'We can send a message by doing well in the Asia Cup' - Shahidi

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Shahidi leads Afghanistan in Tests and ODIs.
Shahidi leads Afghanistan in Tests and ODIs. © Getty

Afghanistan will kickstart their World Cup preparations with the forthcoming three-match ODI series against Bangladesh, scheduled from July 5 at Chattogram. Ahead of the series, their Test and ODI skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi during an exclusive chat with Cricbuzz opened up about several issues that includes their present struggle in Tests, opting for a more aggressive brand of cricket in ODIs and a lot more. Here are the excerpts.

Your success in Tests is not similar to the other two formats. In such a scenario, is it difficult to inspire youngsters to take up red-ball cricket?

It's true we play a lot of white ball cricket and it becomes difficult to adjust when we come to red-ball cricket. Look the more we play Tests the more we will improve and we need to play Tests quite regularly because if you are playing one Test in a year or two Tests in two years it is difficult to improve. I'm the Afghanistan Test captain for two years and this is the first time (against Bangladesh) I am leading as a captain in the format. Our cricketers are playing first-class cricket in Afghanistan but certainly there is a difference between Test cricket and domestic cricket and there is no doubt over it. Whoever is performing in first-class is getting one or two opportunities so naturally there is pressure.

You are not part of ICC Test Championship, do you miss it?

We have played six Tests in four years and the performance is not that bad. We beat Zimbabwe, Ireland and Bangladesh so if the ICC gives us lot of Tests we will improve as a team.

Going forward do you feel that you might miss the services of leading stars like Rashid considering they are all involved in different franchise leagues around the world?

Rashid is certainly the best bowler of Afghanistan across formats. He is like an one-man-army performing all the time. Look we miss the impact of Rashid and even against Bangladesh we missed him. We missed in the Sri Lanka ODIs as well before the Bangladesh Test. He is a wonderful bowler and anyone would like to have him all the time.

Yourself and Rahmat Shah do not play the typical attacking brand of cricket your team is known for in limited-overs. What's the thought process?

Even before I was captaining, the responsibility lied on the shoulders of me and Rahmat from the captain and the coach and they used to say just play as long as possible. Especially in ODIs we were told not to worry about balls and just carry on and play the anchor role as others would take charge but if both of us get out then the team is under pressure and we don't achieve in the end what we aimed. After I became captain I said that we will play according to the situation and if needed we will try to accelerate and even I told Rahmat that you play seeing the scoreboard and it is not a fact that all the responsibility lies in your shoulder. We have players like Ibrahim who is playing really well and there is Gurbaz who can have a rough time here and there but I firmly believe that he is a big match winner for us.

Did the approach change keeping the huge scores in mind in ODIs?

When we were playing ODIs three to four years back most of the games we played at home, like India was our home and Dubai, and in that case the wicket was prepared by us and it was natural that we would go for spin oriented wicket that is slow where 240 or 250 runs was enough. In the last two years we have played only one home series while we went to Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe and we are now in Bangladesh. Now ODIs template are different as 300 to 320 runs are scored and we would play according to the wicket like if it is a 300 wicket we need to play that way and if it's a 200-run wicket we need play accordingly. We need to judge the situation and play unlike the past when we were following certain specific roles as the roles are changing with time.

Can you tell us the role of Ibrahim Zadran as he is expected to be a vital cog going forward given the way he is playing for the last one year?.

The day I was appointed captain Ibrahim was playing club cricket in England. The first thing I told him was that come over to Afghanistan and when we were talking at that point we were having a series against Netherlands in Qatar the following month. I was asking for him to the board and there were some visa issues but the board also wanted him. I just gave him the confidence because I had trust on his ability. I just assured him of my support regardless of his performances. Myself and the selection panel included him in the team for the following series against Bangladesh and he delivered. He fills the void that we were missing in the ODIs.

What were you missing?

Like someone who opens and play the anchor role as well as accelerates at times when required because he has shots in his possession and more importantly we wanted consistency. He is consistent and has good technique and hopefully will improve with passing days.

Do you feel the seniors are the biggest strengths of your side ahead of the Asia Cup and the World Cup as some of them are at the peak of their careers and can take Afghanistan cricket to the next level?

The team revolves around four to five players and the seniors are playing for a long time but the youngsters who arrived in the last two years even they are doing well and that is our strength because seniors know what to do in pressure situations but when youngsters compliment the seniors the team performance becomes good. But if only the four or five seniors perform eventually it will not help the team get result. Look, in the bowling department there is Farooqi who is doing well while there is Azmat and Omarzai who we feel can contribute both with bat and ball and along with them there is Ibrahim and Gurbaz so what I feel is that when we go to the World Cup our performances will be better than what we did in the previous occasions. We are going there to do something and it is not like we are going just to be a part of it.

Do you feel doing well in the Asia Cup will be the perfect confidence booster for the Afghans ahead of the World Cup?

Asia Cup is a big event and if we do well this will be a message for the world that we are coming for the World Cup. We have the confidence to do well in Asia Cup and take that confidence to the World Cup. We are also looking at the Bangladesh series because from now onwards every game will be crucial for us leading up to the World Cup.

In the last World Cup, ACB surprisingly appointed Gulbadin Naib as captain and following the tournament he lost his captaincy and there are several instances that prove captains are made the scapegoat. Do you feel if you perform badly you are going to have the same fate?

In countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh there are lot of criticism especially on social media. At times I see it and delete it because I know if you do well everyone will say good things and if not in these countries especially the captain is targeted so I have deleted everything. For me what is important are the discussions that we are having inside the team and outside people can give their opinion like this is not right or that is not right but I don't give importance to those things. You just mentioned that whether I am insecure that I will lose captaincy if we perform badly. Look if I focus on these things than there will be more pressure on me. So as a player and a captain I focus on good preparation rather than anything else. If the leader is thinking negatively then the performance of the team is bound to suffer so I don't give importance on these things.



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