Afghanistan are set to feature in only their second ever Cricket World Cup, sealing their place through the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe last year, which they won. They trained for the main event at a camp in South Africa and have high expectations of causing a few upsets in the tournament.
However, they got a jolt when the selectors decided to go with split captaincy and named a new leadership team. Naib took over from Asghar Afghan, even as senior members of the squad went public with their concerns of how the last-minute change could affect the team's spirits.
Naib, though, dismissed these concerns. The change, he said, was "no big deal" and hailed the experience of his team-mates.
“When I look at my team, we prepared very well the last couple of months,” he told AFP in Kabul on Monday, 29 April, ahead of the team’s departure for the World Cup. "The guys have a [high] morale, everyone is very excited to be participating in the World Cup.”
JUST IN: Afghanistan have replaced Asghar Afghan as skipper and gone with split captaincy.— ICC (@ICC) April 5, 2019
New ODI captain: @GbNaib
New T20I captain: @rashidkhan_19
New Test captain: @RahmatShah_08 pic.twitter.com/iE6I3xc8Yw
Naib was particularly pleased with the camp in South Africa, expecting the bouncy wickets they played on to be similar to what they might get in England and Wales.
The team is placed No.10 on the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Team Rankings chart, but he wasn't ruling out their chance to surprise a few teams. In the Asia Cup, they beat Sri Lanka, took Pakistan close and forced a tie against India. Asked if he thought his team could go all the way, Naib said: “I hope so. It’s cricket ... anything can happen.”
Afghanistan open their World Cup campaign against Australia in Bristol on 1 June.