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02 February 201517:11

Afghanistan ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Tournament Preview & Guide

Afghanistan will make its first appearance at the ICC Cricket World Cup in the 2015 edition after its inspiring rise through the ranks

Afghanistan ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Tournament Preview & Guide - Cricket News
Afghanistan's road to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 has been an inspiring one and one of the most remarkable in the world of sport. A part of Division Five of the International Cricket Council's World Cricket League until 2008, it secured promotions and came up to Division Two in 2013. In October that year, Afghanistan beat Kenya to finish second in the WCL Championship, a performance that ensured it would take part in the showpiece event in 2015.

Afghanistan spent a considerable amount of time in Australia and New Zealand as part of the ICC High Performance Programme Tour to prepare for the World Cup. The tour turned out to be a mixed one, but four wins in eight games should stand it in good stead at the main tournament.

“My wish would be to emulate what Ireland have done in the last couple of World Cups. They have caused shocks by playing positive, entertaining cricket”

Andy Moles - Afghanistan coach
History: This will be Afghanistan's first appearance at the ICC Cricket World Cup.

Pool: Afghanistan is a part of Pool A, which has England, Australia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Afghanistan, and Scotland.

Captain: Mohammad Nabi

Coach: Andy Moles

Preview: Afghanistan has taken part in three editions of the ICC World Twenty20, but the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 will be its first time in a 50-over event of such stature. With the challenges and requirements in the format different from that in T20s, particularly in conditions that are quite unlike what they would be used to, it will be interesting to see how Afghanistan does.

The team has a fine balance of youth and experience. Afghanistan's opening match is against Bangladesh, which it beat when the two sides met in the Asia Cup in 2013-14, Afghanistan's first win against a Test-playing nation in an ODI. Though it lost its last encounter against Scotland, Afghanistan’s record against it has been good in recent times. Since 2013, the two have met four times, with Afghanistan winning three contests. These two matches should provide it with its best shot at victory, though the better-known teams can’t afford to take Afghanistan lightly either.

Strengths: The abundance of youth in the team should certainly help in meeting the physical demands of ODI cricket. Batting should be the strength, with Nawroz Mangal having had good success at the top, while the experience of Asghar Stanikzai, Samiullah Shenwari and Mohammad Nabi will lend solidity to the middle order.

In Nabi, who has led the side since 2013, Afghanistan will have an experienced leader to look up to and one of the leading all-rounders from across the world of limited overs cricket. On the bowling front, Hamid Hassan's pace should make him a dangerous customer on the pitches in Australia and New Zealand, he’ll be ably supported by the equally speedy Dawlat Zadran and the tall left-arm seamer Shapoor Zadran.

Recent Form: Afghanistan had a remarkable campaign in the Asian Cricket Council Premier League in Malaysia where it won four out of the five matches it played on its way to the title. A four-match ODI series in Zimbabwe that ended in a stalemate followed, but crucially they improved in every match they played against Full Member nation and came back from 2 nil down in the series to tie things 2-2.

Afghanistan's next campaign in the most important tour in the context of the World Cup – the ICC High Performance Programme Tour of Australia and New Zealand – was a mixed one, where it ended with four wins – two against Australian Capital Territory, and one each against Auckland and Northern Districts. After that, Afghanistan spent a couple of months in the United Arab Emirates. While it conceded the four-match bilateral series against UAE 3-1, it picked up wins against Scotland and Ireland in the recently concluded triangular series in the same country.

Star Player: Dawlat Zadran

Dawlat Zadran has been Afghanistan's most reliable and consistent performer with the ball. With 17 scalps in 13 games at 36.76 in 2014, Dawlat was Afghanistan's highest wicket-taker for the year.

He was one of the stars of Afghanistan's successful ACC Premier League campaign where he ended with nine wickets from four games, two of which were ODIs and two List A games.

More importantly, the Associates and Affiliates Tour of Australia and New Zealand fetched him decent returns as well. Dawlat finished with 10 wickets at 26.50 from six games to end as Afghanistan's second highest wicket-taker, behind Yamin Ahmadzai, and fifth in the overall charts.

One to Watch: Usman Ghani

It was only in May 2014 that Usman Ghani was handed Afghanistan’s ODI cap No. 31 during the ACC Premier League 2014. The 18-year old batsman has already shown great promise in his 12-ODI career, twelve innings fetching him 396 runs at 33 and a healthy strike rate of 82.15, with a century and two fifties.

His debut series turned out to be a dream one as he ended the tournament as the highest run-scorer, with 228 runs at 45.60. Two months later, he scored his maiden century, against Zimbabwe, when he made 118 in Bulawayo, becoming one of only two centurions for Afghanistan in 2014. If Ghani lives up to his promise, he should make for a solid opening combination with Mangal and could be one of the rising stars of the tournament.

Key Facts

- Nabi is No. 8 in the world among ODI all-rounders in the ICC rankings

- Shapoor Zadran's inspiration is Shoaib Akhtar

-Mangal captained Afghanistan in its first ODI, against Denmark in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifiers 2009

- Hamid Hassan was the first Afghanistan cricketer to play at Lord's

Key Match: Afghanistan v Scotland, February 26, University Oval, Dunedin

Afghanistan has done well in recent encounters against Scotland and will fancy its chances against it. This is the first ICC Cricket World Cup appearance for Afghanistan and this encounter seems the most likely to produce a maiden win for Afghanistan in World Cups.


“We have been in constant war for the past 30 years and so something like playing in a World Cup is big for us. Ours is a cricket crazy nation and we have a huge following. Our fans are not just in Afghanistan but are spread over America, Europe and Asia because of what we have achieved in short time. We will be the underdogs of our group. But the positive sign is we will have a good backing in Australia and New Zealand. Fortunately, we have beaten Bangladesh in the Asia Cup last year which obviously has given us the confidence. We have played Australia, so know a little about their strengths and weaknesses.” – Bashir Stanikzai, High Performance Manager, Afghanistan

“We have a chance, if we play to our potential, to qualify for the quarter-finals. This is a game that can bring Afghanistan together and be a very good tool for peace and stability.” Mohammad Nabi, Afghanistan captain

“We will rock the World Cup, all the boys are in confidence. We will show to the world that we are cricketers, and we are the people of peace, and we are the people of sports.” Nasimullah Danish, Afghanistan Cricket Board chairman

“If we (look) back 10 years we had nothing. We are thinking this is like a dream and we feel so proud. We have waited 10 years for this moment. I dreamed of playing on the biggest stage and now the time has come to do our best in the tournament.” Hamid Hassan, Afghanistan pacer

World Cup Legend’s Prediction:

Scott Styris Prediction – Afghanistan: Group Stage

“Afghanistan are the big movers of the world game. A fanatical following at home their improvement over the last five years has been impressive. They still don't have the class to progress any further. Still, that's not the point. Performing well against the test playing nations and beating their fellow minnows will be the target. Former NZ coach Andy Moles I’m sure will have them ready to go.”


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


Feb 18: v Bangladesh, Manuka Oval, Canberra

Feb 22: v Sri Lanka, University Oval, Dunedin

Feb 26: v Scotland, University Oval, Dunedin

Mar 4: v Australia, Western Australia Cricket Association, Perth

Mar 8: v New Zealand, McLean Park, Napier

Mar 13: v England, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney