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The Hindu
The Hindu
Ayan Acharya

Confident Afghanistan meets inconsistent Bangladesh in World Cup

Before the 2023 ODI World Cup opener at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, the 10 captains sat in the GCA Club House for a pre-World Cup press conference.

Former India coach Ravi Shastri, one of the two moderators, asked Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi how bowling was his team’s strength. It sounded like a rhetorical question, but Shahidi’s response indicated a different nucleus. “In this World Cup, our batting will also make a strong statement,” Shahidi said.

Sitting to his right was Pakistan skipper Babar Azam, who turned and nodded his head in agreement.

After all, openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran had recently added 227 against Babar’s team and 256 against Bangladesh, Afghanistan’s first opponent of the tournament.

The two teams will kickstart their campaigns away from the urban cauldrons, at the HPCA Stadium in Dharamshala, overlooked by the picturesque Dhauladhar range, where the bowlers can accurately be described to be running in from the Himalayas!

Afghanistan’s composition remains spin-centric with Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, and Mujeeb Ur Rahman expected to play, it’s the upswing in batting that’s encouraging. The last-minute inclusion of Naveen-ul-Haq will perk up the seam bowling department at a venue where the low stands allow for the winds to blow across, providing assistance to the fast bowlers.

On the other hand, Bangladesh has had a topsy-turvy build-up. It was eliminated from the Super Four stage at the Asia Cup and lost the three-match series against New Zealand at home 0-2 immediately after. The omission of Tamim Iqbal (back injury) has been a major talking point.

Captain Shakib Al Hasan will be crucial with both bat and ball, leading the attack alongside Taskin Ahmed and Mustafizur Rahman. The 2020 Under-19 World Cup-winning quartet of Towhid Hridoy, Tanzid Hasan, Tanzim Hasan and Shoriful Islam hopes to bring that extra heat, extra noise, and extra will.

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