Afghanistan quick Naveen ul Haq to unveil mystery ball at T20 World Cup in Australia

Young pacer has been working on surprise weapon as he prepares for showpiece event and Abu Dhabi T10 tournament

Afghanistan's Naveen ul Haq celebrates after dismissing Sri Lanka's Kusal Mendis during the Asia Cup in Sharjah on September 3, 2022.  AFP
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A World Cup is seldom seen as a platform for experimentation. But that is exactly what Afghanistan fast bowler Naveen ul Haq aims to do.

The 23-year-old has revealed he plans to unveil a special delivery when the T20 World Cup commences in Australia next month. While he has been working on the delivery for a while, Naveen believes the World Cup is the perfect stage to showcase it.

“For now, it’s not something I’m going to talk about. But everyone can see what it is at the World Cup,” Naveen told The National during the Abu Dhabi T10 draft on Monday.

“I have been perfecting this delivery for a while and am now ready to try that. I thought the World Cup would be the best time. Cricket, like any other sport, is constantly evolving and as bowlers we need to bring in more variations to be successful. I have a few tricks already and am looking forward to add another.”

Naveen already bowls a variety of slower deliveries, including a back-of-the-hand one. So, it will be interesting to see what the new delivery is.

The World Cup is not the only tournament on his mind. Returning to Team Abu Dhabi for the third time, Naveen believes his experience will be helpful as his side aims for the first Abu Dhabi T10 title.

“When you have played at the venue, and know the conditions, surface and the surroundings well, it’s a plus,” he said.

“When you know that, it gives more confidence to do something special for the team. We want to give our best shot this time to win the trophy."

With Australian batsman Chris Lynn as their icon player, Team Abu Dhabi have retained some players from last year and have also added England spinner Adil Rashid to their line-up.

“We've got a few of the boys from last year, which is the core of the squad. And we've now added some real standout players,” Naveen said.

“Rashid, [Tymal] Mills and [James] Vince play franchise cricket all around the world. They are big names and I'm hoping they come good for us this year.”

Naveen has followed in the footsteps of his seniors Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi to become a globetrotting player in franchise cricket, featuring in the Caribbean, Bangladesh, Lanka Premier League and the T20 Blast.

“I love the T10 format,” Naveen said. “It gives me confidence when I play T20 and 50 overs because it gives me more time. T10 doesn’t give you margin for error with just two overs to bowl.

“At my age playing cricket throughout the year, be it for the national team or for franchises, is not a problem. Perhaps, when I get older I may consider cutting down the workload. However, in T10 with only two overs to bowl, it’s manageable.

“Travelling was a bit hectic during the pandemic but it has become relaxed with the easing of Covid-19 protocols. During the pandemic it was hard to travel around with so many restrictions in place and also training and staying in the bubble.”

Naveen is already in Abu Dhabi with the Afghanistan team, preparing for the T20 World Cup. Afghanistan have made the UAE capital their training base earlier as well. Naveen said the surface and weather are similar to what the players get back home.

“We have trained as a national team a few times already this year and played a lot of cricket here,” he said. “We are used to the conditions here in Abu Dhabi and the UAE. We travel to Australia two weeks ahead of the tournament which gives us enough time to adapt to the conditions and play a few practice matches.

“Afghanistan is strong side when it comes to T20 cricket. We have the ability to beat any team on the day.

“It’s my second T20 World Cup but first time in Australia and hopefully I can do my bit for the team. I am aware the Australian conditions are helpful for fast bowling. So let’s see what I can do there.”

The T20 World Cup begins on October 16 and concludes on November 13. Soon after that, the Abu Dhabi T10 will kick off on November 23 and run until December 4 at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.

Abu Dhabi T10 team of the tournament for 2021

Updated: September 28, 2022, 2:29 AM