In the 100-year history of the International Cricket Council, there can be few Affiliate Members of the organisation that have attracted as much interest as Narooz Mangal's Afghanistan side.

Despite only becoming a member in 2001, after a dramatic rise through the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division structure, winning three consecutive titles in Jersey, Tanzania and Argentina, Afghanistan is one of the compelling stories of world cricket at present.

From Kenya to Kabul and from Jamaica to Jalalabad, there will be much attention on whether the war-torn country can achieve the impossible dream of qualification for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011.

Coached by former Pakistan Test player Kabir Khan, the side has shown increasing maturity as they have been tested against higher ranked opposition and the support provided by the likes of the Pakistan Cricket Board, which has assisted with coaches and facilities, has been instrumental in its rise up the rankings.

The Afghanistan top-order is filled with aggressive stroke-makers, in particular wicket-keeper batsman Karim Khan, while much is expected of talented all-rounder Mohammad Nabi, who is one of two Afghanistan players to have served on the MCC ground staff at Lord's as part of its Young Cricketers' Programme.

Rais Ahmadzai adds a touch of class and finesse to the middle-order and his quality against spin bowling, as well as his temperament under pressure, could prove to be important in this event, while Narooz can always be called upon to play a captain's innings.

'We have worked really hard to get this far,' said Rais. 'We played some good cricket to get through Divisions 5, 4 and 3 and have been working hard in the build-up to this event so I am sure we will be at the 2011 World Cup.

'Most of us have been together for seven or eight years and we have a good understanding together. We have been improving all the time so we are relaxed going into this tournament. We have no pressure on us because no one expects a team that started in Division 5 to do well but we have some good players and I am hopeful we can put the bigger teams under pressure. They will have to work hard to beat us,' he said.

'We are very confident. Our batsmen have the right temperament, we have been working on our running between the wickets and taking good singles. Our bowlers have been working hard to get the ball in the right spot and we are one of the best fielding sides in Asia.

'We are not thinking about the opposition. We could play Ireland or Scotland or even Pakistan and we would not worry. We just want to play positive cricket and we give only 100 per cent at the ground. If we do that then the results will come.

'The people of Afghanistan are behind us. They come up to us on the street and ask us when we will be on the television. Everyone knows about us and wants us to qualify for the World Cup. Interest in cricket is really building in Afghanistan.'

The bowling is probably Afghanistan's strength, with Dawlat Ahmadzai and Hasti Gul forming a potent new-ball pair, although the side's real strength comes from the fast bowling of Hamid Hassan in the late overs of the innings.

The spin attack of Nabi, Samiullah Shenwari and Narooz provides some excellent control in the mid-over innings, which is well backed up some determined and enthusiastic fielding and support.

Critics will argue that a fragile top-order, that has spectacularly self-destructed on a number of occasions in the qualifying structure, will be exposed by the higher quality Associate bowling attacks and that the side lacks the experience to compete at a higher level.

But Afghanistan seems to have developed a winning mentality, shown through its success at the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League and in capturing the ACC Twenty20 title in a tied match against Oman in 2007, so don't be surprised if it continues to cause some upsets at the competition.

Afghanistan (squad): Norooz Mangal (captain), Khaleqdaad Noori, Karim Sadiq, Mohammad Nabi, Hasti Gul, Rais Ahmadzai, Dawlat Ahmadzai, Mohammad Shehzad, Hamid Hassan, Samiullah Shinwari, Riffatullah Momand, Noor Ali, Asghar Stanikzai, Shahpoor Zadran, Shafiqullah Shafaq.