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Gulbadin Naib Backs Youngster Ikram Alikhil for a Big Future

Gulbadin Naib Backs Youngster Ikram Alikhil for a Big Future
Gulbadin Naib Backs Youngster Ikram Alikhil for a Big Future

Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib paid tribute to teenage wicketkeeper Ikram Alikhil as his side concluded their ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup campaign with a defeat to the West Indies.

Ikram, who made his ODI debut against Ireland in March, wasn’t included in Afghanistan’s initial 15-man squad but was drafted in on the eve of the tournament after an injury to Mohammad Shahzad.

And he gave his captain a glimpse of the future with an impressive 86, sharing a 133-run second wicket partnership with Rahmat Shah as his team posted 288, their highest of the competition.

“He played very well, I’m upset he missed a century, which is a big moment for anyone,” said Gulbadin.

“He’s played a lot of cricket in the last two or three years and he proved himself here. We have a lot of youngsters like him coming forward, which is great for the team and for the country.

“We have a lot of talent back in Afghanistan. I hope the other guys, if they are given the chance, will come forward too. If you play professional cricket in each and every department you must be fit and 100 per cent. If you are not fit nothing will go well.

“We learned a lot at this World Cup and know what we need to work on to improve ourselves, we’ll take the positive things and keep trying hard. We’ve achieved so much as a team in a short time and, after the World Cup, it is not the end of our cricket.”

Afghanistan’s team will reflect on close-fought matches with India and Pakistan that could have easily gone the other way but for some more experience on cricket’s biggest stage.

And while that bodes well for the future, Gulbadin admitted disappointment with their display against the West Indies, in their ninth and final match of the tournament at Headingley.

“I’m not happy with the team performance, we didn’t really give 100 percent and our audience expects more for us,”  he added.