Afghanistan skipper Asghar Stanikzai © Getty images
Afghanistan skipper Asghar Stanikzai © Getty images

Afghanistan have been dealt with a severe blow just before the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. Skipper and middle-order batsman Asghar Stanikzai has been ruled out of the start of the tournament, in March, after undergoing a surgery to remove his appendix. It will most likely keep him out of action for upto 10 days. This surely came as a blow to Afghanistan cricket’s preparations as they bid to proceed to the big league and qualify for the 2019 World Cup in England.

Afghanistan face West Indies and Netherlands in warm-up matches on February 27 and March 1 respectively before their Qualifiers opener, against Scotland on March 4. As per ICC’s official website, Stanikzai will be available for his side’s encounter against hosts Zimbabwe. Stanikzai, now 30, had led Afghanistan to a series win against Zimbabwe in UAE recently, and will be eager to regain match fitness at the earliest.

Afghanistan played their maiden World Cup in 2015 in Australia and New Zealand. Despite that being their first outing in the mega event, Afghanistan ran close to Sri Lanka and defeated Scotland by 1 wicket to notch up their first win in the tournament.