A fairy tale entry

The journey of Afghanistan to the World Cup has a fairy tale touch given the conditions back home in the war-ravaged nation. For a team which was in the ICC World Cricket League Division Five only six years ago, it has done remarkably well to qualify for the big league.

Led by Mohammad Nabi, Afghanistan, in its maiden appearance in the World Cup, will depend a lot on the hard-hitting Javed Ahmadi, Najibullah Zadran and Nasr Jamal.

The young guns like the 21-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman Afsar Zazai and the 18-year-old batsman Usman Ghani are also expected to provide some fireworks. The pace attack will comprise Shapoor Zadran, Dawlat Zadran, Hamid Hassan and Aftab Alam, while Samiullah Shenwari’s leg-spin and captain Nabi’s off-spin are expected to lend variety.

“I don’t want them to go down after ascending, like Kenya,” says former coach Rashid Latif. Kenya reached the semi-final of the 2003 World Cup but later fell away, losing its right to play One-Day Internationals.

Latif seems to be more practical when saying that the real cricket for Afghanistan will begin after the World Cup. Significantly, cricket is seen as the binding force to bring youth towards sport and use it as a means of peace too.

What should help the Afghans is their mental toughness as they have come up the hard way.

THE TEAM

Mohammad Nabi (captain), Afsar Zazai (wicketkeeper), Aftab Alam, Asghar Stanikzai, Dawlat Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Hamid Hassan, Javed Ahmadi, Mirwais Ashraf, Najibullah Zadran, Nasir Jamal, Nawroz Mangal, Samiullah Shenwari, Shapoor Zadran and Usman Ghani.

V. V. Subrahmanyam