Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib admits losing Mohammad Shahzad for the rest of the World Cup is a major blow to his side’s hopes of upsetting the odds in the tournament.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Shahzad was ruled out on Thursday after suffering a recurrence of a nagging knee injury.
Minnows Afghanistan have lost their first two matches and could ill afford to lose the popular opener ahead of their clash with New Zealand in Taunton on Saturday.
“Obviously it’s a big loss for our side,” Naib told reporters on Friday. “Shahzad is a great player for Afghanistan. He did a lot. I’m also upset for him — the last two, three weeks he’s been struggling with his knee.
“He can’t move right. In the last two weeks, I checked with the doctor and physio. I gave the time to him to recover. But unfortunately it’s bad luck for Shahzad.” Naib believes Shahzad’s energetic presence off the pitch will be missed as much as his play on it.
“Shahzad is very energetic. Also in the dressing room he’s very funny. He entertains us every time. So we miss a lot of things from him,” he added.
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Although Afghanistan have little chance of making the semi-finals of the 10-team tournament after losing to holders Australia and Sri Lanka, Naib said his team wanted to show how far they have come since their World Cup debut in 2015.
Four years ago, they lost five of their six matches, with their only win coming against Scotland.
But Naib said they were a more mature and confident unit now, with the potential to shock the more-established teams.
Ikram Ali Khil is expected to don the gloves in place of the injured Mohammad Shahzad and the Afghanistan team management may drop Mujeeb Ur Rahman for Noor Ali Zadran to be slotted at the top of the order against New Zealand. Captain Gulbadin Naib will have to take more responsibility with the ball.
Afghanistan Predicted XI vs New Zealand: Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zarzai, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Najibullah Zadram, Rashid Khan, Ikram Ali Khil, Dawlat Zadran, Hamid Hassan.
(With inputs from agencies)
Jun 08, 2019 11:51 IST
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