Rashid Khan was smashed for 110 runs in Afghanistan's previous game against England. (Image credit: Getty Images)
Afghanistan’s campaign in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 has been disastrous. From issues related to lack of team unity to reports of the cricket team members allegedly involved in a scuffle in a Manchester hotel before the game against England, Afghanistan has struggled off the field. On the field, the cricket team has suffered three disastrous collapses against New Zealand, Sri Lanka and South Africa. The bowling has been compounded by Rashid Khan, their ace spinner struggling for penetration. Before the tournament even began, there was plenty of controversies when Gulbadin Naib was appointed as the skipper of the team in place of the more experienced Asghar Afghan and this prompted many players to tweet their support for Asghar Afghan.
Speaking to PTI before Afghanistan’s game against India at the Rose Bowl in Southampton, Rashid has emphatically stated that his support was firm with Gulbadin and said the media had blown it out of proportion. “I think there is no problem in my relationship with Gulbadin. I support him as much as I did when Asghar was the captain. If I supported Asghar 50 per cent on the field, Gulbadin has my 100 per cent support. Right from the time we landed in England, no one has spoken about the issue. I think it was blown out of proportion by the media. Some of us have been playing together for 15-16 years. So if nothing has happened in more than a decade, then what can suddenly change in a day or two,” Rashid stated.
However, Rashid was clear that the change of captaincy and his tweets were only because he cared for Afghanistan cricket and he wanted only good things for the development for Afghanistan cricket.
“That tweet by me or Nabi wasn't in support of Asghar. We raised our voice for the betterment of Afghanistan cricket. Had someone else been appointed captain, my stand wouldn't have changed. That wasn't the right time to change the captain. I have nothing personal in supporting Asghar. I am not the only person who's saying that. The whole world is saying that. Neither do I play for Gulbadin nor for the cricket board. I play for the flag, for Afghanistan. I know what my job is and I will continue doing that,” Rashid said. “We were going to play a big event like the World Cup. The combination didn't seem like Asia Cup and if you tinker with the combination before a big tournament, it's not a great thing. That was the reason for the tweet.”
When asked as to why Afghanistan could not perform well against the big sides in the World Cup, Rashid said the team had not played against the likes of Australia and England on a frequent basis. “Actually, we haven't played a lot against teams like Australia and England and that pressure is also there. In a stage like the World cup, suddenly the pressure increases manifold when you play against big sides and that can affect the performance. This is the first time, we played South Africa in an ODI. We played New Zealand and Australia after the 2015 World Cup. If you play a team once in four years, you are bound to face problems. As players, we understood we need to work harder,” Rashid said.