Afghanistan Squad for West Indies Series in India: Hits and misses
The Afghanistan cricket team, being the most inspirational cricketing story of this century, attracts attention whenever they are set to play.
The team will now take on West Indies in a full-fledged series which will include 3 ODIs, 3 T20Is and a one-off Test. These were earlier supposed to be played at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Dehradun but have now been shifted to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee International Cricket Stadium in Lucknow, where all the matches will be hosted.
Like most teams who fell short of expectations in the 2019 ODI World Cup, Afghanistan have also gone through a lot of changes. As many as seven of their personnel in the ODI side have been replaced while the T20I side has seen five changes. Their Test squad is yet to be announced.
The captaincy has changed hands from Gulbadin Naib to Rashid Khan. After Phil Simmons' contract ended post the World Cup, former South African all-rounder Lance Klusener has been appointed as the head coach.
Let's have a look at the hits and misses of the Afghanistan squad for the West Indies series.
Rashid Khan finally made the skipper
There was a trust deficit between the players and Afghanistan Cricket Board when Asghar Afghan was removed as captain just before the 2019 ODI World Cup and Gulbadin Naib was made the skipper in his place. Players like Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi publicly expressed their displeasure at the move.
Logically as well, it was not a great move, given that the World Cup was just a few months away and that would have definitely unsettled the squad. Afghanistan have now gone through course correction and appointed Rashid Khan as the skipper in both the ODIs and T20s.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz settles in the T20I side in the absence of Mohammad Shahzad
When Mohammad Shahzad was removed from the Afghanistan squad due to a knee injury amid controversy, Ikram Alikhil was named his replacement. While Alikhil impressed in the little that we saw of him, he was made to bat vert low down the order.
Afghanistan then introduced 19-year-old wicket keeper batsman Rahmanullah Gurbaz in the T20I tri-series hosted by Bangladesh. The wicketkeeper batsman played as an opener and proved his worth right away with a 43-run knock in his first match against Zimbabwe.
He also went on to make a 47-ball 61 and ended as the highest run-scorer of the series with 133 runs from 4 games at an average of close to 35 and a strike rate of almost 135 and has now settled in the T20I side.
Lance Klusner brings in a wealth of experience as the new head coach
Former South African all-rounder Lance Klusener has been named the new head coach of the Afghanistan team. That Klusener has a good understanding of both batting and bowling will help Afghanistan players to pick his brains and discuss about the various game situations.
"I am extremely excited and honored to be given the opportunity to work with some of the best talent in world cricket. Everyone knows the fearless brand of cricket Afghanistan play. I am very confident that with some hard work we can become one of the best sides in the world. I am really looking forward to working with the Afghanistan team and helping them take their cricket to the next level," Klusener said after his appointment.
Old gurads ditched in T20Is
Within an eye on the T20 World Cup, Afghanistan have gone for young blood but have had to do away with old players who have been successful for them in the past. Shafiqullah Shafiq, Dawlat Zadran, Shahidullah Kamal, Fazal Niazai and Najeeb Tarakai, all of whom were part of the Bangladesh T20I Tri-series in September have been dropped.
Ibrahim, Ahmadzai Ahmadi and Sayed Ahmad Shirzad have been drafted into the T20I squad ahead of the aforementioned players.
Lack of experience in ODIs
Afghanistan have made seven changes to their 16-member ODI squad for the three-match West Indies series. Apart from Mohammad Shahzad and Aftab Alam who have been suspended, pace bowlers Dawlat Zadran and Hamid Hassan and batsmen Hashmatullah Shahidi, Noor Ali Zadran and Samiullah Shinwari have also not found a place in the side.
Javed Ahmadi, Afsar Zazai, Karim Janat, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Ibrahim Zadran, Yamin Ahmadzai and Naveen-ul-Haq have taken their places.
Poor ODI form
Afghanistan entered the ICC 2019 ODI World Cup with a lot of expectation. The team had shown heart in the 2018 Asia Cup and elsewhere and had always packed a punch. However, it was not to be in the World Cup as they seemed to have lost their passionate streak from the outset. The team finished with 9 losses from 9 games.
There were reports of sabotage also but whatever it was, under the leadership of Rashid Khan, it is expected that the team will now play in its characteristic style. The team would like to pick itself up in the ODIs which is the format with which the series will kick off.
Let's have a look at the Afghanistan squad for the West Indies series:
ODI squad- Rashid Khan (c), Asghar Afghan, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Javed Ahmadi, Afsar Zazai, Gulbadin Naib, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Karim Janat, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Ibrahim Zadran, Yamin Ahmadzai, Naveen-ul-Haq, Ikram Alikhil, Mujeeb ur Rahman
T20I squad- Rashid Khan (c), Asghar Afghan, Hazratullah Zazai, Ibrahim Zadran, Javed Ahmadi, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Gulbadin Naib, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Karim Janat, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Fareed Ahmad Malik, Yamin Ahmadzai, Naveen-ul-Haq, Sayed Ahmad Shirzad, Mujeeb ur Rahman
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