KABUL – Afghanistan’s cricket team are upbeat about their chances at next month’s World Cup, skipper Gulbadin Naib said on Monday, after the squad spent several weeks training in South Africa.
Naib said conditions in South Africa, with bouncy wickets and good pitches, were similar to what they expect in Britain.
“When I look at my team, we prepared very well the last couple of months,” Naib told AFP at the British embassy in Kabul, ahead of the team’s departure for the Cup.
“The guys have a big morale, everyone is very excited to be participating in the World Cup.”
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.”AFP