Australia (BBN)-The first time Afghanistan Captain Mohammad Nabi picked up a cricket bat, he was a 10-year-old living in a refugee camp in Pakistan.
So, when he says the pressure will fall completely on opponents Bangladesh when he leads his country in their first-ever Cricket World Cup fixture at Canberra’s Manuka Oval on Wednesday, you tend to believe him, reports the West Australian.
But behind 29-year-old Nabi’s story is an overwhelming sense of pride- not just from him but from his entire nation.
When Afghanistan qualified for the World Cup by beating Kenya by seven wickets back in 2013, public celebrations kicked off across the country.
At the time, Nabi described the win as “a gift to a young generation”.
It was a gift his own generation had been cruelly denied.
His parents fled Afghanistan during the war with the Soviet Union and he was born and raised in a refugee camp in Peshawar.
Several of his teammates have had similar upbringings.
“In the refugee camp it was a tough life,” the off-spinning all-rounder said.
“We played cricket a lot in the refugee camp. And now that I’m the captain of the Afghanistan side in our first World Cup, I’m very happy.”
Afghanistan’s coach- Englishman Andy Moles- says his players see cricket as the nation’s unifying sport.
“The players know that through good performances there will be a massive uplift in the general well-being of the country.”
That said, both Nabi and Moles say they don’t feel pressure for the team to win.
The fact the war-torn country overcame decades of conflict to make it to the World Cup is a huge achievement in itself.
“The pressure is not on Afghanistan. The pressure is totally on Bangladesh,” Nabi said.
“We respect Bangladesh, because they are a Test-playing nation.”
Said Moles: “Bangladesh have played in four World Cups, so they really are favourites.”
Bangladesh might be clear favourites, but when the two nations met for the first and only time at the 2014 Asia Cup, Afghanistan mustered up a shock 32-run win.
Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza was quick to downplay the effect that result would have on his team’s pysche at Tuesday’s pre-match press conference.
“Yes, we couldn’t beat them in last year’s Asia Cup, but I don’t think that this will bother us,” the paceman said.
“Hopefully we’ll do our best tomorrow.”