Afghanistan look to extend World Cup fairytale
CANBERRA - Agence France-Presse
AFP PhotoAfghanistan offer the World Cup a fairytale story if they can upset Bangladesh and launch their debut tournament with a victory at Canberra's Manuka Oval on Wednesday.
The Afghans want to give their war-weary homeland something to cheer and they hold hopes of upsetting Test-playing national Bangladesh after shocking them in the Asia Cup in Dhaka last year.
"For Afghanistan to play the 50-over World Cup is our dream," captain Mohammad Nabi said.
Nabi said that too often the news involving Afghanistan related to conflict.
"If there is positive news like the cricket players of Afghanistan in the World Cup, it totally changes the minds back home and also in the world as well," he said.
"The meaning for the country to play in the 50-over World Cup is a big opportunity for cricket and also for the nation.
"This is a game that can bring Afghanistan together and be a very good tool for peace and stability."
Apart from fellow Associate nation Scotland, Bangladesh is Afghanistan's big opportunity for a win as they also have hosts Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and England to contend with in Pool A.
"The biggest challenge is going to be how the batsmen handle the quicker bowlers. Playing in Australia is going to be quite brutal for some of these guys who aren't used to those conditions," their English coach Andy Moles said.
"I will work hard to get them as much confidence as possible, to play without fear of failure and, if they see an opportunity at any stage in a game, to take it.
"I'd like them to enjoy the challenge that lies ahead of them."
With experienced players like Nowroz Mangal, Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shinwari, Najibullah Zadran, Shapoor Zadran and Hamid Hasan, Afghanistan will hope they can show their talent in the big league.
Afghanistan qualified for the last two World Twenty20 tournaments in 2010 and 2012 but lost all their matches, however this will be their first time in the 50-over tournament.
A loss would be an embarrassment for the Bangladeshis, who must negotiate Afghanistan if they are to make a run for the quarter-finals as one of four teams out of Pool A.
Bangladesh, coached by Sri Lankan Chandika Hathurusingha, will need a dramatic turn in fortunes to ensure another World Cup does not cause more misery.
Bangladesh failed to register wins for most of 2014 until fellow wooden-spooners Zimbabwe came calling at the end of the year and were thrashed 3-0 in Tests and 5-0 in the one-dayers.
Bangladesh have struggled at Test level -- winning just seven of their 88 Tests since their debut in 2000 -- but have always appeared more suited to the shorter format where they have recorded creditable wins.
A five-wicket win over Australia at Cardiff in 2005 was their moment of glory until they knocked India out of the 2007 World Cup to move beyond the first round for the only time in the tournament.
"The kind of squad we have, I am confident we can reach the quarter-finals," skipper Mashrafe Mortaza said.
The focal point of Bangladesh's campaign will be the skilful 27-year-old all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, who has been the team's mainstay ever since his international debut eight years ago.
The left-hand batsman and left-arm spinner goes into his third World Cup as the ICC top-ranked all-rounder in all three formats.
Shakib is the only player in the team who has experienced Australian conditions recently, having turned out for Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash Twenty20 tournament.
Another player to watch is 22-year-old left-arm spinner Taijul Islam, who grabbed eight for 39 against Zimbabwe in Dhaka in only his third Test to record the best Test figures ever by a Bangladeshi bowler.