The tournament hosts and world number ones are rampant favourites on paper, with Afghanistan bottom of the standings after four defeats in four games.
But Gulbadin found some reason for cheer when watching India’s defeat of Pakistan on Sunday, which took place on the same surface and gave some encouragement for the rival spinners.
Afghanistan’s game plan is built around their star leg-spinner Rashid Khan, backed up by Mohammad Nabi and Rahmat Shah.
“We are looking for the spin, every game,” Gulbadin said on the eve of the match.
“If the wicket is like the one India and Pakistan played on, which slightly turned, with this kind of turn maybe every team is in trouble against Afghanistan.
“Not only England or others. If there is a little bit of spin there, maybe it’s a good day for Afghanistan.”
Star man Rashid is the top wicket-taker in one-day cricket in the four years since the last World Cup but has yet to impose himself on this competition, taking just three wickets at 38.
His record suggests a big performance is just around the corner and Gulbadin needs no reminding of his qualities.
“Rashid is not like other bowlers who bowl normally, he’s an attacking bowler,” said the all-rounder.
“Every time he’s attacking. But one thing that’s bad is the surfaces have not suited him. If they slightly turned, you’ll find Rashid is a key bowler and he’s also key for the success of Afghanistan.”
Gulbadin regards Jason Roy’s enforced absence from the game as a positive omen, following the Surrey man’s 89 not out in 46 balls in a pre-tournament warm-up between the sides.
“It’s good luck for us Jason Roy is not playing. Roy is one of the best players now in the world now,” he said.
“The last two years, he has been world class.”
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It’s a battle between teams at opposite ends of the table as the Cricket World Cup hosts and favourites England lock horns with minnows Afghanistan at Old Trafford.
Eoin Morgan’s men are on song, having inflicted defeats on Bangladesh and West Indies in their last two games.
On the other hand, Afghanistan are still in search of their first win of the tournament, having suffered defeats against Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and most recently South Africa.
We take a look at the talking points ahead of the David v Goliath clash.
Conservative approach by England?
England are in a strong position after winning three of their first four games. But the hosts can’t afford to take their foot off the gas. After facing Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, they will have to test themselves against Australia, India and New Zealand in the span of nine days.
England will be hoping the injured Jason Roy and Morgan will be back to 100 per cent before they endure a tough run against the teams currently in the top three.
It will be interesting to see whether the hosts power through Afghanistan like they have been doing so far or adopt a conservative approach, reducing the risk of injuries in the process by resting key players. The tournament minnows have been woeful with the bat and this could be a risk worth taking.
Rashid Khan’s time to deliver
Afghan spinner Rashid Khan has failed to live up to the high standards he has set for himself. The 20-year-old has claimed just three wickets in the World Cup. To be fair to the youngster, he was injured in Afghanistan’s defeat to New Zealand and was hence unable to bowl in that game.
The long boundaries at Old Trafford could assist Rashid in his quest to produce a stand-out performance at the World Cup. With the English batting line-up slightly compromised due to the absence of Roy and with Morgan, the spinner could profit.
Will Rashid be the unlikely hero in this lop-sided clash?
The Archer express to run through Afghanistan
The new ball in the hands of Jofra Archer is lethal, more so when the conditions are overcast and the batting line-up is yet to play out a full quota of 50 overs four games into the tournament.
A top-five leading wicket-taker at this World Cup, the Caribbean-born is fresh from a sensational performance against West Indies. The 24-year-old claimed three wickets in that game and was on a hat-trick at one point when he was cleaning up the tail.
Afghanistan must beware of his trademark short-pitched delivery right outside the off-stump and leaning towards the batsman. It’s logical to expect a bowler in good form to put on quite a show against the weakest batting line-up in the tournament. But if Afghanistan are not careful, it could get very embarrassing. A resilient show from Hazratullah Zarai and Noor Ali is the need of the hour.
Former India skipper and World Cup winner Krishnamachri Srikkanth believes Virat Kohli and his men have started to forge a fearsome reputation that demoralises opponents before the game even begins.
Srikkanth’s comments came after India crushed arch-rivals Pakistan by 89 runs (DLS) in a 2019 ICC World Cup clash at Manchester on Sunday. It extended India’s World Cup record against Pakistan to seven wins out of seven while preserving their unbeaten campaign so far in the 2019 edition.
Srikkanth has even gone on to compare the Indian team to the mighty Windies sides of the 1970s which captured the first two editions of the World Cup.
“It is a little like England, at the moment everything seems to be going right (for India) and the fans should be very happy,” Srikkanth was quoted as saying by AFP.
“This is starting to feel a little like the West Indian teams of the 1970s, where the opposition would start the game with a psychological disadvantage.
“Teams are worried about facing India and how they will cope with them, which immediately puts them on the back foot.”
While Rohit Sharma’s ton laid the foundation for India’s big win on Sunday, Srikkanth pointed to KL Rahul’s contributions as a crucially important factor.
With Shikhar Dhawan out for up to three weeks with a fractured thumb, Rahul was promoted to open the innings with Rohit and the right-hander chipped in with a 57-run knock.
“Everyone knows how good a batsman Rohit Sharma is but for me the more important innings against Pakistan was from KL Rahul,” he said.
“Going into the game, the biggest question mark about this India team was how they would cope without Shikhar Dhawan.
“The fact the top three all got runs, that (Rohit) Sharma and Rahul put on more than a hundred for the first wicket and that Virat Kohli got more runs, is huge for India going forward in the tournament.”
India now stand behind just Australia and New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup standings with three wins and a no-result from their four games. They next face tournament minnows Afghanistan at Southampton on June 22.