Afghanistan's ace legspinner Rashid Khan will be leading them at this year's T20 World Cup after the cricket board appointed him captain of the team in the shortest format. Middle-order batter Najibullah Zadran has been named his deputy.
Khan has led Afghanistan in T20Is before. For three months between September and November 2019, he had assumed the mantle of captain and recorded seven wins from 16 matches.
I'm a great believer that a captain is as good as his team. It is Afghanistan that gave me the name RASHID KHAN & it is my duty now to serve my country & my team. Thank you @ACBofficials for the trust & believing in me. It is a dream journey & my fans support will be the key.— Rashid Khan (@rashidkhan_19) July 6, 2021
However, he was quickly replaced by the man he had initially replaced - Asghar Afghan, whose second stint lasted 15 months before he too was sacked.
Afghanistan's captaincy has been a difficult proposition since the 2019 World Cup. Even Khan had been reluctant to take it up. As recently as last month, during an interview with ESPNcricinfo, he said, "I am afraid it might affect my performance."
Khan and his legspin are a key weapon for Afghanistan, especially in the shortest format. He is one of the top five bowlers in T20Is in terms of wickets taken (95), and even among that elite, he has the best average (12.63), economy rate (6.21) and strike rate (12.1). His team too has been on the rise. Afghanistan have already qualified for the main round of the T20 World Cup, which will take place in the UAE and Oman in October, by virtue of being one of the top eight teams in the format. They have been placed in Group B alongside India, England and South Africa.
Khan sounded confident last month about Afghanistan's chances even though they've had a hard time identifying a captain. "As a team, it doesn't really affect us a lot as we all know our roles. We know someone will be named captain at some time but at the same time, we all know what our job is and what our responsibility is to the team. We never thought a lot about the captaincy because it's all about us as a team and what we are putting in at the ground."