Colombo: The last time he played against India, Karim Sadiq was so overwhelmed he couldn't sleep for two nights leading up to the game. The Afghanistan opener is referring to the 2010 World Twenty20 match in the West Indies. Memories of that game have been revived as Sadiq's team again open their campaign against India on Wednesday.
"It was the first time Afghanistan were playing in the World Cup and that too against the star-studded India team; it was a dream I had lived from my childhood. I didn't sleep for two nights and three days because of happiness," recounts Sadiq.
While it was just another game for MS Dhoni and Co, a fixture to tune up for bigger battles ahead, Sadiq trudged into the playing arena, feeling like a zombie. An early morning start didn't help things for the anxious opener. "I hadn't slept a wink as the thought of the game kept playing in my head. In fact, I cried in the morning as I knew I was not in a condition to do well, and prayed to God to give me strength. In fact, to keep going, I had four cans of energy drink," says Sadiq.
"I went through the match feeling very lethargic, and got out for a duck. For me, the score didn't matter, it was about the occasion. With the game done, the nerves automatically calmed down, and I slept for 16 hours straight! "That was our first match against a top cricket nation and it was the first game which was being televised live in Afghanistan."
The star-struck Afghans proved easy meat for the Indians, but this time, Sadiq promises, it would be a different ball game. The 28-year-old, the senior most player in the team, is keen to prove a point in this re-match. Apart from looking for an upset, he is keen to impress his hero, Virender Sehwag.
"In Afghanistan, mujhe Sehwag ke naam se jaante hai (People know me as Sehwag in Afghanistan)," he says. "In West Indies, everyone took the opportunity to meet their favourite India cricketers. I missed meeting my hero because Sehwag did not play in the tournament."
As luck would have it, just then Sehwag walked into the hotel lobby, and Sadiq immediately walked up to his idol. Later, Sadiq revealed, "I told him 'I have modelled my batting on yours', and he said: 'So, you are doosra Sehwag'. I told him 'you will get the proof in Wednesday's match. Then you tell me whether I play like you or not'."
Afghanistan, Sadiq says, have come a long way from the starry-eyed team of 2010. They have played a lot of international matches, including many that were telecast live on TV, and that has helped them develop into a more professional unit.
Expectations have gone up too: "Afghanistan's total population is 30 million and 29 million are waiting for this match and praying for our success. People understand the game better now and so the expectations are high. We don't want to leave empty-handed this time."
"We have a lot of confidence that we are in with a chance to qualify for the Super Eights by beating either India or England (the third team in Group A)."
"Our country has been ravaged by war for 30 years. We want to do our bit to give people a reason to smile."
The cricket team apparently has even won over the Taliban. "We play for the name of the country and Taliban supports anyone who does that."
What if he's once again struck by bouts of anxiety? Sadiq laughs. "That match was at 9.30 am. This time it is a day-night game. Even if I suffer a sleepless night, I will have enough time to catch up."
His big ambition? "We want to do well here and catch the eye of IPL teams."