Mumbai: Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi insisted his side still had plenty of “fight” left in them ahead of a crunch World Cup clash with Australia in Mumbai on Tuesday.
Afghanistan are currently sixth in the standings of the 10-team event and still in semi-final contention.
Having enjoyed just one win at their two previous World Cups, Afghanistan have defeated defending champions England, as well as Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the 1992 and 1996 title-winners, during a run of four victories in seven group games so far in India.
Few will give Afghanistan a chance against resurgent five-time champions Australia when the teams meet at the Wankhede Stadium.
But with Afghanistan pacemen and top-order batsmen, all coming into form, together with their proven spin trio of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi, the captain insisted there was more to come from the team.
“We are a brave nation and we’ve shown that through cricket also,” Shahidi said on Monday.
“In such a short time, we’ve achieved a lot compared to other countries. And right now, we know the whole world is talking about our team’s performance.
“As a team also, we are happy for that. But I think as a captain, it’s not enough for me.”
The 29-year-old added: “Tomorrow is one of the important games for us. And we will not relax until we are on the plane back to our country.
“Until then, we will fight as a team.”
Top-order batsman Shahidi, in fine form at the tournament with 282 runs in seven innings at an average of 70.50, was clear what lay behind Afghanistan’s impressive World Cup showing.
“Belief, hard work, and talent,” he said.
“At the beginning we had the belief, but for that we have to win. So, when we won against England, the belief rate became higher, higher then after Pakistan. And we are now not looking back. We are moving forward.”
Shahidi paid tribute to Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott, the former England batsman, for wanting the squad to be “more disciplined ... on the field, off the field.”
Afghanistan’s recent performances have not only been appreciated at home but by an Indian public whose own unbeaten side are already into the semi-finals.
“People back home like the way we are playing here right now, they are all feeling proud, and they are very happy for our achievements,” said Shahidi.
“And the Indian people have given us a lot of support throughout the tournament.
“One taxi driver, who took me on rides, didn’t take money from me. And that’s how people give us love here in India. So we are thankful for that.”
Monday’s net session at the Wankhede was made even more special for Afghanistan by a meeting with Sachin Tendulkar on the retired India batting great’s home ground.
“It’s the first time (we’ve met him),” said Shahidi. “And we are all are excited because he’s a legend of the game.
“We were watching him on TV when he was a successful player — he was a role model for a lot of our players. So it’s exciting for the team, to see him and maybe learn from him.”