In the ongoing ODI series between Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, 21-year-old Afghan opener Ibrahim Zadran has already registered two fifty-plus scores in two innings and is on a record-breaking spree in his young ODI career.
In the first match of the ongoing series against Sri Lanka, Zadran scored a match-winning 98, taking his team to a position of safety in a stiff run-chase of 269. That was his ninth ODI innings, and his first fifty. Before that, he had three centuries in his first eight games.
Having made his ODI debut for Afghanistan as a seventeen-year-old in 2019, Zadran has played all of ten matches at the time of writing. Yet, in such a short span of time, he has scored more ODI centuries than Misbah-ul-Haq, Sunil Gavaskar, and Glenn Maxwell, and the same number of ODI centuries as Steve Waugh, Ben Stokes, and Michael Hussey.
To say that Zadran has had a phenomenal start to his ODI career would be an understatement. His aggregate of 585 runs from his first 10 ODIs is the fifth-highest for any batter in their first ten one-day internationals in ODI cricket history, and needless to say, highest among Afghanistan players.
If you restrict the above stat to just openers, then Zadran jumps up to number three, with Imam-ul-Haq and Janneman Malan being the only two openers to have scored more runs than Zadran in their first ten ODIs.
Zadran didn't get off to the best of starts though, which is surprising given his current numbers. He made two off nine balls on his ODI debut against West Indies in Lucknow.
His second ODI came more than two years after his first, and his third came more than three months after his second. He didn't cross 20 once in those three games.
Fourth time turned out to be the charm for him, as he registered his first hundred in the second ODI of Afghanistan's tour of Zimbabwe last year. An unbeaten 121 off 141 balls, steering his side home in a run-chase of 229, signalled the arrival of a much-needed reliable opener for Afghanistan in ODIs.
After that, he scored two hundreds in the three-match series against Sri Lanka last year, including a mammoth 162 off 138 balls, and has now got off to another high-scoring start in a three-match series against the same opponents.
The volume of runs, his age, and the fact that he comes from Afghanistan, a country known more for its bowlers than its batters - are all noticeable aspects of this record-breaking run by Zadran.
He crossed the five-hundred-run mark in his ninth innings, becoming the joint second-fastest to reach the landmark in ODI cricket history along with Imam-ul-Haq, Kevin Pietersen, Tom Cooper, and Dennis Amiss. The record stands with South Africa's Malan, who in an astonishing start to his ODI career, had breached the 500-run landmark in just his seventh innings.
To put this feat into recent perspective, Shubman Gill broke the Indian record earlier this year, when he crossed the 500-run mark in his tenth ODI innings.
Zadran is also one of only three batters along with Malan and Imam to have scored three centuries in their first eight ODIs in the history of ODI cricket.
With nearly 600 runs in his first ten ODIs at an average of 65, Zadran now has an opportunity to further immortalize his place in record books as he nears the 1000-run mark.
The fastest to 1000 runs in ODIs is Pakistan's Fakhar Zaman, who reached the landmark in his 18th innings. To break that world record, Zadran needs to score another 415 runs in his next seven ODI innings. In the form that he is in, it doesn't seem completely impossible.
However, all ten ODIs that Zadran has played so far have been against either West Indies, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, or Sri Lanka. Tougher challenges lie ahead of him later this year as Afghanistan are slated to play an ODI series against India, followed by the Asia Cup (potentially), and the World Cup.
With three ODI centuries to his name already, Zadran has the joint third-most ODI centuries among Afghanistan batters along with Rahmanullah Gurbaz. Only Rahmat Shah (five) and Mohammad Shahzad (six) have more.
If Zadran can keep up this dream run, or even a fraction of it, for the next few months, he might break several more long-standing records, and by the time he reaches 22 years of age (December 2023), he might as well become an Afghan legend, with a long and fruitful career ahead of him.