“Pressure is a funny thing” said Steve Waugh in the wake of Australia’s ground breaking triumph in the Caribbean in mid-1995.
Afghanistan have released a 23-man preliminary squad, making my job easier to predict the final 15.
The sacking of captain Asghar Afghan has raised many eyebrows, but there are no surprises in this 15-man squad.
Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan, Najibullah Zadran
Hazratullah Zazai made headlines across the world following his 162 in a T20 against Ireland, even getting praise from Australian captain Aaron Finch.
His batting reminds me a lot of Pakistani Sharjeel Khan with his flicks across the leg side. Will be dangerous in the powerplay, especially if he gets going.
Rahmat Shah is the most gifted batsman in Afghanistan cricket with a very solid technique against pace and spin.
His strike rate may not be as high as the likes of Virat Kohli and Joe Root, but he holds the innings together for the South Asian rising giants. He is the pillar of their batting and it’s crucial he gets going as soon as possible.
Shahidi is a similar player to Shah and both will be looking to consolidate the middle overs of their innings.
My only question for those two players is when Afghanistan have to chase more than 270. Have they got the game to score rapidly?
The ex-skipper rushed out of eye surgery to ensure Afghanistan qualified for the World Cup and he will play his natural game at No.5.
Najibullah Zadran is a quality finisher who can give some lusty blows at the end, however he can also play a big knock if the situation comes up for the Afghans.
Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shenwari, Rashid Khan, Qais Ahmad
Mohammad Nabi is just a class all-rounder. He can bowl at any stage of the game and can bat according to the situation. Expect a few cameos of 20-ball 30s and a few four-wicket hauls should everything go to plan.
Samiullah Shenwari is a quality middle-order batsman and was instrumental in Afghanistan’s first and only World Cup win with a composed 96 in a nervy match against Scotland. He can also bowl handy leggies but bowls more long hops than Marnus Labuschagne.
Rashid Khan needs no introduction. He’s just class. To be able to consistently spin it both ways at that speed is just nasty, not to mention he has a few 50s for Afghanistan. His experience from franchise T20 leagues across the world – including in England – will be beneficial.
Qais Ahmad hasn’t played any international matches for Afghanistan but that doesn’t reflect how talented he is. Hobart Hurricanes fans would remember his short stint with some decent spells. He will be a good back-up option for Rashid Khan should there be an unfortunate injury.
Mohammad Shahzad, Ikram Ali Khil
Mohammad Shahzad is my favourite Afghan player with his keeping, his celebrations and his aggressive batting. I’m seriously surprised he has been overlooked in IPL auctions. He will go all guns blazing and Australian fans may get a bit nervous if he gets going at Bristol come June 2.
Ikram Ali Khil is only 18, yet has already had a taste of international cricket. Can bat well as a finisher should Shahzad not play.
Aftab Alam, Gulbadin Naib (captain), Dawlat Zadran
Gulbadin Naib has been given the captaincy and thus he’ll be automatically in the side.
Aftab Alam has improved his death bowling skills which could give him a spot in the starting line-up over Dawlat Zadran.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Mujeeb Ur Rahman is another world-class bowler in Afghanistan’s ranks. His control in the powerplay will be very crucial. His experience of playing in franchise T20 leagues will be handy alongside Nabi and Rashid.
I know I have only selected three seamers for the Afghans, but I can’t see any of their spinners making way for an extra seamer. Plus they are all world-class spinners who can adapt to the conditions.