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Andy Moles (Left) has been in charge of coaching Afghanistan since 2014 © Getty Images

Andy Moles has been the coach of the Afghanistan team since September 2014 and is guiding them through the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. As Afghanistan gets ready to face Australia in a big game at the WACA, Perth, Nishad Pai Vaidya caught up with Moles and spoke to him about his team and their spirit.

In a chat with CricketCountry in 2014, the then Afghanistan coach, Kabir Khan said, “The thing is that the generation that is playing with me has been through a lot of troubles and they became tough. Most of them were in refugee camps in Pakistan or other countries. And, you know what life there is in a refugee camp! It is very difficult. You have to fight for food or even water sometimes. All those difficulties have made them very tough.” It is a compelling insight into a group of cricketers, who have charted a path to the highest level in a matter of a few years. If that is not proof of their character, then what is? READ: Australia vs Afghanistan, ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Preview: Spirited Afghanistan take on Australian might

A year down the line, Andy Moles is in charge of the Afghanistan side. He took over from Kabir in late 2014 and has guided them through to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. Afghanistan are gradually raising the bar for themselves and Moles has an important role to play in that regard. The character of his players is undoubtedly his biggest strength. Ahead of the game against Australia, he said, “They have got a wonderful work ethic. They’ve enjoyed the extra work we’ve asked them to do fitness wise, we’ve been working on our skills for longer. Their work ethic is wonderful and we are starting to see the results on the field. From my point of view, it is just another game on Wednesday. We are expecting a tough examination. We are not worried about Australia, we have to do our things well.”  SCORECARD: Australia vs Afghanistan in ICC Cricket World Cup 2015

Afghanistan have been playing the big side fairly regularly since their maiden appearance at the ICC World T20 2010 in the Caribbean. In all those games, they have shown fearlessness and have tried to express themselves. Be it their World T20 game against South Africa in 2010 or the day Mohammad Shahzad reverse-swept one against Pakistan, Afghanistan have been up for the challenge. It is that very trait that will help them take on Australia on home soil. “We are not scared, but we respect everybody. We have got huge respect for Australia, for their quick bowlers and their batsmen. But, we see this as an opportunity to show what we can do against the best. That is nothing to be scared of,” said Moles. Read: Australia vs Afghanistan ICC Cricket World Cup 2015: Hamid Hassan wants to inflict pain on Australia

While victory may be too much to ask, Afghanistan certainly have a huge opportunity in this World Cup game against Australia. Moles recognises the importance of this chance as Afghanistan aim to show their mettle, “All the hard work done back in Kabul or on tour, where each day is like Wednesday — each day is an opportunity to show that they have character, the belief and the will to get involved in battle and come out at the other end. If things don’t go too well, we learn and move on. At this stage, we are looking forward to showing a lot of bravery, character in what we expect to be a tough game.”

As this writer chatted with Moles, in the distance, Shapoor Zadran was speaking to a group of journalists, while Hamid Hassan was returning from another interview. The pace bowling has certainly caught the eye at this World Cup. “We’ve got some penetration in the bowling, which is exceptional for an Associate side. We’ve got a left-armer, then someone who bowls seam and has good control, we have anoher who who swings it away. Not only we have penetration, but have fast bowlers but who do different things with the ball,” Moles explained. The coach also spoke about the support the fast bowlers have, “We’ve got Nabi who bowls off-spin. Mirwais Ashraf has done well but has gone back. He bowled with wonderful control. We’ve got a nice unit and have some youngsters coming through. But, those three bowlers, you quite rightly pointed out as capable of taking wickets and we need to take wickets.” Top 10 batsmen in ICC Cricket World Cup 2015

Afghanistan’s victory against Scotland was a landmark moment for the country. Watching his lads celebrate the big moment, Moles sat back and reflected on all the hard work in training. In this group, he is easily the calming influence with years of experience behind him. Moles said, “It makes all the tough sessions and trainings we’ve had worthwhile when you see the enjoyment and you see the last three wickets score over a 100 when the top seven failed. That is all the hours myself and the other coaches have worked in the nets. Everybody from No 1 to 11 bats in the nets; everybody has a role to play. It was really pleasing to see the benefits and the result was a positive one after all the hard work we put in.” Top 10 batsmen in ICC Cricket World Cup 2015

One must realise that Afghanistan are still learning and making the climb in international cricket. Moles is trying to facilitate that process by bringing in calm and helping his side learn with each passing game. “Myself and the rest of the coaching staff have tried to bring in calm. You have to realise that you have longer time than you think when you are chasing a target like that. We also identified that Majid Haq had overs so we got the message out there to survive the seamers and then when the spinner will come on, that would be the opportunity. Then Sami hit three sixes. He got out trying a fourth one. That in itself is a learning curve about him being calm under pressure. He played a great innings. I am very proud of the boys,” he says. ICC Cricket World Cup 2015: POINTS TABLE

As Afghanistan pack up, you can feel a vibrant and a happy unit. With a few players giving interviews, another shouts from the dressing room — perhaps cracking a joke as others start laughing. They live in hope of bringing glory to their country, where they are stars and symbols of a better tomorrow. The big sides have come here to win the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, but Afghanistan’s mission is a bigger one. They will focus on their job at hand, put in their energy in training and give their best in the game. There are millions watching them at home, for whom these men are heroes!

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)