The emergence of the likes of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman has raised Afghanistan’s expectations, with the team aiming to qualify for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 semifinals, Dawlat Khan Ahmadzai, the chief selector, has said.
That, however, doesn’t mean they are over-reliant on the two youngsters. Ahmadzai pointed out there was plenty of experience to go around, and particularly so in the bowling attack, with the return of Hamid Hassan. The 31-year-old pacer last played for Afghanistan in 2016, but has recovered from injuries to take his place in the side again.Afghanistan are ranked No.10 in the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Team Rankings, but they have a habit of upsetting established teams: they won the World Cup Qualifier tournament last year against West Indies, knocked Sri Lanka out of the Asia Cup and tied with India. Ahmadzai is banking on that.
"There was no Rashid or Mujeeb in 2015 [Afghanistan finished sixth in a seven-team pool] so this time we are aiming for a semifinal berth. With the team composition we have, we can definitely surprise a few teams," Ahmadzai was quoted as saying by PTI.
“Hamid Hassan is back into the fast bowling attack and that is a big boost. He has been a great fast bowler for Afghanistan and will lead the pace attack alongside Dawlat Zadran.”
In April, Afghanistan surprised many with their decision to change captains so close to the World Cup. Asghar Afghan, who led the side to their maiden Test victory, was axed a month later, with the selectors deciding to implement a split captaincy system.
Gulbadin Naib was named as skipper for their World Cup campaign, with Rahmat Shah and Rashid appointed Test and T20I captains. Despite the timing of the sweeping changes – the likes of Rashid and Mohammad Nabi took to social media to express concerns – Ahmadzai said all feedback was “handled professionally” and there was nothing to worry about.
“The team members, including Rashid and Nabi, are now happy for Gulbadin,” said Ahmadzai. “He is not a new man. He has been playing for 17 years, and has captaincy experience at the first-class and under-19 level.“Asghar himself has said that Gulbadin is like his younger brother who believes that Asghar's experience will come in handy in the World Cup. They are a united front now. Changes happen.”
Ahmadzai also said he was happy with the team’s preparations for the World Cup. Afghanistan are set to play ODIs against Scotland and Ireland ahead of their tournament opener against Australia on 1 June.
Source: ICC News