Pune: Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi has insisted his side’s World Cup wins have been the product of sustained effort, however much they have surprised the rest of the global cricket community.
Shahidi’s men have produced two of the standout displays of the 10-team tournament in India, thrashing reigning champions England by 69 runs and defeating 1992 title-winners Pakistan by eight wickets last time out in Chennai.
Now, following a week’s break, they will go in search of a third win over a World Cup champion when they take on 1996 winners Sri Lanka in Pune on Monday.
Afghanistan’s defeats of England and Pakistan have, unsurprisingly, been labelled “upsets” and “shocks”.
Not out of the blue
But Shahidi said they had not come out of the blue for an Afghanistan side coached by former England batsman Jonathan Trott.
“This team, it’s not started from the World Cup,” he told a pre-match press conference in Pune on Sunday.
“We were working on this team for the last two years and we had series against teams like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh consistently.”
The 28-year-old batsman added: “We were playing a lot of domestic 50 overs cricket and we stick with our plan; we stick with the same team. When we were not doing good, we still had a belief in this team and these players. We gave them a lot of chances.
'Believed in team'
“In our good times and in our bad times, we believed in this team. That’s the reason I think we are playing good cricket in the World Cup.”
Shahidi helped see Afghanistan home against Pakistan with an unbeaten 48, with Rahmat Shah 77 not out after openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz (65) and Ibrahim Zadran (87) had shared a century opening stand.
“I was struggling in some of the games against Bangladesh and England,” said Shahidi.
“But I talked with the coach Jonathan (Trott) about my batting and he gave me good ideas.
“I can’t share it here, but the one or two words that he told me helped a lot.”
Sri Lanka, who’ve also won two of their opening five games, come into Monday’s match on the back of thrashing England by eight wickets.
They are familiar opponents for Afghanistan, with several players having appeared in the Lankan Premier League.
“Keep that LPL aside, we’ve also played a lot of ODIs (one-day internationals) against each other,” said Shahidi.
“We all know about them and they know all about us.”