Two of the fast growing rivals in the cricketing world, Afghanistan and Pakistan are all set to meet in a T20I bilateral series, the first ever of its kind. The love for cricket and the political landscapes in both countries have always contributed to the ingredients for heated and entertaining contest between the two nations.
Both teams have previously gone head to head in the ICC and ACC events but not in a bilateral series. This series come as a replacement for the 3 ODIs the two teams were supposed to play as part of the ICC FTP. The three T20I are scheduled to be played at the historic Sharjah Cricket Stadium in the UAE.
Afghanistan’s star performer Rashid Khan will be leading his troops. The hosts have never beat Pakistan in an international game but having made some notable changes, his 17-members squad has it all to go over the line and make history by defeating the opposition for the first time in their cricketing history.
Usman Ghani and under 19 star Sediq Atal have replaced the aggressive opener Hazratullah Zazai along with one of their most reliable middle order batters Rahmat Shah. Zazai was out of touch in his recent international appearances and didn’t live up to the expectations in franchise cricket recently. Afghanistan’s most experienced player Mohammad Nabi also makes a comeback in the squad. Nabi resigned from captaincy following his teams average performance in the T20 World Cup 2022.
Pakistan too have rested some of their most experienced crew including the skipper Barbar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman as well as the fast bowling duo Haris Rauf and Shaheen Shah Afridi. It’s just a matter of time to find out whether they will miss the spearhead pacer who just led Lahore Qalanders to the first ever consecutive titles in PSL, and the likes of Babar and Rizwan at the top of the order.
Shadab has been a consistent performer in Pakistan’s recent successes, just like his rival Rashid, he is too given the responsibility to lead his country on this historic occasion. Having just complete their domestic t20 competition, the Pakistan’s young star studded team is probably the least experience of the two but is not short of any talent.
There has already been some pre-series controversy following the PCB Chairman’s remarks at squad announcement press conference.
“We told Afghanistan board to control their players. We have experiences with regards to winning and losing so can control our emotions, but they are new to international cricket, so they need to keep their players in check” said Najam Sethi.
Former Afghanistan skipper and current Assistant Coach Rais Ahmadzai responded “Both Afghanistan and Pakistan are playing under ICC code of conduct, Najam Seth Simple give respect take respect, let’s enjoy the best show of cricket in Sharjah” pointing out the initiation of the on field arguments between the two team during Asia Cup where Pakistan’s Asif Ali raised his bat to Farid Malik which fuelled the post match fans brawl.
Emotions are always high both on and off the field during Afghanistan vs Pakistan. The organisers have considered fans segregation, keeping the fans in separate stands to avoid unrest among the fans and provide a friendly environment for those attending. Despite its ins and outs, both teams have always displayed some exceptional performances and this time will not be any different.