Afghanistan’s cricketers have lengthy been heralded as a beacon of hope for a nation torn aside by battle however they’ve earned the proper to be taken extra significantly than a mere human curiosity story at their second World Cup.
Having received final 12 months’s World Cup Qualifier match by beating West Indies within the ultimate, the Afghans will arrive in England trying to make the transition from plucky underdogs to knockout spherical contenders.
Will probably be a troublesome job, not least as a result of they’ve little or no expertise of the situations within the host nation, however there isn’t a doubt there may be loads of expertise of their squad.
Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi are a spin-bowling unit the equal of any on the earth and the latter is a real all-rounder with the second most runs for an Afghan in one-dayers.
Rahmat Shah, Mohammad Shahzad and Asghar Afghan are their batting mainstays however in Hazratullah Zazai and Hashmatullah Shahidi they’ve promising younger abilities who may present some fireworks.
Whether or not that expertise, below new management since final month, can cohere right into a unit able to taking up the extra established nations within the recreation and attain their aim of a semi-final spot stays to be seen.
Their first fixture in opposition to defending champions Australia in Bristol on June 1 must be an affordable gauge of the progress they’ve made over the past 4 years.
In 2015, their World Cup debut, Afghanistan gave Sri Lanka a shock by dismissing each openers for a golden duck and recorded their maiden win in opposition to Scotland earlier than being introduced right down to earth with an enormous bump by co-hosts Australia.
David Warner scored 178 on the WACA because the Aussies racked up the most important whole in match historical past, 417 for six, for the most important profitable margin in World Cup historical past, 275 runs.
That just about sealed Afghanistan’s exit however they’ve since overwhelmed Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, performed out an exhilarating tie with a weakened India group and final 12 months turned the 12th take a look at enjoying nation.
Former West Indies all-rounder Phil Simmons will information them by means of this 12 months’s match, having coached Eire to wins over Pakistan, Bangladesh, England, West Indies and Zimbabwe at three World Cups.
The Trinidadian is not any stranger to board interference, having additionally beforehand coached Zimbabwe and West Indies in troubled occasions, however he’s unlikely to have welcomed the shock captaincy change effected final month.
Gulbadin Naib changed Asghar Afghan as skipper in a transfer that originally prompted some public consternation from senior gamers.
“I simply must get on with (making) positive the squad is making ready in the identical manner I needed them to organize barring the change,” Simmons instructed the Cricinfo web site.
“I’m attempting to ensure the captaincy change doesn’t have an effect on our World Cup preparation.”