Afghanistan seem to have built the reputation of being a spin-bowling nursery. In that regard, Qais Ahmad is next in line to make his debut for the national team. The young leg-spinner has already featured for Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League, St Lucia Stars in the Carribean Premier League and Rajshahi Kings.
In addition to his exploits in the shortest format of the game, Qais also has a really good record in First-Class cricket. He has taken 64 wickets in just 10 matches and that shows his ability to be an all-format bowler. Recently, he even returned match figures of 10/145 against Bangladesh A in Khulna. When compared to Rashid Khan, Qais is more of a traditional leg-spinner with him relying more on flight and variations in pace to deceive the batsmen.
While Afghanistan have many talented spinners, Afghanistan will hope that Darwish Rasooli solves the nation's problem with respect to the dearth of quality batsmen in the senior team. Rasooli used to be a star for the U-19 team with his aggressive knocks and he will look to carry that into the international arena.
Last year, the 19-year-old scored 213 runs in the Afghanistan Premier League to further force the selectors to consider him for higher honours. He has also notched up an incredible 1073 runs in the 2018 Afghanistan First-Class tournament to top the run charts. Rasooli has been in and around the national team in the recent past and one would think his first international cap wouldn't be far away.
Naveen Ul Haq
Naveen-ul-haq, the youngster who led Afghanistan to the semi-final of the 2018 U-19 World Cup semi-finals is someone who has been on the fringes for the national team for the last 2-3 years. Naveen made his international debut against Bangladesh in 2016 but he hasn't been able to get another cap after that series.
With Afghanistan struggling to complement their spinners, Naveen might be shouldered with the responsibility of leading the pace attack very soon. He is especially valuable in limited overs cricket due to his variations. So far, he has taken 30 wickets in 9 first-class matches.
Generally, emerging cricketing nations tend to produce a lot of talented batsmen but ones without international level technique. Afghanistan also fall in the same category given that they seem to churn out players like Hazratullah Zazai and Mohammad Shahzad with ease. However, as time goes on, such players will be found out given the level of analysis that goes behind the scenes. So, the need of the hour for the rising nation would be to develop batsmen with good technique who can go onto play big knocks.
One such player might be Baheer Shah who has had an incredible start to his domestic career. His exploits in the 2017-18 Afghanistan first-class tournament were so incredible that he broke many records on the way to scoring 1096 runs. He became the second-youngest player to score a triple hundred (after Javed Miandad), most runs in first six first-class innings and second-fastest to score 1000 runs (both records held by Bill Ponsford). Given that Baheer is just 19-years old, there will be a lot of hopes on him to become one of the best batsmen to come out of Afghanistan.
Azmatullah Omarzai is another youngster who was part of the talented 2018 U-19 World Cup batch. He introduced himself in the international arena with a 23-ball 66 run blitz against New Zealand in the World Cup quarter-final. Apart from his big-hitting skills, the 19-year-old is also a handy medium pacer who has the ability to crank up the speed gun to 135 kph and above. His raw potential is something which has excited Afghanistan fans for quite a while. The nation will hope that Azmatullah keeps on improving and takes the all-rounder's spot in the senior team.