‘Sky’s the limit’ for Afghanistan’s fearless generation

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Agency :
Afghanistan Coach Jonathan Trott believes the “sky’s the limit” for his young stars who shone and then shattered mighty Pakistan at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup on Monday.

First, 18-year-old leg-spinner Noor Ahmad took 3-49 on his World Cup debut, including opponent Captain Babar Azam and master run-getter Mohammad Rizwan.

Then 21-year-old opening batsmen Ibrahim Zadran, with 87, and Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who hit 65, piled up 130 for the first wicket to set the platform for a stunning eight-wicket victory.

“I think the two opening batters that we have are very, very exceptionally talented young players and the sky’s the limit for both of them,” said former England batsman Trott.

“They’re different types of players and my message to them is just keep growing your own game and play your own way.

“We saw tonight how well they can play and how much pressure they can put on opposition bowlers, world-class bowlers as well.”

Gurbaz is just 14 days older than Zadran and has already made five centuries and four fifties in his 31-match ODI career.

He made a crucial 80 in the earlier victory over defending champions England at the World Cup.

Zadran has four hundreds and five fifties in 24 games with an average of just under 50.

“The turning point for me was the start that Ibrahim and Gurbaz gave us,” added Trott.

“I think that’s always good when you’re chasing a total like that, you need a good start, there’s a less pressure on the players coming in. They were outstanding.”

Despite his tender years, left-arm wrist-spinner Noor is no stranger to the spotlight.

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In December 2020, when he was just 15, he was signed by the Melbourne Renegades to play in the Big Bash League.

Monday represented just his fourth ODI while he has featured in just one Twenty20 international.

However, that was a debut to remember when he claimed 4-10 against Zimbabwe last year when he was just 17.

“The sky’s the limit for him too,” said Trott.

“You know, you take the mitt to him, you’re standing up when he’s practising, you hear that ball fizzing.

“It’s a real talent for such a young lad to be able to get that many revs on the ball and spin it the amount he does.

That’s all I say to him just keep spinning it as much as you can.”

Monday’s victory gave Afghanistan a second win at the World Cup against three defeats and revived their hopes of making the semi-finals.

Next up is a clash with 1996 champions Sri Lanka in Pune next Monday.

“There have been lots of World Cups where teams have lost and then gained form at the end of the World Cup and gone and won games, crucial games,” said Trott.

If they defeat Sri Lanka, who have just one win so far, Trott is wary of calling it a shock.

“I think when we say an upset I think it’s a disservice to the guys in the changing room.”