Mohammad Shahzad ruled out of the World Cup, how will it affect Afghanistan’s chances?

Afghanistan have been dealt a big blow as opener and wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad has been ruled out of the World Cup with a knee injury. He will be replaced in the squad by Ikram Ali Khil, the left-handed wicketkeeper.

Shahzad had initially picked up the injury during Afghanistan’s warm-up game against Pakistan. He continued to play on during the tournament in the matches against Australia and Sri Lanka, but ended up aggravating the injury and will miss the remainder of the tournament.

Will it affect their aggressive approach at the top?

Shahzad over the years has been a key element in Afghanistan’s success. He has been a destructive opener and can hit the bowlers all around the park. His ultra-aggressive approach has allowed the team to set the tempo right from the word go. In a unit already suffering from the lack of world-class batsmen to compliment their bowling attack, the loss of Shahzad could prove to be a lethal blow for the Afghans.

Shahzad has scored 2763 runs in 85 ODIs for the Afghans at an average of 33.7 and six centuries to his name. Filling such a void will be a tough task from the team management and will severely dent their chances of causing an upset or two during the tournament. He also has an exceptional strike-rate of 89.13. Replicating his aggressive approach will be tough for any batsman who replaces him in the lineup.

His replacement in the squad, the inexperienced Khil has played only two matches for Afghanistan, having made his debut against Ireland earlier this year. Though supremely talented, the 18-year old will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders to fill the big boots of Shahzad.

The injury will also add further pressure on Shahzad’s opening partner, Hazratullah Zazai, to get Afghanistan off to decent starts during the tournament.