World Cup 2019: With new skipper on board, Afghanistan looks to continue its rise

Gulbadin Naib (c), Aftab Alam, Asghar Afghan, Dawlat Zadran, Hamid Hassan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Hazratullah Zazai, Mohammad Nabi, Mohammad Shahzad, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Najibullah Zadran, Noor Ali Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Rashid Khan, Samiullah Shinwari. Head coach:  Phil Simmons
For a brief period on April 5, Afghanistan cricket was threatening to make headlines on social media during an IPL game. Gulbadin Naib took over as skipper from Asghar Afghan, much to the dismay of senior pros Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi among others.
That the news registered on Twitter during an IPL game was a reflection of Afghan cricket’s new realm. People weren’t just noticing them but actively engaging. That they have a new sponsor for the World Cup also suggests people think they are capable of causing a few tremors in England. But what makes Afghanistan, who made their WC debut in 2015, that bit more special is the long term planning put in place by their cricket board. Their management isn’t scared of rubbing the likes of Rashid the wrong way if it concerns the bigger picture. “We will get 10 matches with full members and we feel it will provide perfect training for the new captain,” chief selector Dawlat Khan Ahmadzai had said.
“We realised that we can’t win the World Cup at this moment under Asghar’s captaincy or anyone else who would have been in charge. We made the decision not just thinking about this World Cup, we are thinking about 2023.”
Considering they are the worst ranked team in the 10-team event, they are not expected to uproot many trees but stranger things have happened. For starters, they will more than fancy their chances of dirtying Sri Lanka, West Indies and Bangladesh’s knickers. Not exactly illogical because they have beaten them in 2018 apart from tying India once.  
Strengths
Their real strength is bowling, especially spin. Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi have economy rates of 3.90, 3.74 and 4.25, respectively. Considering all three are match-winners in their own right, what the pacers led by Dawlat Zadran have to do is maintain a semblance of line and length for 20 overs. 
Weaknesses
Could be under-cooked because of their lack of playing time. They haven’t played a single official ODI in England. There are also some concerns that their middle order — Rashid aside — may fall. The ever-changing nature of their 5-8 — the latest reincarnation has Asghar Afghan, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid himself and Nabi — reflects this fact.
Odds:  80
Banking on
Md Shahzad
The keeper-batsman has developed a defensive game to his destructive technique.
Rashid Khan
Certain to play nine matches. It will be enough to prove why he is one of the best tweakers.
Cup berth not safe, says Woakes
England paceman Chris Woakes accepts his World Cup selection is far from guaranteed following Jofra Archer’s arrival on the inter­national stage.
“Safe is probably not the word,” he said. “But you always feel like you need to put in performances, and I’m pleased I managed to do so. “You hope you are safe, but I suppose until that squad’s selected you’re not. Hopefully, I am, but we will see.”
Hats off to Kohli: Kuldeep
Kuldeep Yadav believes he wouldn’t have been successful at the world stage had it not been for skipper Virat Kohli. “You need a skipper who believes in your ability to shine on the big stage. You think we could have been so successful if Kohli bhai had not given us the freedom to attack? I don’t think so.”
Aamir included in WC squad   
Experienced pacer Mohammad Aamir was on Thur­sday included in Pakistan’s World Cup squad after their bowlers were taken to the cleaners by England recently. Though Aamir is suspected to be suffering from chicken pox, a source said that the team management expressed confidence in the bowler.
Monitoring Desk

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