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Cricket World Cup 2019

Axed captain Afghan included in Afghanistan World Cup squad

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Asghar Afghan was sacked as Afghanistan captain earlier this month, but he has still found a place in their 15-man squad for the World Cup 2019.

Afghanistan Cricket Board announced a split captaincy system while axing Afghan in early April, but it was a controversial decision, with Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi irked enough to make their feelings known on social media. Gulbadin Naib will, however, lead the side at the World Cup all the same.

Apart from Afghan, the other big news pertained to Hamid Hassan. The fast bowler, who last played for Afghanistan in 2016, made a dramatic return to the side. He has 56 wickets in 32 ODIs so far, but has been laid low by injuries since 2016.

In fact, there are injury concerns surrounding him still. “Luckily for us, the comeback of senior fast bowler Hamid Hassan is good news,” Dawlat Khan Ahmadzai, the chief selector, said. “However, we will take into account his form and fitness during upcoming practice matches.”

Ikram Ali Khil, Karim Janat and Sayed Shirzad, all of whom were included in the 23-man preliminary squad, failed to make the cut. However, they have been named as reserve players, and will be called up should the need arise.

The likes of Zahir Khan, the left-arm wrist-spinner, and the pacemen Shapoor Zadran and Fareed Ahmed, were left out altogether, even though they were part of Afghanistan’s last ODI squad.

“As chief selector, it is my duty to select a competitive team,” said Ahmadza. “However, there were some challenges that we needed to handle. We selected the best squad considering factors such as experience, fitness, team balance, current form and conditions.”

Afghanistan, who became the penultimate team to name their World Cup squad – the deadline is April 23, and West Indies are the only side yet to announce their 15 – will play four ODIs in the lead up to the World Cup, two against each of Scotland and Ireland. Whether that will be enough practice for Naib, who is yet to captain a side at the international level, remains to be seen.

There are high hopes on Afghanistan at the World Cup, and Ahmadzai said the team hope to meet them. “It has been a six-month preparation process for the ICC Cricket World Cup,” he said. “The mission is to play inspirational cricket in the tournament. I know there are strong teams, but we will do our level best to achieve our goals.”

They begin their World Cup campaign against Australia on June 1.

Squad: Gulbadin Naib (c), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman

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