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World Cup 2015 Team Profile: Scotland, Afghanistan hope to be at top of their game

By: Amit Kumar


Last Updated: January 31, 2015, 16:07 IST

World Cup 2015 Team Profile: Scotland, Afghanistan hope to be at top of their game

For World Cup debutant Afghanistan, whose players learnt the game under shadows of Taliban, qualification for the biggest cricket tournament is a victory in itself.

Minnows have, since 1996, been there at every ICC event trying to put their best foot forward on the biggest platforms of all. Without a doubt, for them, it's more getting the first feel of travelling first-class, so next time they know the do's and don'ts of it. But history is filled with pages where big teams taking these minnows lightly have paid a heavy price for it - India's first-round exit after a loss against Bangladesh in the 2007 World Cup being the most upsetting and England's defeat against Ireland in the last edition being the latest.

So, it will be wrong to say that these minnows have been out-and-out duds. Rather the top nations now take matches against them with unchanged seriousness since a loss to lower-rung teams can do irreparable damage to their campaign.

This World Cup won't be any different, with a special mention needed for one team, for whom their cricket journey over the last two years is nothing short of a fairytale.

For World Cup debutant Afghanistan, whose players learnt the game under shadows of Taliban guns hanging over their heads, qualification for the biggest cricket tournament is a victory in itself. Without any cricket structure in place, the team has virtually fought wars before winning battles on the cricket field to earn tickets to Australia and New Zealand.

Afghanistan's national cricket team was formed in 2001 and they went on to play the 2009 World Cup Qualifier, though without making the cut for the 2011 World Cup held in the subcontinent.

Playing the game for over a decade now and with hard-earned ODI status on their back, Afghanistan will go into the tournament with a pack of experienced players who have already played at international level and have also given some impressive performances.

Afghanistan, currently ranked 12th in the ICC ODI rankings, will be led by Mohammad Nabi in their maiden appearance in the 50-over World Cup after getting some valuable international playing time at the ICC World Twenty20 at Bangladesh last year.


Afghanistan face a tough fight to get out of their group, which includes Test powerhouses Australia, Sri Lanka, England and New Zealand. Only the top four in each group go through to the knockout stages. But the side are buoyant after beating Bangladesh in the Asia Cup last year and know the big-name sides will be wary of a possible giant-killing.

On the other hand, Scotland, who for many years have been regarded as one of the premier non-Test nations, will be appearing for the third time in a World Cup. Scotland have made World Cup appearances twice - in 1999 and 2007.

Former England ODI captain Paul Collingwood and New Zealander Grant Bradburn are a part of the coaching staff. They are placed in Pool A alongside England, Australia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Afghanistan.

Here is the SWOT analysis of both the teams:

Strengths: With experienced players like Nowroz Mangal, Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shinwari, Najibullah Zadran, Shapoor Zadran and Hamid Hasan, Afghanistan will hope for a good show in the big league.

"We have a chance, if we play to our potential, to qualify for the quarter-finals. This is a game that can bring Afghanistan together and be a very good tool for peace and stability," Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi told AFP.

Nabi, who took up cricket at the age of 10, is an amazing off-spin allrounder and has game-changing abilities. Nabi was the leading wicket-taker at the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers in 2010 with 13 wickets.

For players like Hamid Hassan, who will be leading the pace attack, the chance to compete in his country's royal blue shirt at famous stadiums such as Sydney Cricket Ground and the Gabba in Brisbane is an achievement in itself.

Scotland will try to learn from their previous experiences in the game's biggest tournament. Though they weren't impressive in the previous editions, their Cup experience can spoil the party for some of the big teams.

Scotland have a balance of youth and experience in their squad, who have vast experience in county cricket and have experience of playing the top sides like Durham and Warwickshire.

Weaknesses: Undoubtedly Afghanistan have a strong batting line-up but it is their bowling which can give them the jitters. Going into their maiden World Cup, the Afghans, have nothing to lose and they would look to give their best.

Meanwhile, Scotland have been struggling with the bat. In their first World Cup appearance, which came in 1999, they were outplayed in the group stage. And in 2007 also, Scotland met the same fate as they were ousted winless from the group stage. The main reason for their flop show was misfiring batsmen, who couldn't live up to the expectations.

Scotland have never scored 200 plus total in a World Cup match. Their highest score is 186 for 8 against South Africa during the 2007 World Cup. They were beaten by the West Indies in just three hours during the 1999 World cup, which is the shortest completed match at a World Cup.

Opportunities: Appearing in their maiden World Cup, Afghanistan, after some impressive international shows, may give tough fight to big teams, while Scotland, led by the experienced Preston Mommsen, will look to improve on their unimpressive past records.

Scotland suffered eight defeats in their previous appearances in the 1999 and 2007 World Cup. They will strive to improve their result and not extend their previous number (8) of defeats to 14. After facing Australia in their opening clash of both the editions, Scotland will up against the other host nation, New Zealand this time in their campaign opener. Scotland Will hope to win their third group match when they will face Afghanistan on February 26, which will be their best to register first win in the World Cups: however, Afhlghsnistan can't be ruled out altogether.

Threats: For teams like Afghanistan and Scotland, minnows to be precise, playing the World Cup is like crossing a river full of crocodiles. Every stroke of swim or every step close to the shore has to be carefully thought about as they will be never far from danger with Test-playing nations expected to roll them over. Expecting too much of themselves also threatenes to ruin their individual performances, which is what they have to guard against. They need to know their limitations and not overdo in search in success. In short, playing to your strengths will, to an extent, minimise their threats.

Star Players:

Mohammad Nabi (Afghanistan): The 29-year-old allrounder has been a key player for Afghanistan. He has played a magnificent role in The team's rapid rise in the game. Nabi, who claimed 11 wickets during the 2009 ICC World Cricket League Division 3, helped Afghanistan progress to the ICC World Cup 2009 Qualifier where they finished fifth. Nabi made his ODI debut against Scotland in April 2009 where he scored 58 runs.

Hamid Hassan (Afghanistan): Afghanistan speedster is one of the key members in the squad for the World Cup 2015. The 27-year-old's ability to swing the ball both ways makes him look more dangerous with the new ball. Hamid is also the only Afghanistan cricketer so far to play at the "mecca of cricket" - the Lord's. He represented MCC against a select Europe XI and ended with figures of 1/23.

Preston Mommsen (Scotland): A born leader, Mommsen was given the charge of Scotland after Kyle Coetzer's injury during the World Cup Qualifiers in New Zealand in 2014 and he didn't disappoint. Taking up the challenge, Mommsen, who has scored 732 runs in his 30-ODI career so far, was named the ICC Associate and Affiliate Cricketer of the Year.


Scotland: Preston Mommsen (captain), Matt Machan, Kyle Coetzer (vice-capt), Calum MacLeod, Richie Berrington, Matthew Cross (wk), Josh Davey, Alasdair Evans, Safyaan Sharif, Hamish Gardiner, Rob Taylor, Majid Haq, Michael Leask, Iain Wardlaw, Freddie Coleman.

Afghanistan: Mohammad Nabi (capt), Afsar Zazai (wk), Aftab Alam, Asghar Stanikzai, Dawlat Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Hamid Hassan, Javed Ahmadi, Mirwais Ashraf, Najibullah Zadran, Nasir Jamal, Nawroz Mangal, Samiullah Shenwari, Shapoor Zadran, Usman Ghani, Hashmatullah Shaidi, Izatullah Dawlatzai, Shafiqullah, Sharafuddin Ashraf

first published:January 31, 2015, 16:07 IST
last updated:January 31, 2015, 16:07 IST