Stanikzai plays through the pain to guide Afghanistan to glory
Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai was left feeling pride and pain in equal measure after guiding his side to the World Cup courtesy of Friday's five-wicket win over Ireland.
The Blue Tigers' skipper was forced to miss the opening stages of the Qualifier due to undergoing surgery to remove his appendix late last month.
Originally touted as favourites alongside West Indies to grab one of the two qualification berths, Afghanistan made a poor start in the group stage and won only once in four matches, against Nepal.
That meant they carried no points through to the Super Six stage and were required to win all three games to have a chance of reaching next year's finals in England and Wales.
Afghanistan kept their hopes alive by beating the Windies and United Arab Emirates, and Stanikzai was there at the end in the crunch clash against Ireland in Harare, scoring an unbeaten 39 despite struggling badly with the after-effects of his operation.
"I'm not feeling well, I'm still feeling pain inside, especially when I was going for big shots," Stanikzai told the media, via an interpreter.
"But we have to sacrifice and fight for our country and that's what we did.
"When the country needs me I will be there, I forget about the pain and I'm proud to add my contribution.
"It was a dream of every player to qualify and it's come true. The guys are very happy and they deserve it for the way they played. I can't express how happy they will be back home.
"We didn't even have a 10 per cent chance to qualify but the support from back home...it was not just a dream of our guys, but of Afghanistan as well. We want to dedicate this to all the people back home who supported us."