In the World Cup Qualifier held last year in Zimbabwe, Afghanistan was one of the two teams to qualify of the premier 50-over tournament – ICC Cricket World Cup. The men-in-blue have worked regressively with the full fortitude to turn the fortune in their favour. With tournament just 29 days away, the team’s new captain, Gulbadin Naib is confident that results will flow for their side.
To prepare for the World Cup, Afghanistan squad spent several weeks in South Africa to get well equipped with skiddy pace and bounce which will be similar to what they will experience in South Africa.
Speaking to AFP at the British embassy in Kabul, ahead of the team’s departure for the World Cup, Naib said, "When I look at my team, we prepared very well the last couple of months."
"The guys have a big morale, everyone is very excited to be participating in the World Cup," he added. Naib earlier this month was named as captain, replacing Asghar Afghan who has still been included in the squad. The move sparked some controversy coming so close to the World Cup, but the 28-year-old Naib dismissed the row as overblown, saying it was "no big deal" and that the team had several other players with captaincy experience.
British deputy ambassador Giles Lever said the World Cup provided Afghanistan with an opportunity to show an expected global audience of up to 1.5 billion a side of the war-torn country that is often overlooked.
"Not war, not political divisions but Afghans working together on the world stage to achieve your common dream, which is victory in the World Cup," Lever said.
Since beating the odds to compete at the 2010 World Twenty20 in England, Afghanistan have qualified for all major international tournaments and recorded their first Test victory against Ireland last month.
Afghanistan open their World Cup campaign against Australia in Bristol on June 1 and are regarded as dark horses, having beaten former champions Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup last year as well as forcing a tie with giants India.
Many Afghan cricketers learned the game in refugee camps in Pakistan, their families having fled the Soviet invasion in the 1980s.
Asked if he thought his team could go all the way, Naib said: "I hope so. It's cricket ... anything can happen."