Perth: Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi has insisted his side are "not scared" of Australia heading into Wednesday's World Cup clash in Perth.
"We are not scared of them, but we respect them because they have good attacking bowlers and qood quality batsmen and fielders as well," Nabi told reporters at the WACA ground on Tuesday.
Mohammad Nabi. Pic/ AFP
Afghanistan have provided one of the most compelling stories of this World Cup, with their thrilling one-wicket win over Scotland in Dunedin last time out one of the highlights of the competition so far. But the pace and bounce of the WACA pitch has troubled far more experienced overseas batsmen than are in the Afghanistan line-up and Australia have the fast bowlers to make the most of the conditions.
International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson warned last week that the four non-Test or Associate countries taking part in the tournament had yet to face their toughest assignments at the World Cup. They don't come much harder than playing Australia in Perth but Nabi was heartened by the way his side had improved since their lone previous one-day international meeting.
Three years ago, Australia beat Afghanistan by 66 runs in Sharjah, a match where Nabi made 46 before being bowled by left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson. "We played against Australia in Sharjah. They scored 272 and we scored 206," said Nabi. "It was a quite good experience against them. Our team now is better from that time."
Amid much debate about the ICC's plans to reduce the number of teams taking part at the 2019 World Cup in England to 10, Australia captain Michael Clarke insisted teams such as Afghanistan were worth their place. And Nabi said his side were no longer star-struck when they came up against the world's best players. "When you're first playing with the big teams and also with the big names, we got really excited," he said.
"Now we're used to with them." Afghanistan assistant coach Peter Anderson said Wednesday's match gave the tournament newcomers a chance to showcase their talent. "We've come off a win against Scotland, so that's given the boys a lot of confidence," said Anderson. "We know we're up against one of the best teams in the world and certainly arguably the best pace attack," added Anderson, who played Australian first-class cricket as a wicketkeeper for Queensland and South Australia.
"It's a shot for us, it's an opportunity for us to show the cricketing public of the world what talent we have in Afghanistan, and I know the boys will do themselves very proud."
Afghanistan's task is made all the harder by the fact Australia have still to secure a quarter-final place and come into this match on the back of a dramatic one-wicket Pool A defeat by fellow tournament co-hosts New Zealand in Auckland last weekend. "They'll be up to redeem themselves from the New Zealand situation," said Anderson. "Our goal is to get out there and bat 50 overs and make it very competitive. You never know."