Burgeoning cricket talent Afghanistan are confident as they prepare for the first step towards the 2011 World Cup, captain Norooz Khan Mangal was quoted as saying Monday.
Afghanistan are one of 12 teams featuring in the division five event of the ICC (International Cricket Council) World Cricket League, which starts in Jersey from May 23.
"A few years ago, any talk of Afghanistan playing in the World Cup would have been laughable. But not any more as we are taking the first step with the qualifying rounds," Mangal is quoted as saying in an ICC press release.
The winners will qualify for the next stage of the qualifying rounds. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh host the World Cup in 2011.
Mangal said Afghanistan's maiden appearance in the league was special.
"The qualifying event will mark the dawn of a new era for Afghan sport and it can show the war-torn country in a fresh light," said the 23-year-old top-order batsman.
"It's still unlikely but far from impossible Afghanistan will reach the 2011 event but the way cricket is taking off, there is perhaps only a matter of time before we see it taking part in a major ICC event.
"Like any other team, we are travelling to Jersey with the objective to win the tournament and take the first step in the right direction. But at the same time, we would like to make more friends and try to learn good cricket."
Afghanistan are one of six teams in Group B, along with the Bahamas, Botswana, Japan, Singapore and hosts Jersey.
Group A is made up of Germany, Mozambique, Nepal, Norway, the USA and Vanuatu.
Afghanistan was admitted as an ICC affiliate member in 2001.
After playing their early cricket in Pakistan with the Asian Cricket Council funding the tours, Afghanistan beat an MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) team, led by former England captain Mike Gatting, by 171 runs in a one-dayer in 2006.
As part of their preparations for the ICC League, Afghanistan played 14 warm-up matches in Peshawar, Pakistan, last month before attending a training camp at the National Cricket Academy in Kabul, which has two turf pitches and a bowling machine.
"The tour to Peshawar was a good one in which we won 13 out of 14 40-overs-a-side matches. In our domestic cricket, we have mostly 20-overs-a-side matches so the tour to Peshawar was a huge learning experience," said Mangal.
The Afghan captain said his team has some special players who can perform against the best, including pacers Hamid Hassan, Dawlat Ahamdzai, Hasti Gul Abed and Ahmad Shah Ahmadi.
Amongst the batsmen, Karim Khan Sedeq and Nabi Eisakhil stand out, he said.
"They like to play aggressively and if they fire in the tournament, we will have an excellent chance to return from Jersey with flying colours."