London: Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib admits losing Mohammad Shahzad for the rest of the World Cup is a major blow to his side’s hopes of upsetting the odds in the tournament.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Shahzad was ruled out on Thursday after suffering a recurrence of a nagging knee injury.
Minnows Afghanistan have lost their first two matches and could ill afford to lose the popular opener ahead of their clash with New Zealand in Taunton on Saturday.
“Obviously it’s a big loss for our side,” Naib told reporters on Friday. “Shahzad is a great player for Afghanistan. He did a lot. I’m also upset for him — the last two, three weeks he’s been struggling with his knee.
“He can’t move right. In the last two weeks, I checked with the doctor and physio. I gave the time to him to recover. But unfortunately it’s bad luck for Shahzad.”
Naib believes Shahzad’s energetic presence off the pitch will be missed as much as his play on it.
“Shahzad is very energetic. Also in the dressing room he’s very funny. He entertains us every time. So we miss a lot of things from him,” he added.
New Zealand will start as clear favourites. Kane Williamson’s side are at the top of the standings as they have a better net run-rate than Australia after achieving two contrasting victories. The Black Caps cruised to a 10-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in their opening game, but had to toil hard for a two-wicket victory against Bangladesh on Wednesday at The Oval in London.