Afghanistan

  • Last Updated: September 19 2012, 11:58 BST

We take a look at Afghanistan's squad, key players and hopes at the ICC World Twenty20.

Dawlat Zadran: One to watch

Group A Fixtures:
September 19: India at R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, 1500 BST
September 21: England at R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, 1500 BST

Overview: Much was made of Afghanistan's meteoric, fairytale rise a couple of years ago, when they achieved ODI status and qualified for the Caribbean edition of this tournament. It would have been an astonishing rise even without that country's wretched recent history. Not much has followed, however. Frustratingly, through the game's bureaucracy, lack of financial support or a failure of the bigger teams to extend an olive branch (other than Australia), the Afghans have been treading water among cricket's small fry.

Now, though, they have another chance to strut their stuff on the ICC's big stage. Limited-overs cricket, as shown by Bangladesh, Ireland and Zimbabwe, will always be the place for upsets, and their stellar Group A opposition - India and England - will be wary of slip-ups.

Strengths: Afghanistan sport a formidable spin duo in Samiullah Shenwari and Mohammad Nabi and, although not of the calibre of, say, Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi or Ravichandran Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh, the pair will test many a batsman this month. A leg-spinner is always particularly dangerous, with Shenwari one of a handful on show.

All picked for the ICC Combined Associate and Affiliate XI that held their own against England in the UAE earlier this year, wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad, all-rounder Nabi and seamer Hamid Hassan will count themselves as the team's engine room. A team lined with inexperience needs its relatively experienced members to step up.

Weaknesses: While fellow minnows Zimbabwe and Ireland have enjoyed competition against each other - and South Africa - of late, Afghanistan are short on match practice against tough opposition, bar the one-off ODI against Australia. Instead, they've made do with matches against Caribbean and Bangladesh domestic outfits. In fact, they've played only three T20Is (not one in 2011) since their qualification for the 2010 World Twenty20. Their dearth of experience in a format that demands quick adaptation is glaring. The draw has not been kind to Afghanistan either, with India and defending champions England their Group A foes.

Six-hitter: Mohammad Shahzad. The stocky keeper-batsman is comfortably the most reliable of Afghanistan's willow-wielders, having scored over 100 more T20I runs than any of his team-mates and striking three of the country's five half-centuries in the format.

Strike bowler: Hamid Hassan. The paceman has been a key figure in Afghanistan's recent rise, and has an eye-catching 14 wickets from his eight T20 internationals and an economy rate below a run a ball. How he performs against the powerful English and Indian batting line-ups will go a long way to determining how competitive Afghanistan can be.

One to watch: Dawlat Zadran. While even less well known than some of his colleagues, the seamer was the star of the qualifying tournament with 17 wickets at an average of 7.88. He took the only five-wicket haul of the event against Hong Kong. Crucially, he also picked up wickets against the strongest side involved, Ireland, and if he can offer that quality in Sri Lanka then teams won't be able to simply see off Hamid Hassan knowing things will be easier elsewhere.

Squad: Nawroz Mangal (capt), Asghar Stanikzai, Dawlat Zadran, Gulbodin Naib, Hamid Hassan, Izatullah Dawlatzai, Javed Ahmadi, Karim Sadiq, Mohammad Nabi, Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nasim Baras, Samiullah Shenwari, Shafiqullah, Shapoor Zadran.