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Afghanistan optimistic about upcoming T20 cricket championship
2nd time Afghan national team competes in tournament
By Safiullah Stanikzai
KABUL – The Afghan cricket team is hoping to perform well in the upcoming International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty20 Championship cricket tournament, which will pit 12 teams against each other in Sri Lanka during September-October.
“It’s a point of pride for us that Masha’Allah we have qualified twice in a short time,” Afghan national cricket team captain Nauroz Mangal told Central Asia Online in an interview June 14. Afghanistan played in the tournament two years ago, finishing third in Group C, behind South Africa and India. England won the tournament that year.
“Last time in 2010, … the ICC said that we qualified by chance, but now we have proved that we have the capability to play international events,” Mangal said.
Afghanistan was one of two teams that had to qualify to participate in the tournament. The ICC’s 10 full members gained automatic berths. The 12 teams have been assigned to four groups. Afghanistan’s first two matches will be against fellow Group A teams India (September 19) and England (September 21).
Kabeer Khan, the Afghan national cricket coach, said he is optimistic about the national cricket team’s future.
“Our main focus is on fitness, and after that we are going to work on cricketers’ fielding ability and will try hard to promote this ability to an international standard where it should be,” Khan told Central Asia Online. “We have requested a batting coach; I am working on the bowling side, and Dawlat Zardan is assisting me. But once again our main focus is on the fitness and fielding.”
The cricket team could succeed in the future with the right support, he noted.
“We have won several championship trophies, such as the Intercontinental Cup (in 2010), Asian Cup (in 2010), and South Asian and qualifying cups, which shows the Afghan interest in and ability at playing cricket,” Kabeer told Central Asia Online.
“In our view there is a lot of chance for those who continuously practice cricket and give it complete time,” said Raees Ahmadzai, a former national team captain and current chief selector on the Afghanistan Cricket Board. “Besides, they would be physically fit.”
Those who perform well during domestic games typically enjoy preference for selection to the national team and national Under-19 team, he said.