Afghan cricketers prep for World Cup
PERTH, Australia (AP) – Afghanistan’s fledging cricket team, featuring a coach from England and a captain born in a refugee camp in Pakistan, begin a three-week playing tour of Australia tomorrow to prepare for their first appearance at next year’s 50-over World Cup tournament.
Ranked 11th in the One-Day International form of the game, the results of matches against teams from Western Australia and Canberra in Australia and Auckland-area teams in New Zealand won’t really matter – the Afghanis are here to experience conditions they’ll face next February and March when the Cricket World Cup is hosted by both countries.
They will play in a tough Pool A that includes four-time champion Australia, New Zealand, England, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Scotland.
The team is coached by Andy Moles, whose brother – an anti-terrorism expert – advised him against taking the job in the war-torn country.
Afghanistan does not host any of their international matches due to ongoing security concerns and have recently played Ireland in Sri Lanka and faced Canada in the United Arab Emirates.
Moles is a former Warwickshire opening batsman who has also coached New Zealand. He initially moved to Kabul as batting coach but took on the head job when Kabir Khan quit several weeks ago.
“It’s going to be frustrating, but if we get it right I think it can be very rewarding, both for players and also for what I want to get out of the job,” Moles told Fairfax Media.
“A lot of people told me I shouldn’t go … You have to be smart about your preparations for the day. I don’t go out at night at this stage, but hopefully after the (presidential) elections get sorted out it will be better.”
The Afghani captain is Mohammad Nabi, who was born in a Peshawar refugee camp and is the side’s star all-rounder.
He’s also optimistic.
“This will be written in the history of Afghanistan, as we are the first-ever sports team in the country to qualify for a World Cup,” Nabi said in an International Cricket Council statement.
“We have the capability to upset one or two teams. This will be the chance for Afghans who are based in Australia or New Zealand to come to the grounds and support their team.”
The tour is part of the ICC’s High Performance Programme for a country that only became an affiliate member of the ICC in 2001. Afghanistan has appeared in three consecutive ICC World Twenty20 tournaments – 2010, 2012, and 2014.
After matches tomorrow and Tuesday against Western Australia sides at the WACA ground in Perth, Afghanistan will play two matches in Canberra. They will conclude their tour in Tauranga, New Zealand, where they will play against Auckland and Northern District.
Afghanistan open their Cricket World Cup campaign on February 18 against Bangladesh in Canberra. Their other matches are against Scotland (Dunedin, New Zealand, February 26), Australia (Perth, March 4), New Zealand (Nelson, New Zealand, March 8) and England (Sydney, March 13).