Only by playing Full Members can we learn how to beat them - Stanikzai
Asghar Stanikzai, the Afghanistan captain, has joined the chorus of Associate voices calling for more opportunities to play against Full Members. Speaking to the media on the eve of his team's World T20 clash with Sri Lanka, Stanikzai said the level of talent in Afghanistan was evident from their remarkable climb up the cricketing ladder over the last decade, and said the gap between Full Members and Associates would only narrow from more regular competiton.
"You can't make big comparisons between Afghanistan and other Associates," Stanikzai said. "Many other Associates have been playing for the last 30 to 40 years, participating in World Cups and other events. But if you see Afghanistan's history at the elite level, we have only been playing for the last 6-7 years.
"In that time we have achieved what other nations couldn't do in 30-40 years. It shows how much talent Afghanistan have to play at the elite level. Definitely we need more games against the Full Members, it can increase our experience in the game."
Pointing to Afghanistan's recent ODI and T20 series wins over Zimbabwe, both home and away, Stanikzai said his side had what it took to beat a Full Member side.
"If we play against other Associate countries, we will get experience from each other, but if you play with a Full Member, like we did against Zimbabwe in ODIs and T20s, you learn how to beat them. We now have that experience. As long as we play more games against Full Members, the distance between Associates and Full Members will reduce."
Looking ahead to the game against Sri Lanka, Stanikzai was confident Afghanistan had the quality to pull off a win.
"We have some game-changers, and we have not qualified for the Super 10s just to participate. We are ready to challenge some big teams."
Looking back to Afghanistan's impressive display against Sri Lanka in the 2015 World Cup, where a century from Mahela Jayawardene prevented a potential upset, Stanikzai said the absence of the now retired Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara raised Afghanistan's hopes.
"We came close against Sri Lanka in the 2015 World Cup but their experienced batsmen, particularly Mahela Jayawardene, played outstandingly to beat us. This time most of their players are new; this time we have a good chance to beat them."