Afghanistan’s Asia Cup squad: Predicted playing XI, combinations and more

One of the feel good stories of the cricket world, Afghanistan has made huge strides in the cricketing landscape in a very short period of time. Although their rise has been more prominent in T20 cricket, their ODI team is beginning to take shape as well.

With a plethora of mystery spinners and some upcoming fast bowlers, Afghanistan has a very strong bowling line-up. If the batters can provide some balance, they can pull off some major scalps. Here is the 15 men contingent who can achieve those big feats in this hybrid model Asia Cup.

Afghanistan's Asia Cup squad

Hashmatullah Shahidi (c), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ibrahim Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Azmatullah Omarzai, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Wafadar Momand, Riaz Hasan, Noor Ahmad, Ikram Alikhil, Abdul Rahman.

Photo by Icon Sport


Afghanistan has produced some explosive openers from Shahzad to Zazai, but Wicket-keeper Rahmanullah Gurbaz looks to be the most complete package. Ibrahim Zadran will accompany him as the more calm head.

Captain Hashmatullah Shahidi forms the backbone of the middle order, with hard-hitting Najibullah Zadran, who will be expected to bring the experience and nous to this team. Afghanistan expect a lot from Riaz Hasan going into the future and Ikram Alikhil will be the backup wicket-keeper and opener.


Afghanistan boasts a healthy amount of quality in this department, led by the remarkable Rashid Khan and the veteran Mohammad Nabi. Both will be expected to contribute significantly with bat and ball, acting as the engine of this Afghan team.

In Azmatullah Omarzai, Afghanistan have a rare talent, a hard-hitting pace bowling all-rounder. Omarzai brings balance to this team and offers a great option in both departments. Rahmat Shah will be a batting mainstay, but may need to use his bowling arm for some breakthroughs as a part-timer.

Photo by Icon Sport


The real department of strength, Afghanistan possess bowlers of great variety, skill and franchise exposure. Left-arm seamer Farooqi will be expected to take wickets with the swinging, new ball. Expect him to bowl with his heart.

Spin still remains their department of strength though, as Mujeeb Ur Rahman and another new IPL sensation Noor Ahmad can cause trouble to any batter. There is a lot of potential in Abdul Rahman, Afghanistan’s young seam bowling prodigy. Naveen Ul Haq’s injury means Wafadar Momand has been thrust into the squad.

Afghanistan's probable playing XI

Afghanistan has a great variety in the bowling department, meaning rotation will likely suit pitch conditions. We will see coach Jonathan Trott deploy a different combination of spinners and pacers in different games.

However, as a younger ODI nation who don’t have the depth of their counterparts, Afghanistan may have fewer options and a more fixed playing XI. We tried to pick a playing XI which we thought would suit their playing style in this Asia Cup.

Photo by Icon Sport

1. Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk)

He quickly established himself as Afghanistan’s premier batter through some brilliant demonstration of power hitting. The right-hander has also become a hot cake in franchise cricket, and he tries to translate his T20 game into his ODI batting.

At his best, the Afghan wicketkeeper is a destructive stroke player who can quickly take the game away from the opposition. He tends to go hard right from the start which has resulted in some rash dismissals as well, but his approach and influence is key to this Afghan batting line-up.

2. Ibrahim Zadran

The calm conductor, he provides the perfect foil to Gurbaz’s flamboyance. While not as explosive as his opening partner, Ibrahim is more technically solid and very soothing to the eye.

His role is to anchor the innings and with his compact technique he has done it well, playing second fiddle to Gurbaz perfectly. At only 21, he has his entire career ahead of him, and once he works on his strike rotation, he can be an exceptional opening batter.

Afghanistan has a settled opening pair for all the talk around their bowling, which bodes well for them.

3. Rahmat Shah

A solid if not spectacular no.3, Rahmat Shah is crucial to Afghanistan’s playing style as he lays the foundation for the lower-order hitters to come out all guns blazing.

Similar to many of his fellow top-order batters, he struggles with strike rotation at times and doesn’t seem to possess many gears to his batting. When he gets going, though, he is very pleasing to watch with his touch plays.

The wickets with lower bounce should be conducive to his batting though, as his struggles against fast short-pitch bowling like in Bangladesh, wouldn’t be amplified.

4. Hashmatullah Shahidi (c)

The Afghan captain has improved his batting as shown by the upward-moving strike rate, and has become a fixture at the vital no.4 spot. He acts as the conduit between the top-order and the middle-order as the pace dictator of Afghan batting.

He has been successful as an anchor and the presence of hard hitters around him means that his low strike rate doesn’t always affect the team. However, he has struggled against high-quality pace bowling, especially by failing to rotate strike. Afghanistan will be expecting more from their skipper with the bat.

5. Najibullah Zadran

The steam of Afghan batting comes from their strong middle-order engine room and Najibullah batting at no.5 is a vital cog in this machine. He had spells at no.4 and 6 but found his groove at no.5, where he has the top order set the platform for him and has the likes of Nabi still to come.

This has freed him up to play his natural game, which is a combination of brute force and fluent strokes. While he can still get exposed if Afghanistan lose early wickets, his form will be vital to their chances in this Asia Cup. 

6. Mohammad Nabi

The original talismanic figure of the fairytale rise of Afghan cricket, Mohammad Nabi is still a crucial contributor to this side. With the bat, he will be expected to be the enforcer or re-builder depending on the situation, and he has the game for both.

Rashid and Mujib have taken over the roles of striking spinners but Nabi is still every bit as important, albeit as more of a container than a wicket-taker . As a veteran of 142 ODIs and numerous franchise leagues, he also adds valuable experience to a relatively young unit.

7. Azmatullah Omarzai

In Omarzai Afghanistan boast a player that Asian teams very rarely have, a genuine power-hitting pace bowling all-rounder batting at no.7. His worth goes beyond runs and wickets as he adds precious balance of seamers, spinners and batters in the playing XI.

The 23-year-old is very good in both the roles as well, which is a bonus. He is a skilful pacer who can take wickets in the middle overs and a solid enough batter, not just a slogger. He could be a real difference-maker for his team in this Asia Cup. 

8. Rashid Khan

The first name on this playing XI in terms of star quality, importance and almost any measurable metric. The poster boy of Afghan cricket is known for his incredible wicket-taking ability in the T20 format but he is lethal in the ODI game as well.

His average of 18.52 and a strike rate of 26.8 indicates a bowler who can get breakthroughs while stemming the flow of the runs. Afghan fans will be expecting more of the same from their main man. His batting often goes under the radar, but don't discard him from hitting some big sixes with the trademark snake-shot.

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9. Mujeeb Ur Rahman

The mystery man completes Afghanistan's deadly spin trio, and he will be a potent threat on the subcontinent pitches. Like his other two countrymen and fellow spinners, he is also a franchise superstar and is already very experienced at only 23 years old.

Capable of turning the ball both ways and bowling the deadly, almost seaming ball, he is an absolute bag of tricks. It can be very difficult for the opposition as the Afghan attack doesn’t have any apparent weak-link and in Mujeeb they have a constant wicket taking threat.

10. Fazalhaq Farooqi

Amidst the more celebrated mystery spinners, Farooqi has made a name for himself as a deadly new ball bowler who can swing the ball both ways. He will be the leader of the pace bowling unit and with enough franchise and international experience under his belt, should seamlessly slot into this role.

Farooqi is also very effective at the death on top of being a left-hander, which makes him a fast-bowling unicorn of some sorts. He is as crucial to this playing XI as almost anybody. 

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11. Abdul Rahman

In an ideal world, a fit and firing Naveen-ul-Haq running in with a head of steam and bowling with passion and aggression, would take this spot. However his untimely injury means that Afghanistan will have to thrust youngster Abdul Rahman with just one ODI under his belt, right into the action.

Rahman has shown much promise at first class level but this situation comes ahead of schedule. In some pitches offering additional assistance to spinners, we might see chinaman Noor Ahmed operating as an extra spin option.

We already covered Team India’s squad for the tournament, and for more Asia cup content, keep your eyes on our site. 

Jish BJish B

Born to a cricket-crazy father and a writer mother, Jish combined his parents' passions to fuel his own dreams of being a sports journalist. If it's got a scoring system and needs to be written about, chances are this guy has written about it.