Afghanistan’s campaign in the 2019 World Cup has been dealt with a body blow as Mohammad Shahzad has been ruled out of the mega event due to a knee injury. Prior to the start of the main round, the Afghans played a couple of practice matches. In their first warm-up match versus Pakistan, Shahzad had to retire hurt after hurting his knee and didn’t play the next contest against hosts England.
Nevertheless, the 31-year-old played a couple of games versus Australia and Sri Lanka respectively, though he could only manage seven runs, combining both the encounters. The knee injury has now aggravated and he had to be withdrawn from the 15-man squad. The Nangarhar-born Shahzad has been Afghanistan’s second-highest run-scorer in ODIs with 1843 runs in 55 innings since the 2015 World Cup.
Ikram Ali Khil named as replacement
In the meantime, the national team has announced 18-year-old Ikram Ali Khil as Shahzad’s replacement. Khil, who was a part of the Afghanistan U19 team for the World Cup in New Zealand, has already got a taste of international cricket. He made his debut in an ODI when Ireland took part in a five-match ODI series against Afghanistan, then led by Asghar Afghan.
Ikram also went on to play Afghanistan’s second-ever Test in their history versus Ireland at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Dehradun. Combining first-class, List A and T20 cricket, the Young Turk has an experience of 35 matches in which he has notched 687 runs with four half-centuries and a century. With the gloves, he has taken 41 catches and inflicted 12 stumpings.
As far as Afghanistan’s journey in the World Cup is concerned, the Gulbadin Naib-captained unit is currently placed at the bottom of the points table owing to an inferior Net Run Rate of -1.264. Going forward, they have plenty of work to do in order to make their way up the points table.
Their next match is on June 8 against New Zealand, who won their first two games, at The Cooper Associates County Ground in Taunton. Shahzad has been one of the country’s leading batsmen and it’ll be interesting to see how Naib’s men fill in the void created by Shahzad.