The Afghanistan cricket team is in high spirits as it approaches this month's latest hurdle in its against-the-odds quest to play at the World Cup in three years’ time.
Afghanistan are preparing to travel to Buenos Aires to compete in World Cricket League division three against hosts Argentina, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, Uganda and the Cayman Islands from Jan. 24.
The top two finishers from the tournament will progress to the World Cup qualifier in South Africa in April, from which top four teams will gain berths alongside cricket's elite at the 2011 World Cup.
"I really feel that we have talent and skill to surprise some teams," says Kabir Khan, the coach. Afghanistan, having to overcome the problems of a homeland wracked by violence and occupied by foreign forces, made it this far by topping the WCL division four tournament in Tanzania last October.
After 40 days in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, the team reassembled in Pakistan late last month to prepare. The PCB has given them use of state-of-the-art facilities at Lahore’s National Cricket Academy and also arranged practice games.
"Physically our players are super fit and have huge talent, but what they are learning fast is how to get mentally strong."
The severe cold weather in Kabul means the team plans to reach Argentina 10 days ahead of its opening game on January 24.