After reaching the final of the World T20 Qualifier three times in a row, from 2010-2013, Afghanistan received a wake-up call at last year's event in Ireland. They finished third in Group B after a loss to Oman, then suffered their first ever loss to Hong Kong in a qualifying playoff. Given a second chance to secure a berth in India, they blew away Papua New Guinea, then beat Oman in a rematch to finish fifth.
Middle-order batsman Asghar Stanikzai took over as captain after Mohammad Nabi resigned following the 2015 World Cup. Stanikzai's overall record is respectable for Afghanistan, but he is only just starting to climb his way out of a form slump. Before making 49 and 34 in wins over Hong Kong and Oman, Stanikzai had made single-digit scores in seven of his previous eight limited-overs innings. His T20I record against Scotland and Hong Kong is solid, though, with 206 runs at 34.33 in six innings.
17-2 Afghanistan's T20 record against their three opponents in qualifying Group B. They are 8-2 against Hong Kong and are undefeated against both Zimbabwe (4-0) and Scotland (5-0). All eight successful chases have been by a minimum five-wicket margin, while the average victory margin in nine wins batting first has been 42 runs.
Shortly after his 2011 international debut, Dawlat had a stirring breakout performance, when he topped the wickets list with 17 in seven games at the 2012 World T20 Qualifier in the UAE. He has been Afghanistan's most consistent pace bowler in T20 cricket, with 62 wickets in 41 matches. He enters the tournament in solid form, having taken ten wickets in four T20Is against Zimbabwe and another three in the Asia Cup.
The pudgy wicketkeeper is far and away Afghanistan's most potent weapon with the bat. His 1671 T20 runs at 29.83 are the most for Afghanistan, almost double the aggregate of the next closest player, Mohammad Nabi. His record in World T20s is poor, with 101 runs at 14.42, two-thirds of which came in Afghanistan's only World T20 win, over Hong Kong. He has shown signs of correcting that, though, with an Afghanistan record 118 not out in a win over Zimbabwe on January 10.
The 17-year-old legspinner is Afghanistan's youngest player at the tournament, but the team management has shown tremendous confidence in him since he made his debut against Zimbabwe late last year. Coming off a team best ten wickets at the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh, he claimed five wickets in three games during the Asia Cup and has emerged as a key threat in helpful conditions.
"The two series wins [v Zimbabwe] were quite good. The morale of the team is very good. Afghanistan have already achieved a lot of things in cricket in the short term. If we qualify for the second round, it will be a big achievement to get more chances to play against Full Members.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna