ICC World Cup: Hashmatullah’s Afghanistan start favourites against Sri Lanka | Cricket News

PUNE: Afghanistan skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi doesn’t believe in celebrating too early. Not that he lacks confidence. He just doesn’t want to lose the focus that his team has developed in their quest of making it to the top-four.
Placed seventh with four points in the 10-team points table, a win against Sri Lanka, their opponent on Monday, can place them two rungs up the ladder.
When they take the field against the 1996 World Cup winners, it won’t be a surprise if you label them as favourites. Winning big matches against teams like England and Pakistan has given Hashmat the belief that this World Cup can be a ‘historic’ one for the Afghans.

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“I think at the beginning of the tournament I said that this World Cup will be historic for us, and I said that because I had belief. If there was no belief, I would’ve never said that. I knew that we would do well in this World Cup because we have played a lot of good cricket in the recent past. So that gives us confidence,” Hashmatullah, 28, told TOI on the eve of Afghanistan’s match against Sri Lanka at the MCA Stadium in Gahunje.
“We will try our best to take that momentum with us and we will try to go to the semifinal.”
Afghan’s belief got solid validation by former Sri Lankan spin legend, Muttiah Muralitharan. “You can’t call Afghanistan a small team. With their talent, they can win the World Cup,” the 1996 World Cup winner and ICC’s ambassador said during an interaction on Sunday.

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“I think they have one of the best bowling attacks in this tournament. They have four unbelievable spinners who are all different. And the fast bowlers are not bad either. They are as skilled as the others and they are playing attacking cricket, the way we played in 1996. They have won a few matches and if they can pull off a few more victories, they will be in the next round,” Murali stressed.
Afghanistan’s four points from five matches have come from beating England and Pakistan. The skipper believes other than the players’ hard work, the contribution of their coaching staff should also be acknowledged.
Afghanistan have an experienced coaching staff that is headed by former England cricketer Jonathan Trott. Their thinktank also includes former India player Ajay Jadeja as their assistant coach, along with former Afghanistan players Raees Ahmadzai (batting coach), Hamid Hassan (bowling coach) and Mirza Safi (fielding coach).
“If you have a good supporting staff, positive supporting staff, it is always a big help. That is again one of the positives that we have as a team. Along with the experts from other countries, we also have good coaches from our country,” the left-handed batter said.

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While they have two big wins to brag, the skipper feels it won’t be enough to take the ‘minnows’ tag away from them.
“I hope so (the minnows tag gets off). But let’s first give our hundred percent and make these wins and performance consistent for our team. It shouldn’t be about winning one game and then performing badly in the other games. The world will trust us only when we play good cricket consistently. And when we have good wins, like we did, consistently, people will not call us underdogs or minnows.”
He believes playing more Test matches against stronger teams will help them grow.

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