Both Afghanistan and West Indies will embark on a new journey under the new leadership when they come face to face in the first One-Day International (ODI) of the three-match series in Lucknow on Wednesday (November 6). West Indies have already arrived in Lucknow where they will play three ODIs, three Twenty20 Internationals and a solitary Test against Afghanistan who will be led by Rashid Khan. The leg-spinner was appointed the Afghanistan skipper after they failed to win a single match in the 2019 World Cup. It was under the leadership of Rashid, Afghanistan defeated Bangladesh in a Test match in September.
The 21-year-old will work with former South Africa all-rounder Lance Klusener who was appointed head coach in September. They will be up against a side who themselves have gone through a lot of changes in recent times. In an attempt to improve their stature in limited-overs cricket, Kieron Pollard was named West Indies ODI and T20I captain last month. He replaced Jason Holder as the ODI captain and Carlos Brathwaite in T20Is.
Cricket West Indies then brought back Phil Simmons as head coach for a second spell on a four-year deal. Simmons, who worked with Afghanistan as their batting coach and head coach, knows Afghanistan cricket inside out and that will help the Men in Maroon big time.
The two teams have developed quite a rivalry of late. Afghanistan haven’t played a single ODI ever since they lost to West Indies by 23 runs in their final encounter of the 2019 World Cup. Overall, Afghanistan have won three ODIs against West Indies, while the latter have emerged victorious on two occasions. Afghanistan will once again fancy their chances considering the surface in Lucknow will support their game style.
In Rashid, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi, Afghanistan have three world-class spinners. Since January 2018, these three spinners are Afghanistan’s leading wicket-takers in ODIs. While Rashid has taken 61 wickets at 21.62 in this time frame, Mujeeb and Nabi too have scalped 51 and 38 wickets respectively. Both Rashid and Mujeeb love playing against West Indies. The former averages 13 against in the six games, while Mujeeb averages 18.28 at an economy rate of 4.29.
They have left-arm spinner Sharafuddin Ashraf too in the squad, while the likes of Gulbadin Naib, Karim Janat, Naveen-ul-Haq and Yamin Ahmadzai - all seamers - will be expected to play second fiddle. On the batting front, Rahmat Shah has been Afghanistan’s prolific run-scorer in the last two years. The right-hander has scored 1264 runs and is the only Afghanistan batsmen with over 1000 runs in this time frame. Meanwhile, Hazratullah Zazai and Najibullah Zadran will provide that much-required firepower.
Experienced campaigners Asghar Afghan and Nabi provide that much-required stability in the middle-order. Meanwhile, wicketkeeper-batsman Ikram Ali Khil scored 86 runs when Afghanistan last played West Indies in the World Cup. Conditions might be in Afghanistan’s favour but the “home team” will be wary of threats West Indies can cause in limited-overs cricket. On paper, West Indies have a solid team.
Pollard, 32, will be eager to prove his worth and will look to make an impact straightaway. The Trinidadian hasn’t played an ODI since October 2016 and the onus will be on him to lead by example. Meanwhile Shai Hope, who had an average World Cup, has very good numbers in this format since January 2018. The right-hander has scored 1769 runs in 40 games at an average of 55.28.
Roston Chase and Jason Holder are other two batsmen who can keep the innings together, while the likes of Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran are someone who can take the game away from any opposition if they get going. West Indies have also included Brandon King who had an outstanding CPL 2019. The Guyana Amazon Warriors opener amassed 496 runs at an average of 55.11 and emerged as tournament’s highest run-getter.
While Afghanistan have a solid spin attack, West Indies too have included two in-form spinners in their squad. Leg-spinner Hayden Walsh was the leading wicket-taker with 22 scalps to his name, while left-arm spinner Khary Pierre too has a pretty good season. Right-arm seamer Romario Shepherd is someone else who was selected on the basis of his performance in the CPL 2019. West Indies however will rely a lot on left-arm paceman Sheldon Cottrell who has been their best bowler in ODIs this year. He will find decent support from returning Alzarri Joseph, former skipper Holder and Keemo Paul.
The Ekana International Cricket Stadium might serve as a home venue for Afghanistan but the venue has hosted only one international match and it was West Indies who was part of it. However, the visiting side were hammered by 71 runs in a T20I in which Rohit Sharma scored his fourth century in this format.
The two teams look quite balanced and going by recent history between the two sides, we might be in for a heck of a series.
Afghanistan: Rashid Khan (c), Asghar Afghan, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Javed Ahmadi, Afsar Zazai, Gulbadin Naib, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Karim Janat, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Ibrahim Zadran, Yamin Ahmadzai, Naveen-ul-Haq, Ikram Alikhil, Mujeeb ur Rahman.
West Indies: Kieron Pollard (c), Shai Hope, Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer, Sunil Ambris, Nicholas Pooran, Brandon King, Roston Chase, Jason Holder, Hayden Walsh Jr., Khary Pierre, Sheldon Cottrell, Keemo Paul, Romario Shepherd, Alzarri Joseph.