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T20 World Cup 2021

Why don’t Afghanistan use Rashid Khan higher up the order?

Yas Rana by Yas Rana
@Yas_Wisden 2 minute read

Afghanistan’s defeat to New Zealand at Abu Dhabi signalled the end of their T20 World Cup, falling short of what would have been a historic maiden World Cup semi-final appearance.

While they fell short against all of Pakistan, India and New Zealand, they showed that they have enough to be a force at T20 World Cups in the years to come; the Pakistan game in particular, where they were on the receiving end of an Asif Ali blitz at the death, demonstrated their potential as a T20 outfit.

Their strength as a side is built on their formidable spin attack. Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman are two of the very best mystery spinners in the international game. Elsewhere, Mohammad Nabi is a reliable operator with his wily off-breaks, while Naveen-ul-Haq – the leading wicket-taker in the 2021 T20 Blast – is a fast-improving quick.

Not unlike Pakistan, New Zealand or South Africa, Afghanistan’s bowling is noticeably stronger than their batting at this point in time. Najibullah Zadran scored a pair of half-centuries in the tournament, but he was the only Afghanistan batter to raise his bat in any of their five Super 12 matches.

Five of their regular top seven finished the tournament with strike-rates less than 121; it was a batting line-up that lacked firepower, not necessarily through lack of intent, but certainly by raw numbers.

It is odd then that they chose to use Rashid so sparingly with the bat. The precocious leg-spinner faced just eight balls across the tournament, both at the back-end of hopeless batting efforts, coming in at number eight.

Rashid is an improving hitter who the team could have benefited from having higher up the order in a pinch-hitter role not dissimilar to the one occasionally performed by Sunil Narine. His numbers hitting at the death are very good – he has a strike-rate of 161.15 at the death –  and a side currently short on six-hitting, it was surely worth at least one go. He has only twice batted in the top six in T20I cricket – given the relative strengths and weaknesses of this Afghanistan, that feels like a missed opportunity.

With another T20 World Cup around the corner, Afghanistan are well placed to ruffle some feathers. On balance, they are probably the eighth or so best T20I outfit in the world – it’s not that unfeasible imagining them reaching a semi-final in the not too distant future. Getting the most out of Rashid Khan – someone who already gives them so much – could be one step they can take to help them get there.

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