Hashmatullah Shahidi wants more Tests and ODIs for Afghanistan to 'improve'

Nkwe, South Africa's director of cricket, says the "management" of their "marquee players" is going to be important for the next World Cup

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Hashmatullah Shahidi: 'We are expecting our cricket board and ICC to give us more matches for our improvement'  •  ICC via Getty Images

Hashmatullah Shahidi: 'We are expecting our cricket board and ICC to give us more matches for our improvement'  •  ICC via Getty Images

In what could be his second-last appearance in front of the global media at this tournament, Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi put the onus on his board and the ICC to prioritise ODIs going forward. Afghanistan, currently placed sixth on eight points, will need to beat South Africa by a huge margin in their last league game on Friday in Ahmedabad and also hope Pakistan lose to England, to progress to the semi-finals
"Fifty-over cricket is also important," Shahidi said in Ahmedabad. "Right now, there are too many leagues, too much T20 cricket and I think 50-overs and Test cricket is more important. If we have those games, we will definitely improve more. We are expecting our cricket board and ICC to give us more matches for our improvement."
Despite his expectation, the discontinuance of the World Cup Super League means that Afghanistan are no longer guaranteed a series against the so-called bigger teams and the most recent version of the FTP shows a calendar that has become leaner. While they played 29 ODIs including series against West Indies, Sri Lanka and Pakistan between the end of the last World Cup and the start of this one (bear in mind that two-and-a-half of those years were severely affected by Covid-19 disruptions), they are scheduled to play 33 in the next cycle, but only six against teams in the top eight and none against Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa or Pakistan. Shahidi is hopeful that will change. "We have a cricket board and management and we are hoping they take a lot of series with other teams. There will be 50-over cricket. I am expecting that."
Whatever happens, Afghanistan can look forward to at least some ODI cricket in the not-too-distant future. They cannot finish lower than sixth at this World Cup, which guarantees them a spot at the Champions Trophy in 2025 and an opportunity to play against the other top seven teams in the format.
South Africa, their last group-stage opponents at this World Cup and fellow Champions Trophy qualifiers, also have questions over the relevance of the 50-over format, not least because they are due to co-host the next ODI World Cup in 2027 and have earmarked that tournament as theirs to win. They understand that in the four years between this tournament and the next, more T20 leagues, offering more money that Cricket South Africa (CSA) can match, are likely to crop up and players will inevitably be drawn to those at the expense of international cricket.
A ready-made example is Quinton de Kock, who is retired from Test and farewells ODIs at this tournament, but has also opted for a gig with Melbourne Renegades for the Big Bash League and out of South Africa's home series against India. In previous circumstances that would have made him ineligible for the T20 World Cup but CSA has changed their selection policy and now will keep the door for internationals open to players who don't play in bilaterals. "We are not coming with a fixed mindset. We are very open to the new world. The management of marquee players is going to be important,"
Nkwe hopes that this "new model," as he called it, will encourage many of the current squad members to continue making themselves available for World Cups, particularly in 2027. "We are hoping the majority of the marquee players will be available for 2027. It's an opportunity to end their career at home, with the opportunity that we are going to win it," Nkwe said. "The marquee players are most of the players that are playing in the leagues. David Miller, Quinny [de Kock], Rassie [van der Dussen], Temba [Bavuma] - most of them are in their 30s but when I engage with them, they are so hungry for silverware for South Africa. We are going to have to be realistic and take it a year at a time. Post World Cup I would like to engage with them in terms of the future."
De Kock has already suggested it would be difficult to convince him to come out of retirement, and Nkwe is hopeful that he can be persuaded otherwise in future. "We will give him the space that he needs. I am hoping he will have a sabbatical and then have a rethink. He is excited. He loves playing for the country. I have seen his energy. And I am hoping a couple of months down the line we can have a different conversation."
The main drawcard, according to Nkwe, lies in the format itself because even though there are ICC events every year, "This (the ODI World Cup) is the main one," he said. "They want this one."
And by the sounds of it, so do Afghanistan.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent for South Africa and women's cricket