KABUL: Afghanistan replaced long-serving One-day International captain Asghar Afghan with Gulbadin Naib on Friday, less than two months before this year’s 50-over World Cup in England and Wales.
Afghan, 31, took over the team’s captaincy in 2015 after Mohammad Nabi had stepped down following the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Under his leadership, the war-torn South Asian country gained full membership status from the governing body International Cricket Council and also qualified for the 2019 World Cup.
Afghanistan’s chief selector Dawalt Ahmadzai backed Naib to continue Afghan’s legacy and said he was the right choice to lead the team at the World Cup.
“Asghar Afghan who captained team Afghanistan for a period of around four years achieved a lot and made the country proud,” Ahmadzai said in a statement on the Afghan Cricket Board’s (ACB) website. “I hope Gulbadin Naib will be able to continue his legacy at the helm of the team’s affairs.”
However, the news did not go down well with Afghan’s predecessor Nabi, who took to Twitter to question the timing of the change.
“Being a senior member of the side and having seen the rise of Afghanistan cricket, I don’t think it’s the right time to change the captain before the WC,” Nabi said. “The team has gelled really well under Asghar and I personally feel he is the right man to lead us.”
The 28-year-old Naib, who bowls seam and bats in the middle order, has played 52 ODIs for Afghanistan since making his debut in 2011.
In wholesale changes to the leadership structure, all-rounder Rahmat Shah was appointed Test captain replacing Afghan while leg-spinner Rashid Khan was put in charge of the Twenty20 team.
Rashid, who was also named vice-captain for the 50-over format, was even more vocal in his criticism of the move and called the decision to oust Afghan “irresponsible”.
“With all the respect to the selection committee, I strongly disagree with the decision,” Rashid said on Twitter. “As we have the cricket World Cup in front of us… Asghar Afghan should remain as our team captain.
“With just months to go for such a mega event like World Cup, changing the captain will cause uncertainty and also team morale will be affected.”
The Afghan Cricket Board was not immediately available for comment.
Afghanistan will tour Scotland and Ireland next month to prepare for the World Cup and will also play an ODI each against Pakistan and England before kicking off their campaign against Australia on June 1.