Afghan skipper Stanikzai to miss start of World Cup qualifiers

The 30-year-old middle-order batsman will miss the warm-up games this week as well as the tournament opener against Scotland, on March 4. In Stanikzai's absence, teenage leg-spin sensation Rashid Khan will lead the side.

Asghar Stanikzai has played 83 one-day internationals and made 1,565 runs.   -  AFP

Afghanistan suffered a blow ahead of its 2019 World Cup qualifying campaign Monday, when captain Asghar Stanikzai was ruled out of the start of the tournament after undergoing surgery to have his appendix removed, the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced.

The 30-year-old middle order batsman will miss the warm-up games this week as well as the tournament opener against Scotland, on March 4, although officials expect him to be fit to face host Zimbabwe two days later.

Stanikzai has played 83 one-day internationals and made 1,565 runs. Afghanistan is in Group B of the qualifying tournament, which is being staged in Zimbabwe and will face the home country, Nepal, Hong Kong and Scotland in the first round.

The top three teams from the two groups will qualify for the second stage with the best two countries at the end of the event booking their places at the 2019 World Cup to be held in England and Wales.

In Stanikzai's absence, teenage leg-spin sensation Rashid Khan will lead the side.

The 19-year-old Khan, who was bought for $1.41 million (1.15m euros) by Sunrisers Hyderabad in last month's IPL auction, is the world number one bowler in ODIs and closing in on becoming the fastest-ever to reach 100 wickets.

Afghanistan's 4-1 series victory over Zimbabwe earlier this month sees it as favourite to qualify alongside West Indies.

"It feels good to see that Afghanistan is a favourite to qualify," said Khan.

"I think we should show it on the ground, it's not only on paper that we should look good.

"We have to take every match seriously. We have to play good cricket against every team. Hopefully it will go well and we will get four points and go to the next round."

Afghanistan opens its campaign against Scotland in Bulawayo on Sunday, ahead of further Group B matches with Nepal, Hong Kong and Zimbabwe.

The tournament runs from March 4-25, with the two qualifiers to be decided by the end of the Super Six round on March 23.