Photo Credit: Afghanistan Cricket Board
Facts suggest that Afghan players at the junior level, particularly U19 players, are more likely to represent their national team compared to other test nations.
Team Afghanistan’s selection process is always a matter of hot debate on social media as fans express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction about the selected players in the squad and the reasons behind their selection in the squad or being dropped from it.
Most of the fans react out of their sheer passion and emotion for the national cricket team. However, it must be understood that selection is a competitive process and each batsman, bowler or all-rounder has to fight to cement his specific place in the squad.
Changes in the team set-up are made based on necessity and performance. Afghanistan, in fact, has the best career progression opportunities for U19 players out of all the nations who participated in Youth ODIs in the last decade.
If we have a look at the opportunities given to young and talented cricketers from the previous U19 Cricket World Cup in 2018, Afghanistan is the team with most number of players introduced at the national level which signifies its approach of nurturing young talent and giving them due opportunities at the top-most level.
Among full members, Afghanistan Cricket Board has introduced more than 10 players to its senior national squad since the previous edition of U19 World Cup , most of whom have performed well at the global stage with the likes of Mujeeb ur Rahman, Qais Ahmad, Rahmanulah Gurbaz, Naveen ul Haq, Zahir Khan Pakteen even doing well at various commercial leagues around the globe.
Mujeeb, in particular, is considered one of the best spin finds for Afghanistan and the cricketing world in general since the 2018 U19 World Cup as he is currently ranked 3rd in ICC’s ODI bowling rankings and has been an integral part of the Kings XI Punjab franchise in Indian Premier League (IPL), the elite most commercial league in world cricket.
Apart from Mujeeb, other players who participated in that tournament such as Zahir Khan, Waqar Salamkheil , Ibrahim Zadran, Wafadar Momand and Qais Ahmad went on to play Test Cricket as well. It is a significant achievement considering the elite status of the format as well as the skills required at that level which usually takes years for players in other test nations to make it to the highest level.
Other countries have given fewer chances to their U19 cricketers in such a short span of time comparatively. For instance, Bangladesh comes next with 4 players namely Afif Hussain, Mohammad Nayeem, Aminul Islam and Saif Hassan, who went on to play for their national team, while Pakistan fielded only two players in Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Musa.
England and Sri Lanka gave international debuts to one player each with the former giving chance to Tom Banton and the latter to Kamindo Mendis. On the other hand, teams like Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, West Indies and Zimbabwe have not fielded any of players from their team at the ICC U19 World Cup 2018 to the national team.