Cricket-Afghanistan hope World Cup success can bring joy back home

FILE PHOTO: Cricket - ICC Cricket World Cup - Afghanistan v West Indies - Headingley, Leeds, Britain - July 4, 2019 Afghanistan fans during the match Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

(Reuters) - Afghanistan's Twenty20 World Cup preparation has been far from ideal in the aftermath of the country's Taliban takeover in August but captain Mohammad Nabi hopes his team's performance can bring about some joy back home.

Afghanistan's cricket board also underwent personnel changes and all-rounder Nabi was handed the captaincy after star spinner Rashid Khan stepped down saying he had not been consulted about the squad selection.

Due to visa issues the Afghan team arrived in the United Arab Emirates late and a bit undercooked, having played only three T20 internationals against Zimbabwe since March last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's not that ideal," Nabi told reporters on Sunday, a day ahead of their opening Super 12 match against Scotland in Sharjah.

"There were little issues when we arrived in Dubai ... but these last two warm-up games and practice sessions prepared the team well.

"The fans are really waiting because the only happiness in Afghanistan is cricket. If we do well in the tournament and win games, the fans will be really happy and there will be a lot of smiles on faces."

Afghanistan are in Group Two alongside former champions India and Pakistan as well as New Zealand. The top two sides from the two groups will advance to the semi-finals.

Very few teams take Afghanistan lightly in world cricket, more so in the shorter formats, and their growing stature is reflected in their automatic qualification for the World Cup's Super 12 stage as a top-eight side.

Afghanistan have made a name for themselves as a strong bowling attack and will rely on their spin trio of Nabi, Rashid and Mujeeb Ur Rahman to restrict opponents.

"I will try my best to make my team a unit," said the experienced Nabi. "We play a lot of cricket in UAE and every player knows how the conditions work. Really excited."

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Ed Osmond)

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