(Afghanistan's cricketers after they qualified for the World Cup. Reuters/Nikhil Monteiro

(Afghanistan's cricketers after they qualified for the World Cup. Reuters/Nikhil Monteiro)

Afghanistan’s cricketers are playing heavyweights India in their opening match in the 20-over World Cup on Saturday, capping an extraordinary journey from refugee camps to the game's top table.

It couldn't be a more unlikely pair walking out to the green in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia than captains Mahendra Singh Dhoni of India and Nowroze Mangal of Afghanistan to toss the coin at the start of the match.

Dhoni is just coming off the Indian Premier League, having made millions of dollars playing cricket's richest tournament and the endorsements that come with it, even though some of the sheen is off because of allegations of corruption clouding the tournament.

Mangal, by contrast, learnt to play cricket in a refugee camp in Pakistan with a ball made out of cloth and shoes for stumps. When his team won an Asian Twenty20 competition in 2008 -- the tournament that marked the start of their journey to the top -- Mangal was given a parcel of land worth $60,000. His team each get a day rate of about $75 when they are on tour, according to the Times.