Gulbadin Naib wants his team to play the ‘Afghan way’ against New Zealand
Gulbadin Naib is urging his Afghanistan players to ignore the stars in the New Zealand line-up and simply play cricket the ‘Afghan way’ when they go head to head in Taunton.
The Black Caps have two wins from two, Matt Henry has currently taken more wickets than anyone else in the tournament with seven, while Ross Taylor and Trent Boult are in the top three of the ICC ODI batting and bowling rankings respectively.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan have impressed in both their matches but suffered a seven-wicket defeat to Australia before losing to Sri Lanka by 34 runs in a rain-affected game.
And at their second ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, Gulbadin is keen to show the world that they’re not the same side that lost five out of six games in 2015 – with the sole victory coming against Scotland.
“It’s totally different now. 2015 was our first World Cup and that was just the beginning of cricket for us,” said the skipper. “It’s a high stage and it was a big honour for Afghanistan, participating in this kind of event.
“But the build-up to this World Cup has changed everything. We are improving day by day – we’re not here just to participate, we’re here to do something different and to show the world that we’re not like the 2015 team.
“You saw in the warm-up game against Pakistan and against Australia as well that Afghanistan is totally different now. We have world-class players in the team, world-class batsmen.
“We’re trying to produce our best cricket and show the world we’re not like the 2015 World Cup – it’s a totally different team.
“We will play our natural game, just go for who we are and why we’re here. It’s important we don’t look for the names [in the New Zealand team], just play the ball.
“They have plenty of experience in the New Zealand side – Trent Boult and other guys. But we look forward to playing our natural game and playing the Afghan way. Hopefully we do the best we can.”
One negative for Afghanistan in the build-up to the New Zealand clash is that opening batsman and wicket-keeper Mohammad Shahzad has been ruled out for the rest of the World Cup with a knee injury.
Shahzad has been replaced in the squad by Ikram Ali Khil and while Gulbadin admits the 31-year-old will be missed both on and off the field, he claims the team have no option but to adjust.
“Obviously it’s a big loss to our side. Shahzad is a great player for Afghanistan but over the last two or three weeks, he’s been struggling with his knee,” added the captain.
“It’s bad luck for Shahzad and we’re very upset for him but it’s cricket and it’s about the team first.
“Shahzad is very energetic and funny in the dressing room but it’s about doing what is best for the country. He’s one of best players in Afghanistan, so we’ll miss a lot of things.
“But the new guy, Ikram Ali Khil, is coming – he’s a young guy and I hope he will do well.”
©Cricket World 2019