Squad was held up in Dubai, waiting on visas to fly to the Caribbean for the tournament that begins on January 14
The Afghanistan Under-19 men’s team is “very, very excited” after being cleared to travel to the Caribbean to participate in the World Cup, which starts on January 14.
However, uncertainty over the visas mounted as the days passed and a scenario of Afghanistan failing to get the paperwork needed to travel to the World Cup was not ruled out until late on Monday, when the UK government granted the necessary transit visas minutes before its consulate closed in Dubai. The Afghanistan group will now take a flight from Dubai early on January 12 morning to Manchester, followed by a connecting flight to the Caribbean.
This will be Afghanistan’s seventh appearance in the Under-19 World Cup. Since first qualifying for it in 2010, they’ve made every subsequent edition. Their best finish came in 2018 in New Zealand, where they made the semi-finals. This is the second Under-19 World Cup for Ahmadzai as head coach – under him, Afghanistan finished seventh in 2020.
Afghanistan are placed in Group C alongside Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea this time around. The top two teams from the pool qualify for the quarter-finals, while the bottom two from each pool will compete in a playoff round. As things stand, Afghanistan are set to open their campaign on January 16 against Zimbabwe in Trinidad. But with both the warm-up matches cancelled due to the travel delay, their biggest challenge now is the absence of any preparation as they had only “3-4 days’ practice” after the Asia Cup.
But what’s more important, according to Ahmedzai, is the fact that Afghanistan will participate in the tournament. “I will say it is good news. We will adjust ourselves there, but participating in the World Cup is something very special for the fans, for the lovers of cricket in Afghanistan, for the country,” he said. “It is something very special in this kind of situation right now back in our country because the whole young generation, they are waiting and they are very excited to see Afghanistan in the World Cup. Cricket is more than a game for us now.
“At the junior level if you representing the country for the first time or participating in the World Cup, it is something very special for the players. That is why they came out of their rooms today and celebrated in a special way [after the visa clearance].”
“They realised if they are more focused and remain positive during the game, they can beat any team in the World Cup,” he said. “That game gave very good morale to our players.”
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo