Asia Cup 2022 – Rashid Khan encouraged by Afghanistan’s young fast bowling crop

Asia Cup 2022 - Rashid Khan encouraged by Afghanistan's young fast bowling crop
Rashid Khan is most pleased with the young crop of Afghanistan fast bowlers taking responsibility and learning from every outing. He believes this has played a massive role in the team developing as an all-rounded attack, unlike earlier when they were heavily reliant on spin.
Left-arm fast bowler Fazalhaq Farooqi has been most impressive, swinging the new ball both ways at 140 clicks. The 21-year old has had a breakthrough year so far, having broken into Afghanistan’s senior team. He’s also been a part of Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL and will be playing for MI Emirates in the ILT20 in December-January.

At Sunrisers, Farooqi has had an opportunity to work with Dale Steyn, the bowling consultant. He had also spoken glowingly of his interactions with India quick Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

So far at the Asia Cup, his new ball control has helped Afghanistan keep opposition quiet in the powerplay. His burst of 3 for 11 in the opening game helped bowl Sri Lanka out for 105. In the tournament so far, he has an outstanding economy of just 4.69.
Then there’s Naveen-ul-Haq, who brings with him pace as well as a plethora of slower variations, including a potent back-of-the-hand slower delivery. Naveen has over time gained experience playing at the Vitality Blast in England, at the CPL in the Caribbean and BBL in Australia, apart from one stint in Sri Lanka. He topped the charts at the Blast in 2021, picking up 26 wickets in 14 games for Leicestershire, at an economy of 8.67.

“Bowling has always been good for us, but if you look at our side, the fast bowling department was struggling earlier, but we have good bowlers now,” Rashid said after Afghanistan’s training session on Thursday. “Someone like Fazalhaq Farooqi has had the experience of playing in the IPL.

“The exposure he got there [with Sunrisers Hyderabad] has been massive. We also have Naveen-ul-Haq, who is playing all around the world. This is a massive sign for us. The focus is on getting better with each game and if we get a strong start, then when the spinners come on in the middle, it becomes easier.”

Rashid is also particularly encouraged with Afghanistan players owning situations and not being consumed by stage fright. He pointed to their performance in the group stage of the Asia Cup, where they beat both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh convincingly. While they hunted down Sri Lanka’s 105 in style, by eight wickets, they had to dig deep against Bangladesh.

“We’ve focused on fast bowling and getting better in that area. We are ready for any team, and not just India or Pakistan. Our focus is the same, and we train with the same mindset and intensity for every opponent.”

Rashid Khan

On a slow Sharjah deck where the ball wasn’t coming on, Najibullah Zadran, who walked in to bat at No. 5, helped turn around their chase in style. In a game where no other batter hit more than one six, Najibullah who came into bat at No. 5, smashed six sixes in just 17 deliveries to turn around a tough chase into a cruise. From needing 63 off 36, Afghanistan won with nine balls to spare, with Najibullah unbeaten on 43 off just 17 balls.

“The way the boys have performed, the way they have adjusted and taken the responsibility upon themselves has been great to see,” Rashid said. “In the Super 4s too, our focus is on playing the same brand of aggressive cricket, but also learn from the mistakes we made and not repeat it.”

Ahead of the Super 4s opener against Sri Lanka on Sunday, Rashid had a note of caution for his team. He cautioned them against complacency, while also hoping players would continue to try and gain an edge over the opponents by giving “something more” at training.

“We have all played a lot of cricket here,” he said. “It’s not like only Afghanistan have that advantage [of conditions]. Everyone is aware of the conditions and wickets you get here. It’s not like the others have come in from Europe. So we have to try and do something more to prepare well. What is in our control is to work hard, train with intensity and give 100% in training and treat every game with same focus.

“We’ve worked really hard. The focus is on taking responsibility as a group. We’ve focused on fast bowling and getting better in that area. We are ready for any team, and not just India or Pakistan. Our focus is the same, and we train with the same mindset and intensity for every opponent.”

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