Men’s ODI WC: We know we can play spinners better, says Hashmatullah Shahidi ahead of Indian spin challenge

In the six-wicket loss to Bangladesh in their 2023 Men’s ODI World Cup opener, Afghanistan were doing great at 83-1, before a capitulation to spin of Shakib Al Hasan and Mehidy Hasan Miraz meant they crashed to 156 all out.

In the six-wicket loss to Bangladesh in their 2023 Men’s ODI World Cup opener, Afghanistan were doing great at 83-1, before a capitulation to spin of Shakib Al Hasan and Mehidy Hasan Miraz meant they crashed to 156 all out.

The challenge for Afghanistan batters in facing spin will increase in their second clash against hosts India at the Arun Jaitley Stadium on Wednesday. The hosts’ come into the game with their spin trio of Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravichandran Ashwin taking spin wickets collectively on a spin-friendly Chennai pitch.

Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi, who himself struggled against spin before falling to Mehidy in that match in Dharamshala, believed his batting unit has the ability to play against spinners better than what was seen in the first game.


“We play better spinners in the net sessions. Like if you see Rashid, Nabi, Noor and Mujeeb, we play them every day. So, I think our team is far better in playing spin bowling. So that game (against Bangladesh), we struggled.”

“But you can’t say that we are not good enough (against spin) in one game. So that game is gone now and we know we can play spinners better and we will try to come back in next game in every department,” he said in the pre-match press conference.

Despite the defeat to Bangladesh, Shahidi’s belief in his side being better than the 2015 and 2019 editions participating teams hasn’t taken a beating at all ahead of the clash in New Delhi, which saw 754 runs being scored in 94.5 overs – the highest ever in an ODI World Cup match.

“Yes, I had made a statement in the beginning that we will play good cricket as a batting side and have a spin-bowling unit too. But one department can’t win you games; you have to score runs to win the matches.”

“In the Bangladesh game, we didn’t do well in the batting department, but we still have that belief as a team we can come back in the next game and in rest of the tournament. The talent and belief is there; we will try to move on and make it better and improve in tomorrow’s game,” he added.

Though it’s still early days in the competition, the nature of defeat to Bangladesh, especially the batting capitulation to spin, may well lead to panic in the dressing room. But Shahidi revealed the mood in dressing room is still positive as eight matches are still to come, including Wednesday’s clash.

“The important thing is when you lose how to deal with that situation – for me and everyone it’s the important thing. But still, it’s a long tournament. We have eight more games, so when you lose and if you go down, then that will affect in other games.”

“As a team, that game is gone from us. Now we are thinking and moving forward and the morale is still not down and are looking forward to the other games. We have chances to win and that’s inside the dressing room.”

Afghanistan are also being helped by the presence of former India captain Ajay Jadeja, who has linked up with the team as their mentor. “It’s been good as he has a lot of experience of being in international cricket and also, has the experience of playing in Indian conditions. As a mentor, he is always talking about how to deal with pressure and how to play against other teams.”

“It’s not about too much techniques because he has just come into the team and can’t work much into batting or bowling stuff. He’s mostly giving us talks about being prepared mentally and how to deal with these kind of teams, so it’s working good,” stated Shahidi.

One of the biggest strengths for Afghanistan has been their star leg-spinner Rashid Khan, who will be playing in an ODI in New Delhi for the first time. Rashid had played in 2016 T20 World Cup match at the venue, taking 2-17 and has eight wickets from six IPL games here.

But with teams preferring to play lesser risks against him and rely on strike-rotation to never allow him to settle in, Shahidi was optimistic over Rashid having an impact against the Indian team.

“Rashid is our best bowler in ODIs and T20Is, so whatever the opposition is doing, we don’t care about their aspect of playing against him. For us, his plans against the opposition are important and that matters for us.”

“Plus, we have been recently playing ODIs and he knows how to bowl to every team. He has the quality and whenever it’s his day, he can do anything against the opposition. We are expecting and hopeful that he delivers in tomorrow’s game.”

The talk around Afghanistan’s build-up to the World Cup has been around their previous familiarity with Indian conditions. People like Rashid, Mohammad Nabi, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Noor Ahmad and Mujeeb Ur Rahman have played in the IPL and even called Greater Noida, Lucknow and Dehradun their home bases.

Though Afghan diaspora is approximately 21,000 strong in New Delhi, it is expected to be another outing of the Indian blue jerseys swarming the stadium. Shahidi signed off by saying his team is used to playing in front of packed crowds and will focus on what they can do to the best of their abilities.

“When it is the home of the opposition, there will be crowds pressure as the stadium will be fully packed. But as a team, the talk is that we have to keep things simple. We are used to playing in front of full stadiums, like in Bangladesh and other countries. As players, we don’t have to worry about those things; we need to keep focus on our plans and try to deliver our best game tomorrow.”


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