World Cup 2019: 'Afghanistan has the best spin-bowling attack'

With Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi in its ranks, Afghanistan boasts the best spin-bowling attack of the World Cup-bound teams, says its former coach.

Lalchand Rajput is the former coach of Afghanistan and he played a key role in the country attaining Test status.   -  V. Ganesan

Former Afghanistan coach, Lalchand Rajput, believes that the team can cause a few upsets when it starts its campaign in the World Cup, beginning in England from May 30.

“Afghanistan has got the best bowling attack, especially spinners. In England, if it is their good day when the ball grips and spin, they will upset some of the top teams,” Rajput told a select group of media on Monday.

Having worked with the team till 2017, Rajput knows all the players inside out and he feels the only area of concern could be the batting department. “It needs to be seen how the batsmen adapt to the swinging conditions. For the last three years, some of the players are playing in the IPL, so they are used to performing under pressure. But playing in England is different. The batsmen needs to adjust,” Rajput, who is now the coach of Zimbabwe, said.

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He is also pinning hopes on Afghanistan’s wicketkeeper-batsman, Mohammed Shehzad. “The game changer in their side is Mohammed Shehzad. If he can get those quick runs in the first half an hour, 45 minutes, things can change,” he said.

In the last couple of years, Afghanistan has relied heavily on its star spinner Rashid Khan and Rajput admits that he will be the game-changer in the English conditions as well. “Rashid Khan is a match-winner. He is experienced with the Big Bash, IPL, CPL and he knows how to win matches. Lot of people have also started hitting him but in England, if it is a helpful wicket, he will be a game-changer. The team also has (Mohammad) Nabi and Mujeeb (Zadran). So, they have three top spinners in the ranks and they can turn the tables on the opponents,” he said.

A couple of weeks ago, the team removed Asghar Afghan as the captain and promoted Gulbadin Naib. “Normally, teams don’t change captains ahead of the World Cup. It is a big event. I don’t know what went wrong. But I am happy he (Asghar) is there in the team. He will give his inputs, he will work with the new captain,” he said. “Gulbadin is a good all-rounder. Whether captaincy affects his form is something that needs to be seen,” Rajput said.