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All eyes on Rashid Khan as Afghanistan prepare for Bangladesh T20 challenge

Bangladesh take on Afghanistan for the second time in a T20 match. Spinners for both sides could hold the key.

cricket Updated: Jun 02, 2018 19:07 IST
Shalini Gupta
Shalini Gupta
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
Rashid Khan will look to continue his fine Indian Premier League form when Afghanistan take on Bangaldesh in Dehradun.
Rashid Khan will look to continue his fine Indian Premier League form when Afghanistan take on Bangaldesh in Dehradun.(AFP)

When Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan bumps into Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Dehradun ahead of the first T20 match on Sunday evening, the duo won’t have much time to catch up.

Both were part of the Sunrisers Hyderabad team that lost to Chennai Super Kings in the final of IPL 11 last week. However in Dehradun, they are pitted against each other this time due to national duty. The stadium, located in the picturesque Doon Valley and nestled between the Ganges on the east and the Yamuna on the west, will witness its first ever international series as Afghanistan ‘host’ Bangladesh. For Indian fans, they would want to see how well prepared the Afghanistan team is considering they play their debut Test against India later this month.

As far as their T20 history goes, Bangladesh have played Afghanistan only once, in the 2014 World T20. Bangladesh won by nine wickets in that game. Bangladesh still look better and more experienced but the Asghar Stanikzai-led Afghanistan team has shown enough spunk. And even though they have played mostly against lowly-ranked teams of late in T20s, Afghanistan are actually ranked two notches higher than Bangladesh.

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In fact, the last year has been a significant one for Afghanistan cricket. Not only did the conflict-ridden nation earn qualification for the 2019 World Cup, it also acquired Test status recently. “Congratulations to Afghanistan for getting the Test status. They have some world-class cricketers in their ranks. They truly deserve to get the Test status. We would want to improve and deliver in all the departments be it batting, bowling or fielding. We need to show good brand of cricket. Rashid is definitely going to be a key for them, we will be prepared for that challenge,” said Shakib, leading Bangladesh here.

Much of the attention will be on Rashid, who picked 21 wickets in 17 IPL matches. And with mystery spinner Mujeeb ur-Rehman, who turned out for Kings XI Punjab, the Afghanistan spin attack holds all the aces with left-arm orthodox Amir Hamza Hotak and chinaman Zahir Khan adding up as well along with Mohammed Nabi.

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Braving the heat in Dehradun and fasting during the holy month of Ramzan, both teams have been training hard for the T20 challenge. “The pitch here is new to both teams. We would like to play to our strength. Our spinners have shown to the world that they are outstanding. Although the Asians tackle spin well, we would still want to see how the Bangladesh batsmen fare against us,” said Asghar. Rashid Khan and Tamim Iqbal joined their teams on Saturday evening as they were in England playing in a charity game.

The Afghanistan board has also invited its embassy stationed in India for the opening game. Meanwhile, Bangladesh have called up Abul Hasan as seamer Mustafizur Rahman’s replacement. Mustafizur was ruled out with a toe injury sustained during the last game of Mumbai Indians’ IPL season. Bangladesh’s interim head coach Courtney Walsh said that it was a big opportunity for others to showcase their talent.