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Afghanistan no longer minnows in T20s, ODIs - Mujeeb Ur Rahman

This year, he played just five games, taking three wickets, but is part of the World Cup squad. In this interview, Mujeeb talks about the World Cup, learning from Punjab skipper Ashwin and other issues.

cricket Updated: May 07, 2019 09:59 IST
Shalini Gupta
Shalini Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Afghanistan,T20s,ODIs
File image of Mujeeb Ur Rahman(AFP)

While England, India and Australia are top contenders for the World Cup, they would all be wary of Afghanistan. With world-class spinners Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammed Nabi in their ranks, Afghanistan can cause upsets. Teenaged mystery spinner Mujeeb took IPL by storm last year by taking 14 wickets for KXIP, and bowling Virat Kohli. This year, he played just five games, taking three wickets, but is part of the World Cup squad. In this interview, Mujeeb talks about the World Cup, learning from Punjab skipper Ashwin and other issues.

Excerpts

Has this IPL season been ideal preparation for the World Cup ?

It was my second season with Kings XI. Although, I played just five matches, I picked up a lot from the seniors. IPL provides such a big platform for young cricketers to rub shoulders with stars. Like last season, I enjoyed IPL this season, being part of the Kings XI dressing room. Cricketers from all over the world got a great chance to prepare for the World Cup during IPL. See the performances of David Warner, Kagiso Rabada, Rashid Khan, MS Dhoni, Andre Russell and Hardik Pandya. I am sure their form will travel to England though the conditions will be different.

This IPL wasn’t good for you. Did it dent your confidence?

Last season was better. T20 is a challenging and unpredictable format. On a given day, you can take six wickets in six balls and can also leak six sixes in six balls. It affects you that day but you move on and think about the upcoming games. The important thing is to forget such bad outings and focus on rectifying mistakes. The coach and captain play important roles in guiding you when you are a bit down. Soon, I will join the Afghanistan team and prepare for different conditions. The warm up matches will give me a chance to test my skills and build confidence for the World Cup.

The Afghanistan Board sacked Asghar Afghan and named Gulbadin Naib as replacement. Will this affect team spirit going into the World Cup?

Not at all. It is no doubt Asghar was a great captain and we beat Bangladesh in the T20 series under him and then had the Test match victory against Ireland. We grew as a team under him. I am sure Naib will handle the team well and if required take inputs from seniors like Rashid, Nabi and even Asghar. Everyone wants to win at the World Cup level and make the nation proud. There is no question of personal animosity over captaincy. The entire nation is excited to see us do well in England and bring glory to the people.

You have formed a terrific partnership with Rashid? How do you complement each other?

Rashid is a very smart bowler. It is a blessing to be bowling alongside him. He has gained a lot of experience in recent years. I look up to him while bowling with him. Before any game, we like to sit and plan our spells. Also, we both like to attack and stick to the plan. Usually plans are executed well and as a result we do well as bowlers. It is fun watching him bowl those faster ones and confuse the batsmen. I rely more on variations. Nabi is also a class spinner, who sets up dismissals very tactfully.

Spin will be your strength at the World Cup, conditions are not spin-friendly in England. You still feel your team should attack with spin?

It is not that England just offers help to fast bowlers. We have played in England and have been successful as spinners. And if our team has world class spinners why not bowl with what is our strength? Don’t be surprised if spinners bowl with the new ball in some matches. But spinners will have to put in more hard work and show discipline. If the English summer is dry, spinners will have a wonderful time, especially in the middle overs.

The round-robin format won’t give you a single easy match and team teams will target you. Are you guys prepared?

Afghanistan has improved leaps and bounds since the 2015 World Cup. I don’t think we are minnows anymore when it comes to T20 and ODI cricket. We have the calibre to take on teams like England, India and Australia. The team has been preparing in South Africa due to the availability of quick wickets there and now head to Scotland and Ireland for the final leg of preparations. We would like to take one match at one time and aim for a semifinals berth.

What advise have you got from Ashwin during the IPL?

Ashwin is a very good captain who likes to get involved with his team during the nets. He has given me lot of inputs on bowling techniques. I have not been able to use them due to time constraints. I will be working on them once I join the Afghanistan team ahead of the World Cup. Last season too, Ashwin was kind enough to spend extra time with me in the nets. He just told me to bowl to my strength, enjoy the game.

First Published: May 07, 2019 09:24 IST