Karachi:The Afghanistan cricket team, which is presently training in Pakistan, are confident of qualifying for the 2011 World Cup to be jointly co-hosted by India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh despite the lack of proper facilities in their war ravaged country.
The Afghanistan team will play in the ICC World Cricket League Division three tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina from January 24 with five other teams.
The top two teams of Division three tournament will find a place in the 12-team World Cup qualifying event to be held in South Africa in April and the the top four teams from the qualifiers will make it to the 2011 World Cup main round.
"I am confident and so are my players that we can go all the way. Already last year we have surprised many people by winning the ICC World League Division five and four tournaments in New Jersey and Tanzania," Afghanistan team coach Kabir Khan said on Thursday.
Kabir, a former Pakistani Test pacer who has been working with the Afghanistan team since last year, said that for his players the road to the World Cup is more than just an opportunity to cricketing glory.
"Many of them see it as a chance to bring some joy and pride for their countrymen," he said.
Kabir has been coaching Afghanistan under a programme of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC), supported and encouraged by the ICC.
The Afghani players, who have been training at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore, are delighted to have received one-on-one tips from Pakistani greats like Javed Miandad and Aamer Sohail.
"It is a big boost for us to learn from these greats. We are really working hard to try and win the division three competition in Buenos Aires that would be a big thing for us and put us one step close to the World Cup main rounds," all-rounder Hameed Hasan said.
Some of the Afghani players have already played in Pakistan's domestic cricket and Kabir said the Afghanistan cricket body had also asked the PCB to allow its national team to participate in some of the domestic events in Pakistan.
"These players are lucky that Afghanistan and Pakistan share borders. So the players are able to travel to Peshawar or Lahore and train and play here at good centres which are still missing in their country due to the war," Kabir said.
Afghanistan has been hit hard by violence which has escalated since 2005 after the Taliban launched an offensive against the US-led coalition troops fighting insurgency in the country.
"Conditions in our country are not ideal or conducive for sporting activities. So we see this road to the World Cup as a big opportunity to show everyone what Afghani people are capable in other fields," another player said.
ICC Global Development Manager Matthew Kennedy said Afghanistan had shown great improvement since joining the ICC in 2001.
He said the country had developed as a cricketing nation and benefited from the ICC investment through the ACC.
"It has performed extremely well to win the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division five and four, eliminating from the competition strong sides such as Nepal and the USA."