A confident Afghanistan hopes to beat Sri Lanka and make a serious showing at the Cricket World Cup, its skipper has said ahead of the deciding game of the three-match ODI series.
“It will mean a lot to us to come here to Sri Lanka and beat them in their own backyard,” Hashmatullah Shahidi told reporters Monday, on the eve of the final one-day international at Hambantota with the series squared 1-1.
Afghanistan earned automatic qualification for the sport’s showpiece later this year in India, ahead of more fancied teams like Sri Lanka and West Indies, who are former world champions.
Hashmatullah said conditions at World Cup hosts India “will suit our spin bowlers”.
The ICC ODI Rankings for bowlers is dominated by Afghans, with three of their spinners featured — Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi — a higher number than any other country.
“Our ratings are improving day by day and match by match,” Shahidi said. “We believe that we can do something special in this World Cup.”
The Afghan attack also has chinaman bowler in Noor Ahmad, who doesn’t feature in the top 10.
“Before the World Cup of course we have the Asia Cup, and we are confident of doing well in that event as well,” Shahidi added.
The Afghans are high in demand in the IPL, giving many of their players valuable experience of playing in India.
Bowling is not Afghanistan’s only strength, as they have both big hitters and technically sound batsmen in the line-up.
Opening batter Ibrahim Zadran has had a sensational start to his international career, having scored three hundreds and two half-centuries in just ten ODIs.
“He is one of the brightest prospects around,” Shahidi said. “I always felt that he had it in him to make it big at the international level.”
Afghanistan hopes that Rashid could make a comeback on Tuesday, having missed the first two ODIs due to a back injury.
“He is obviously our star performer,” Shahidi said. “We didn’t want to take any risks with him, as we have the Asia Cup and the World Cup. We will assess his situation during training and make a call on whether he is ready to feature in the final game.”