Chief selector of Afghanistan’s National Cricket Team, Dawlat Khan Ahmadzai, in an interaction to Indian media on Tuesday defended the decision to remove ODI captain Asghar Afghan and replace him by Gulbuddin Naib prior to the ICC World Cup in England and Wales.
Ahmadzai said the decision was made after taking into consideration the long-term future of Afghanistan cricket.
Last month, a selection panel headed by Ahmadzai announced three captains for all different formats - Naib for One-Day Internationals, Rashid Khan for T20 Internationals, and Rahmat Shah for Test cricket.
This announcement caused a stir in the Afghanistan dressing room with star players Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi openly voicing their concerns over the timing of the decision.
“We realized that we cannot 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 the 2023 edition.
“We will be getting 10 matches with full members and we feel it will provide perfect training for the new captain (Gulbuddin Naib),” said Ahmadzai, who is a former Afghanistan fast bowler, in response to a PTI query, as quoted by NDTV Sport.
Asked about the need for announcing split captaincy less than two months from the World Cup, Ahmadzai said: “Like you are expressing your concern to me, there were concerns expressed by the players (Rashid and Nabi) and the entire issue was handled professionally.
“They felt it was not the right time to change captaincy but later understood that it was in the best interest of the team.”
Asghar was the captain in all formats but now Naib will lead the team in the 50-over World Cup, Rashid in T20s and Rahmat Shah in Tests. Ahmadzai insisted Naib is the right choice to captain Afghanistan in ODIs.
“The team members, including Rashid and Nabi, are now happy for Gulbuddin. He is not a new man. He has been playing for 17 years and has captaincy experience at the first-class and U-19 level.
“Asghar himself has said that Gulbuddin is like his younger brother who believes that Asghar’s experience will come in handy in the World Cup. They are a united front now. Changes happen. Sri Lanka also changed their captain,” said Ahmadzai referring to Naib, who has played 52 ODIs and 38 T20 Internationals.
On a lighter note, Afghanistan CEO Assadullah Khan, who was sitting alongside the chief selector, said: “MS Dhoni also plays under Virat Kohli.” Leggie Rashid is Afghanistan’s biggest star at the moment, having tasted success in leagues all around the world including the IPL.
Asked why he was not chosen to lead the team in the World Cup beginning May 30 in the UK, Ahmadzai said: "Rashid is not ready for all formats but he is ready for T20. He is too busy playing (all around the world)."
The team, which made its World Cup debut in 2015, is currently preparing in South Africa. The chief selector said the aim is to make the last-four of the mega event and surprise a few teams.
“There was no Rashid or Mujeeb in 2015 so this time we are aiming for a semifinal berth. With the team composition we have, we can definitely surprise a few teams,” he said.
Asked if Afghanistan is too dependent on their star spinners, Ahmadzai disagreed.
“Hamid Hasan is back into the fast bowling attack and that is a big boost. He has been a great fast bowler for Afghanistan and will lead the pace attack alongside Dawlat Zadran,” he said, as quoted by NDTV Sport.
According to NDTV Sport, Ahmadzai is also happy with the team’s preparation for the quadrennial event.