The return of Hamid “Rambo” Hassan to the Afghanistan squad was perhaps the most surprising news from any of the ten squad announcements. Long the terror of Associate batsmen, Hassan was a star for Afghanistan back when they were famed for their tearaway seamers rather than teenaged spinners.
Then in his early twenties, he was a seemingly irresistible force as Afghanistan raced through the Divisions of the World Cricket League a decade ago. Often surprising batsmen with his raw pace bowling first change behind Dawlat Ahmadzai, Shapoor Zadran or Hasti Gul, Hassan was Afghanistan’s lead wicket taker as they won Divisions 5, 4 and 3 on the trot, and again at the 2009 World Cup Qualifier, finishing only behind a rampant Edgar Shiferli of the Netherlands in the overall tallies.
But it wouldn’t be enough. Afghanistan’s blue tide broke short of World Cup qualification in 2009, finishing one spot short of the top four, and the wider world wouldn’t be introduced to Hamid Hassan until 2015. The headband-sporting quick who became an instant fan-favourite at the last World Cup where he bagged a career-best 5-45 against the UAE, but by then he was already a yard or two short of the pace of his youth.
Despite being famed for his endurance early in his career, since a fateful knee injury sustained while fielding for a combined Associate and Affiliate XI against England at Dubai in 2012, Hassan has struggled with recurring fitness problems. He’s been in out of the side ever since, largely owing to knee, ankle and back issues, and since the last World Cup more out than in. He has played just one more ODI since then, away against Ireland in 2016, and indeed hasn’t even been seen in domestic cricket since 2017.
He was a surprise pick for Afghanistan’s T20 squad for a series against Zimbabwe in 2018, but remained on the bench throughout and missed out on the World Cup Qualifier a month later. His rehabilitation since then has gone on largely behind closed doors, though as the old clichc goes, he’s apparently bowling well in the nets. The return of the 2015 Hassan, or better yet the 2009 Hassan, would add a sizzling seam dimension to Afghanistan’s spin-dependent attack. But with Dawlat Zadran also in doubt and precious little else on the bench, wheeling out the glass cannon for the World Cup looks an almighty gamble.
Yet if he fires consistently, Hassan may turn out to be Afghanistan’s most famous secret weapon.