CANBERRA, Feb 17 (PTI): They are one of international cricket�s most heartwarming stories but players from war-torn Afghanistan would be aiming for emphatic results rather than mere goodwill in their maiden World Cup appearance, which starts with a pool A match against Bangladesh here tomorrow. The Afghans have touched a chord with the cricket fans world over for the emotional enormity of their backstories but when they take the field tomorrow, the focus would be on how much they have improved since qualifying for the big league.
Currently the top-ranked associate nation in the ICC rankings, Afghanistan open the campaign against Bangladesh, hailed as a South Asian fairytale not too long back before a dramatic slide began. In fact, the two teams have already faced off once, last year in an Asia Cup match in March, and it was the sprightly Afghans who came out trumps, shocking their regional big brothers by 32 runs.
That result makes it a banana-skin contest for Bangladesh, a team which has been floundering after starting off its journey with massive upsets a few years ago.
�If we can manage to win those two games we�ve got to win one of the big games to get through to the next round. We are quite capable of pulling off that surprise,� he added. Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and England are the other teams, which Afghanistan have to contend with in Pool A.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, are abundantly more experienced. Skipper Mashrafe Mortaza, with 144 ODIs spanning over 13 years in international cricket, will be the backbone of their batting along with Mushfiqur Rahim and Tamim Iqbal, all of whom have played more than 100 ODIs.
Squads: Bangladesh: Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), Tamim Iqbal, Anamul Haque, Mominul Haque, Shakib Al Hasan (vice-capt), Mahmudullah Riaz, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Nasir Hossain, Taijul Islam, Taskin Ahmed, Al-Amin Hossain, Rubel Hossain, Soumya Sarkar, Sabbir Rahman, Arafat Sunny.
Afghanistan: 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.