Selection interference remains Afghanistan's Achilles heel

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Who will lead Afghanistan in T20Is? The question is buzzing around in the cricketing fraternity since Nabi decided to step down
Who will lead Afghanistan in T20Is? The question is buzzing around in the cricketing fraternity since Nabi decided to step down © Getty

Who will lead Afghanistan in the shortest format? The question is buzzing around in the cricketing landscape since Mohammad Nabi decided to step down hours after his side's disappointing show in the ongoing ICC T20 World Cup, where they remained winless.

"Our T20 World Cup journey came to an end, with a result that not us nor our supporters were expecting. We are as frustrated as you are with the outcome of matches," Nabi had said in a statement via his Twitter account following their defeat to Australia.

"From the last one year, our team preparation was not at a level that a captain would want it or needed for a big tournament. Moreover, in some of the last tours, the team management, selection committee and I were not on the same page which had implications on the team balance.

"Therefore, with due respect, effectively immediately (sic) I announce to step down as a captain and will continue to play for my country when the management & team need me," he added.

It is understood that Nabi was not exactly pleased with the ACB and selection committee as he didn't believe some of the youngsters such as Darwish Rasooli and Salim Safi should have been part of the squad for the World Cup but he had to agree as per the insistence of ACB.

It is also understood that Nabi wanted to include all-rounder Gulbadin Naib and senior bowlers like Dawlat Zadran in the 15-member squad but his request was rejected.

Former captain, Naib, who was a travelling reserve, replaced injured Hazratullah Zazai after he was ruled out due to an abdominal muscle strain but it looks like by then Nabi had already made up his mind to step down.

"The selection panel wanted them and this was one of the main reasons behind his decision (to quit)," an official told Cricbuzz on request of anonymity.

So who will replace Nabi as Afghanistan's next skipper for T20Is? Several names are doing the rounds but if insiders are to be believed, Rashid Khan is one among them. However, the problem lies with a system that seems to hardly give the appointed captain enough say on selection matters.

As Afghanistan is better in T20Is compared to other formats, the interference from higher-ups in relation to that format is more. So, Rashid could be weary of again leading the side.

Over a period of time, ACB has been constantly changing captains and the structure of the role. For instance, in May 2019, two months before the World Cup, ACB had decided to go for split captaincy.

Asghar Afghan had to relinquish his role as the captain. Subsequently, the leadership roles were distributed among Naib (ODIs), Rashid (T20Is) and Rahmat Shah (Tests). Only three months later, Naib was sacked and replaced by Rashid across formats following their disappointing performance in the World Cup that saw them remain winless.

Afghan then was brought back for another stint in December 2019 as he replaced Rashid and it lasted for 15 months before ACB once again opted for a split-captaincy model.

Senior middle-order bat Hashmatullah Shahidi was appointed as the new ODI and Test captain while Rashid took over as the captain in the shortest format. The all-rounder was expected to lead the side in the T20 World Cup in 2021 but decided to step down hours after their T20 World Cup squad was announced.

"As the captain and responsible person for the nation, I deserve the right to be part of the selection of the team. The selection committee and ACB has not obtained my consent for the team which has been announced by ACB media. I am taking the decision of stepping down from the role as captain of the Afghanistan T20 side effective immediately," Rashid wrote on his official Twitter account while announcing his decision not to lead side.

Eventually, ACB opted for experience by handing over the captaincy to Nabi and he took up the mantle of leading the side for the second time, having previously led the side from 2013 to 2015.

Nabi, who is known as 'president' to his close circle, probably believed things would change for the better during his tenure but that wasn't to be. There was also a belief that with the arrival of Mirwais Ashraf as ACB president, the situation would get better, especially in the backdrop of Ashraf being a former cricketer but the internal problems between authorities and the captain have continued to surface.

ACB's revolving-door policy of changing captains means the new captain isn't getting enough time to lay down his thoughts and also assert his authority. So it could help Afghanistan, if the captain is given enough time to settle into his job and also have the necessary freedom when it comes to selection matters.



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