Gulbadin Naib believes Afghanistan are more than capable of upsetting the defending champions Australia in their opening game of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup in Bristol.
The 28-year-old skipper insists his side are out to prove they are not just making up the numbers and can live with the best in the world.
Afghanistan made their first World Cup appearance in 2015 in Australia and New Zealand, where they were comprehensively beaten by the hosts and finished with one win to their name.
But with one of the most fearsome bowling attacks around, Naib is convinced his team can cause Australia problems if the conditions at the Bristol County Ground are in their favour.
“It depends on the game and how the wicket behaves,” he said. “Obviously we have a great spin department but it will depend on the wicket as the Australia team are world class players.
“It’s depends on the day on how our bowlers bowl to them, but I have confidence in my team and in my players for how we’ve prepared over the last year.
“When we came here to participate in the tournament and we have a good team, world-class players, and it’s cricket - we beat Pakistan in the first warm-up game.
“Anything can happen so we’re here and we’ll try and play good cricket against them but obviously we have respect for each team and Australia are a champion team.
“I respect them and we’ll be giving 100 per cent on the ground and I have full confidence in my team, I believe in my team and how we’ve played cricket the last two or three years.”
Afghanistan will take plenty of encouragement from their warm-up victory against Pakistan in Bristol as they target the first upset of the tournament against Aaron Finch’s side.
And while Naib is aware of the task facing his players, he highlighted the improvements Afghanistan have made in every single department since their World Cup debut.
“If you look at our last World Cup how we played in Australia, obviously they were the best side and they played really well there and finished as world champions,” he said.
“We played against Pakistan here in the warm-up game and our team has changed now, so it’s not like in 2015 where we are so now everything has changed.
“In the last couple of years we have improved very well in every department so hopefully it will be a great game against Australia. It’s a big stage, and we’re looking forward to doing our best.”
Another positive for Afghanistan is the return of batsman Mohammad Shahzad, who is fit for selection after being left out of the second warm-up game against England at the Oval.
Formidable spinner Rashid Khan, the best white-ball bowler in the world, is also expected to start but Naib was quick to point out that Afghanistan are more than just one player.
“We have a good spin attack and also we have a good pacer now Hamid Hassan is back, so everyone is just thinking about the bowling attack of Afghanistan,” he said.
“I have full confidence in them but we should also be working the batting line-up, as everyone just thinks about the bowling. If you look at the last game against Pakistan, the pitch favours us.
“That’s why they didn’t score too much against us and if we have this kind of wicket every and each team in the competition will be in trouble.”