Afghanistan pick fresh faces ahead of world-beater Rashid


Rashid Khan is eligible to play his second Under-19 World Cup but isn’t part of Afghanistan’s squad for the 2018 edition of the tournament. Rashid, the second-highest ODI wicket-taker in 2017 (43 wickets), was one of the names on the selectors’ shortlist, but they decided not to pick him, given how far he has progressed at the senior level, and given the wealth of other spin options in their squad.

Rashid Khan takes more selfies with Afghanistan fans (Peter Della Penna/ ESPNCricinfo)

Players born on or after September 1, 1998, are eligible to play the 2018 edition of the tournament, which begins on Saturday in New Zealand; Rashid was born on September 20, 1998.

Rashid was Afghanistan’s top wicket-taker in the 2016 edition of the tournament, with 10 wickets at an average of 17.10. The legspinner made his ODI and T20I debuts a few months before that tournament, and has since gone on to become the senior Afghanistan side’s leading strike bowler. He is also among the most sought-after wristspinners in franchise T20 leagues. Delivering stump-to-stump legbreaks and a well-disguised googly at a brisk pace, Rashid has flummoxed a number of batsmen around the world.

Afghanistan, who earned Full Membership of the ICC last June, enter the Under-19 World Cup as contenders based on their recent form: the Under-19s won their maiden Youth Asia Cup late 2017. Afghanistan’s strength remains their bowling attack, which is dominated by spinners including the mystery offbreak bowler Mujeeb Zadran, the third-highest wicket-taker in Under-19 ODIs since the 2016 World Cup.

Immediately after the Under-19 team’s Asia Cup triumph, coach Andy Moles requested the selection panel, led by the former Afghanistan captain Nawroz Mangal, to consider including Rashid in the squad. Yet, despite the temptation of playing him, the Afghanistan selectors felt bringing Rashid back into the Under-19 fold would only distract him.

“We have three very good spinners in the squad and the selectors felt that Rashid has moved on with his career and these young spinners need to develop their game for the good and future of Afghanistan cricket,” Moles told ESPNcricinfo. “I am very happy with the selection policy as it ensures and encourages growth in our outstanding talent for the future.”

If Rashid had been picked, he would have been the fifth member of the Afghanistan squad to feature in consecutive Under-19 World Cups, the others being Naveen-ul-Haq, Tariq Stanikzai, Zahir Khan and Ikram Ali Khil.

Those four could be the last Afghanistan players to feature in two Under-19 World Cups. Chief executive officer Shafiqullah Stanikzai has said the ACB has put in place a policy that, going forward, no player can play more than one edition of the tournament.

“We have passed a new resolution about our junior cricket that a player will participate in only one Under-19 World Cup [from the next edition],” Stanikzai said. “That way every two years we will have a new pool of players and help our development programmes in junior cricket.”

Stanikzai also said the ACB backed the selectors’ decision on Rashid. “The core idea is for the player to go from strength to strength. Rashid has represented Afghanistan senior side, he is playing all the leagues, so we have to push him up, not bring him down. Instead of giving Rashid, we (the selectors) preferred giving a chance to Qais Ahmad, Zahir Khan and Mujeeb Zadran. We are quite strong in the spin department and we are keen to see how these bowler cope in New Zealand.” (ESPNCricinfo)


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