World Cup 2019, Afghanistan Vs West Indies: Predicted playing 11 and key players for Afghanistan
It might be a dead-rubber but when you represent your nation, one ought to still give their best. This might sound cliched but that is what Afghanistan and West Indies will have to do when they face each other at Leeds, Headingley on June 4.
West Indies have had a World Cup which can be best described as one that was 'so near yet so far'. Some better shot choices and flexibility with bowling tactics could have ensured that West Indies would have added at least 6 more points than what they have now. In the last match against Sri Lanka, a heroic rearguard effort from centurion Nicholas Pooran and Fabian Allen went in vain when they tried to pull off a mammoth 339-run chase.
Afghanistan, who were expected to cause a couple of upsets here and there have had a forgettable campaign. The up and coming side has failed to win even one game so far. The only positive in the recent games has been the fact that the team has put in much better performances and shown some fight. The game against Pakistan was particularly close as it went to the very last over. It has helped that of late the team's quality spinners have had favourable tracks to exploit. However, as usual, their batting has failed to put up any noteworthy knocks.
With head coach Phil Simmons leaving the post after the World Cup, Afghanistan will look to put on a farewell show against West Indies.
Here is Afghanistan's predicted playing 11.
Gulbadin Naib, Rahmat Shah
Skipper Gulbadin Naib and the team's best batsman Rahmat Shah have had plenty of starts but a failure to convert has hurt Afghanistan immensely. It is paramount that at least one of them goes on to make a big score if Afghanistan have ambitions of ending their World Cup campaign with a win. Also, Naib would want to seriously make up for his blunders in the match against Pakistan.
Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan, Samiullah Shenwari, Najibullah Zadran, Ikram AliKhil
Afghanistan's second most important batsman, Hashmatullah Shahidi has also had a disappointing World Cup given his form in the lead-up to the World Cup. Not only has form been a problem, but his tendency to play a lot of dot-balls has been a hurdle.
Ex-captain Asghar Afghan stroked an impressive cameo against Pakistan. He will look to take that form forward against West Indies.
The same will be applicable to the experienced Samiullah Shenwari who played an impressive knock against Bangladesh.
Afghanistan have strangely underutilised him but there shouldn't any doubts as to why Najibullah Zadran has been probably the best batsman for the team in this World Cup. His form and fluency have warranted a higher batting spot than No. 7 or 8.
Young wicket-keeper batsman Ikram Ali Khil was promoted to No. 4 in the last match against Pakistan but he wasn't able to keep the scorecard ticking. It will be interesting to see whether Afghanistan stick with Ali Khil at the same spot or push him further down the order.
Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan
The 34-year old Mohammad Nabi has a mixed 2019 World Cup until now. While he has been relatively threatening and consistent with the ball, his returns with the bat have been disappointing. Given Nabi's potential with the bat and the team's batting health, the experienced all-rounder would have to take more responsibility and chip in with crucial runs.
On the other hand, T20 superstar Rashid Khan has had a tournament to forget. He has been unable to fire with both bat and ball and that has affected the team immensely. Even in the last match, the six he conceded against Wahab Riaz at a crucial point had a big say on the eventual result.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Sayed Shirzad
When Mujeeb Ur Rahman was out of form in the initial stages of the World Cup, Afghanistan really struggled to contain runs and pick wickets. Considering that, one could say that Afghanistan's much better performances in the last 3 matches may be a direct impact of Mujeeb's return to form. His line and length have become consistent and this has naturally made the mystery spinner's variations even more dangerous.
Afghanistan handed a farewell and guard of honour for the country's first major cricketing hero, Hamid Hassan. Unfortunately, his last game for Afghanistan in ODI cricket turned out to be a disastrous one as he pulled out with a hamstring injury after bowling a couple of overs.
Sayed Shirzad, the 24-year old left-arm pacer with a slingy action is expected to replace Hassan in the playing 11. Shirzad is well-known in Afghanistan cricketing circles as someone with a bag of variations. He relies a lot on his slower deliveries and yorkers for wickets. If the Leeds track is on the slower side, Shirzad will look to exploit it in the best possible way.
Najibullah Zadran- In terms of confidence and fluency, no other Afghanistan batsman has looked as assured as Najibullah Zadran. He has been able to stabilise an innings, rotate strike and also bring out the big shots as and when required. This is a huge luxury given that most Afghanistan batsmen seem to get into a shell during the middle overs which then results in a total collapse. All these reasons were why a lot of fans and experts were surprised when Najibullah Zadran was mysteriously dropped against South Africa. Since his return to the team, the left-handed batsman has looked confident but has been unable to convert his starts. He will hope to correct that against the West Indies.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman- The hard-to-decipher off-spinner is back to form and has been giving some tough time to a lot of quality batsman. With a used Leeds pitch on offer, Mujeeb will look to strangle the West Indies with his array of variations. Even in the World Cup qualifiers last year, West Indies found Mujeeb very tough to handle. He also seems to be enjoying his battle against left-handers and with the West Indies possessing a lot of batsman of that type, the 18-year old will fancy his chances on Thursday.
Predicted Playing 11
Gulbadin Naib (C), Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan, Samiullah Shenwari, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Ikram AliKhil (WK), Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Sayed Shirzad.
Also read – World cup winners list