Afghanistan February 1, 2009

Hamid Hassan - All set for celebrations in Kabul

It is hard to describe how excited I am at Afghanistan reaching the World Cup Qualifiers

Hamid Hassan

It is hard to describe how excited I am at Afghanistan reaching the World Cup Qualifiers. When I think that we came so close to being defeated by Cayman Islands on Friday and getting knocked out, I still can’t believe that the rain saved us from defeat!

Thankfully the performance on Saturday was much better and we finally made some runs in this tournament, before Mohammad Nabi and I shared most of the wickets when we were bowling.

When the game finished we still didn’t know where we had finished in the table and then somebody came over to tell our manager that we were the Division 3 Champions and we just started jumping around in our changing room and singing!

We then travelled to Belgrano, which is the main ground in Argentina, where there were still lots of people waiting to see the presentation despite the fact the game at that ground had finished over one hour earlier. We got a really nice round of applause and then we were presented with the trophy. I had lots of television interviews to do before I could join my team mates in the celebrations!

I am about to fly back to Afghanistan tonight from Buenos Aires Airport, but it is such a long journey we will not get back home until Tuesday. There will be lots of people waiting for us in Kabul and I am very excited about seeing them. When we won Division 4 in Tanzania there were lots of people at the airport so, as we have won Division 3, there will be even more people there, blocking the roads and celebrating by banging drums.

I really enjoy the celebrations as we have such great fans. The people in Afghanistan pray for us and are waiting for the trophy to come home so we can all celebrate together.

After the celebrations in Kabul, I will go home to Peshawar for a couple of days and then head to play first-class cricket in Pakistan. We then will have a training camp in early March, which will hopefully help our preparations ahead of the Qualifiers. We had a camp in Lahore before this tournament, where I was coached by some of the greats of the game, and I hope I will be able to learn a lot more about the physical and mental side of the game.

We are all really excited about the challenge of playing against the best Associate teams. We know that we have to improve on our batting as I think we are capable of doing much better. We have proved in Division 3, 4 and 5 of the World Cricket League that we have a great bowling attack and that is our strength, but we need to start scoring at least 200 runs as it will be harder against the stronger teams. I think our batters have the talent to score at least 250.

It will be amazing playing against some of the top Associate teams that I have watched play on television at previous World Cups, but we will remember if Ireland can beat Pakistan and Kenya can get to the semi-finals of the 2003 World Cup, then we can also cause some surprises. If I have learnt anything from the game against the Cayman Islands, it is that anything can happen in cricket!

I am looking forward to playing against people like Steve Tikolo from Kenya and Jeremy Bray from Ireland and we will be really happy to have the chance to play against such good players.

Finally, I would like to thank everybody who has read my column this week and for all of the messages. All the team used to gather around the computer in the evenings to read all of the comments from fans and all of the messages of encouragement were a real inspiration for us.

I hope you will continue to support us and bring us luck at the World Cup Qualifier as we are all desperate to play ODI cricket and reach 2011.

Will Luke is assistant editor of ESPNcricinfo

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