They are one of international cricket's most heartwarming stories but players from war-torn Afghanistan would be aiming for emphatic results rather than mere goodwill in their maiden World Cup appearance, which starts with a pool A match against Bangladesh tomorrow.
The Afghans have touched a chord with the cricket fansworld over for the emotional enormity of their backstories butwhen they take the field tomorrow, the focus would be on howmuch they have improved since qualifying for the big league.
Currently the top-ranked associate nation in the ICC rankings, Afghanistan open the campaign against Bangladesh,hailed as a South Asian fairytale not too long back before adramatic slide began.
In fact, the two teams have already faced off once, lastyear in an Asia Cup match in March, and it was the sprightlyAfghans who came out trumps, shocking their regional bigbrothers by 32 runs.
That result makes it a banana-skin contest forBangladesh, a team which has been floundering after startingoff its journey with massive upsets a few years ago.
Afghanistan coach Andy Moles has already stated that heis banking on wins against Bangladesh and Scotland in thegroup matches to spring a surprise.
"If we do the right things at the right time and staycalm, we are quite capable of giving Bangladesh a very verygood game. We should like to think we could beat Scotland,"Moles has said.
"If we can manage to win those two games we've got to winone of the big games to get through to the next round. We arequite capable of pulling off that surprise," he added.
Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and England are theother teams, which Afghanistan have to contend with in Pool A.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, have entered the World Cupin good spirits, having beaten Zimbabwe in a home series. But what remains a concern is the improvement in the side, if any,has been so slow that observers of the game have begun toquestion their ability to stay in top flight.