Afghanistan flagAfghanistan Squad
Current ranking7 (CricketEurope)
Qualification 1st in WCL Division 3, Argentina 2009
Group phase schedule 1 April: Denmark, Isak Steyl Stadium
2 April: Bermuda, Witrand
4 April: Kenya, Stan Friedman Oval
6 April: Netherlands, Absa Puk Oval
8 April: UAE, Absa Puk Oval
Key playersMohammad Nabi, Hamid Hassan
Wise Old HeadNorooz Mangal
Emerging playersAsghar Stanikzai, Samiullah Shenwari
CoachKabir Khan
PreparationPeshawar (Pakistan)

The remarkable story of Afghanistan's rise from Division 5 of the World Cricket League to the World Cup qualifier in just eight months has attracted headlines around the globe, and there is no doubt that the side has improved enormously in that time.

One of their great assets has been their firm belief that they are destined to reach the World Cup itself, but the big question is whether that conviction, and the evident talent of many members of the squad, will be sufficient to compensate for their comparative inexperience when they take on the ‘big boys' of Associates cricket.

Afghanistan team (photo by CricketEurope)Much of Afghanistan's initial success came from the efforts of two players whose performances against the MCC had earned them places on the Young Cricketers programme at Lord's - seam bowler Hamid Hassan and allrounder Mohammad Nabi.

They are still key figures in the attack - in three successive WCL tournaments Hamid has taken 41 wickets at an average of 10.78 and Nabi 35 at an extraordinary 7.77 - but the bowling also relies on seamers Hasti Gul Abed and Dawlat Ahmadzai, and spinner Samiullah Shenwari.

Hard-hitting openers Karim Khan and Shafaqullah Shafaq can be destructive when they come off, but their technical weaknesses may let them down against better bowling; Riffatullah will add solidity, while his left-arm spin will be another important element in an attack which will pose questions for some of the longer-established teams.

Whatever doubts there may about the batting, they were rescued against Uganda by Rais Ahmadzai and Samiullah, both greatly improved batsmen, and in skipper Norooz Mangal (technically and temperamentally the best batsman in the side until now), and Asghar Stanikzai they have players capable of taking on decent attacks.

The Afghans open their campaign against Denmark, and will be keen to secure a win there before moving on to face some of the higher-seeded teams. They remain something of an unknown quantity, and it would be a rash observer who wrote off their chances of at least progressing as far as the Super Eights.