Afghanistan's star spinner Rashid Khan, who recently played in the India Premier League (IPL) 2023 final for the Gujarat Titans, has suffered a lower back injury and will miss the first two matches of the three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka. The Afghanistan Cricket Board has confirmed that Rashid will be under close medical observation and is expected to make a comeback for the final ODI on June 7.
The ODI series between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka is set to commence with the first match in Hambantota on Friday, June 2, followed by the second game at the same venue just two days later. Rashid's absence during these matches will be felt, as he is a key player and a significant contributor to Afghanistan's spin department.
Shortly after the ODI series, Afghanistan is scheduled to play a solitary Test against Bangladesh in Chattogram, where Rashid's presence as the team's primary spinner will be crucial. Therefore, the team will be eagerly awaiting his recovery for the upcoming challenges.
In the IPL 2023, Rashid emerged as Gujarat Titans' second-most successful bowler, trailing only Mohammad Shami. Despite his side's loss in the final against the Chennai Super Kings, Rashid made a significant impact throughout the tournament, finishing as the joint second-highest wicket-taker with 27 dismissals.
In Rashid's absence, the responsibility in Afghanistan's spin department will fall on the shoulders of Mohammad Nabi, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, and Noor Ahmad. Noor had an impressive IPL campaign with the Titans, claiming 16 wickets from 13 matches at an economy rate of 7.82. However, he has limited experience in international cricket, having played only one ODI and one T20I for Afghanistan.
Last month, Afghanistan announced a strong 15-member squad, led by Hashmatullah Shahidi, for the ODI series against Sri Lanka. With direct qualification secured for the upcoming ODI World Cup, Afghanistan views this series as an important opportunity to fine-tune their preparations for the prestigious tournament scheduled to take place in India in October-November.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka considers this series as a crucial build-up for the Qualifier tournament in Zimbabwe, which starts on June 18. Both teams will be aiming to make the most of these matches to gear up for their respective upcoming challenges.