“We have the capability to upset one or two teams”
“This will be the chance for Afghans who are based in Australia or New Zealand to come to the grounds and support their team”
Afghanistan will be aiming to make a lasting impression when it appears in its maiden ICC Cricket World Cup, with the side spending four weeks in Australia and New Zealand to prepare for cricket’s pinnacle 50-over tournament as part of a tour organised by the ICC’s High Performance Programme (HPP).
Having only become an Affiliate member of the ICC in 2001, Afghanistan has appeared in three consecutive ICC World Twenty20 tournaments (2010, 2012, and 2014), and is now starting its final phase of preparation for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, which will be played from 14 February to 29 March.
Skipper Mohammad Nabi, shortly after arriving in Perth on Monday, said his side was motivated to make a mark in its debut ICC Cricket World Cup. “We are very proud to find a place in the ICC mega event, the Cricket World Cup. This will be written in the history of Afghanistan, as we are the first ever sports team in the country to qualify for a World Cup.
“We and the whole nation are looking forward to the tournament. All Afghans want that team to play well in the World Cup,” he said.
The 29-year-old all-rounder believed that the HPP tour will provide invaluable impetus to his side’s recent momentum, having recorded a string of strong finishes at ICC events in the last 12 months, as well as victory over Bangladesh and a drawn ODI series against Zimbabwe.
“Our main objective as a team will be to acclimatise ourselves with the local conditions and get maximum advantage out of the HPP tour; we will be playing some tough state and provincial teams.
“We assume the WACA will be a tough challenge. It produces more bounce and carry compared to other pitches in Australia, and we are not used to those kinds of tracks.
“We will be playing three matches of the World Cup in New Zealand, and we will be working to develop the skills required for those conditions during ICC HPP tour. The plus point is that some of our players have been to New Zealand already, in 2010 for the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup,” he said.
Afghanistan has been placed in Pool A of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, along with four-time champion Australia, co-host New Zealand, Bangladesh, three-time finalist England, Scotland and 1996 champion Sri Lanka.
Afghanistan will play its first-ever ICC Cricket World Cup match when it faces Bangladesh on 18 February in Canberra, the side it beat by 32 runs in their only ODI encounter to date during the Asia Cup 2014. Its other matches are against Scotland (in Dunedin on 26 February), Australia (in Perth on 4 March), New Zealand (in Nelson on 8 March) and England (in Sydney on 13 March).
The skipper believed that his side has what it takes to continue its strong form against higher-ranked opponents. “We have the capability to upset one or two teams. Being a global event, everybody will follow each game, so we have to stay calm, play to our potential and enjoy the pressure. If we play well enough, you never know.
“I think the first game (Bangladesh) will be a crucial one as everyone would like to start with a win; we have beaten Bangladesh in its own backyard, which is another plus point. It could also be a crucial game against Australia,” he said.
Nabi, who was the fourth-highest run-getter of the qualifying tournament, the ICC World Cricket League Championship, believed his side would receive great local support down under. “The national team has not visited Australia or New Zealand before, so this will be the chance for Afghans who are based in Australia or New Zealand to come to the grounds and support their team. I am sure we will get lots of supporters in every game.”
Afghanistan HPP tour matches:
21 September – Afghanistan v WACA squad, WACA (day/night)
23 September – Afghanistan v WACA squad, WACA
26 September – Afghanistan v Comets, Manuka Oval (Canberra)
28 September – Afghanistan v Comets, Manuka Oval (Canberra)
2 October – Afghanistan v Auckland, Mt. Maunganui (Tauranga)
4 October – Afghanistan v Auckland, Mt. Maunganui (Tauranga)
7 October – Afghanistan v Northern Districts, Mt. Maunganui (Tauranga)
9 October – Afghanistan v Northern Districts, Mt. Maunganui (Tauranga)
Schedule of releases:
27 September - Ireland, Scotland commence tours down under
13 October – Scotland returns to New Zealand as ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 preparations intensify
24 October – Coaches look forward to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015