SOUTHAMPTON, England (Reuters) - Afghanistan need regular exposure against the top teams before they can compete at the World Cup, captain Gulbadin Naib said ahead of Saturday’s match against India.
Naib’s men have been the whipping boys of the 10-team tournament and are rooted at the bottom of the points table after five defeats in as many matches.
They could not bat out full 50 overs in their first four matches, a streak they finally ended in their comprehensive defeat by England on Tuesday.
Afghanistan’s spin-heavy attack struggled on pitches that did not offer any turn, their batting looked brittle against genuine pace and their overall inexperience showed in their second World Cup appearance.
“When we play associate teams like Scotland, we’re doing well. But we need to improve our game, so we should play strong teams like India, Australia, South Africa, Pakistan,” Naib said at Hampshire Bowl on Friday.
“We should play a lot of series with the top five ranked teams. If we play with them, we’d improve.
“Of course we’d be losing or struggling initially, but one day Afghanistan will be different. It will be good for us if we play them. It would be a great experience for us.”
The Afghanistan Cricket Board is exploring possibilities of bilateral series against top teams, the 28-year-old said.
“The board is trying to arrange series against them but the schedule of the top eight teams are very tight.
“They don’t have enough time for a series against us but our board is trying to arrange series against Pakistan and India.”
England captain Eoin Morgan led from the front with a blistering 148, which included a record 17 sixes, as the hosts steamrolled Afghanistan by 150 runs in Manchester.
Nabi took heart from their improved batting performance against Morgan’s men.
“If you look at our performance against England, who are a good side and one of the favourites to win the World Cup, we did well.
“I think we batted well in the match. We were focusing on batting 50 overs and put a better total and we played 50 overs.”
They face another title contender on Saturday and Nabi admitted India, unbeaten in the tournament so far, would be a tough test for his team.
“Obviously India is not an easy side, they are one of the bests and ranked higher. We’re just focusing on our cricket. India will come hard at us.”
Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in Southampton; editing by Pritha Sarkar