Mohammad Nabi says Afghanistan’s spinners will be a handful at this year’s World Cup after their experiences playing in England and in the cauldron of the Indian Premier League.
The 34-year-old allrounder will form a potent spin attack with Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman at the World Cup, with all three currently contesting the high-pressure IPL.
The Afghans will open their campaign against Australia on June 1, a potentially tricky opening encounter for the defending champions as they look to win their sixth World Cup title.
Australian batsmen have historically been vulnerable against high-quality spin bowling, although the current side bucked the trend in their recent winning streak against India and Pakistan, where they won eight consecutive games against strong spin attacks on turning pitches.
Nabi and Khan also played for Leicestershire Foxes and Sussex Sharks respectively in England’s T20 Blast last year, while Rahman has been signed by Middlesex for the coming season.
“Ours is a good combination because Rashid and Mujeeb are wicket-taking bowlers and I am more defensive, bowling a lot of dot balls,” Nabi, who plays for Sunrisers Hyderabad, told AFP.
“(The T20 Blast) was a great experience for us and was of big help. Rashid and I bowled really well and he also batted well.
“We will quickly get adjusted to the conditions there hopefully,” added Nabi, who will represent Kent in this year’s 20-over contest.
While most of the Afghan team are currently at a training camp in South Africa, the spinners are all warming up for the 50-over World Cup in the IPL.
Both Nabi and Khan have starred in Hyderabad’s campaign, and 18-year-old Rahman is playing for Kings XI Punjab.
Nabi said the IPL, with its big crowds and tight games, was great preparation for the World Cup despite the differences between T20 and 50-over cricket.
“The IPL helps a lot,” Nabi said. “If you play these kind of pressure games before the World Cup it will help a lot in the tournament against top opposition teams.
“It is a white-ball format after all. Yes, it is a change of format but you can adjust easily to the 50-over game.”
Nabi’s seven wickets from less than 16 overs, conceding a frugal 87 runs, has made him one of the top 10 bowlers in this year’s IPL.
He will now hope to take that form into the World Cup, where Afghanistan face a daunting opener against defending champions Australia on June 1.
The strong middle-order batsman has been at the centre of Afghanistan’s fairytale rise, captaining the side at their first World Cup in 2015.
But while many Afghanistan players learned the game in refugee camps in Pakistan, Nabi hails from a wealthy Afghan family that lived in Pakistan during the Soviet invasion.
Since beating the odds to compete at the 2010 World T20 in England, Afghanistan have qualified for all major international tournaments and won their first Test against Ireland last month.
Now expectations are building for their second World Cup, where Afghanistan’s cricketers will hope to bring further joy to their war-torn nation.
“We will try our best at the World Cup and challenge every team that we play against,” Nabi said.
“Inshallah (God-willing) in future we will challenge everybody in Test cricket.”
Australia’s World Cup fixtures
May 25: (warm-up) England v Australia, Southampton
May 27: (warm-up) Australia v Sri Lanka, Southampton
June 1: Afghanistan v Australia, Bristol (D/N)
June 6: Australia v West Indies, Trent Bridge
June 9: India v Australia, The Oval
June 12: Australia v Pakistan, Taunton
June 15: Sri Lanka v Australia, The Oval
June 20: Australia v Bangladesh, Trent Bridge
June 25: England v Australia, Lord’s
June 29: New Zealand v Australia, Lord’s (D/N)
July 6: Australia v South Africa, Old Trafford (D/N)
July 9: Semi-Final 1, Old Trafford
July 11: Semi-Final 2, Edgbaston
July 14: Final, Lord’s