Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Afghanistan’s cricketers rise to the world stage

April 30, 2010
(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.

Unlike India or Pakistan, Afghanistan doesn’t have a cricketing history. Ten years ago cricket did not officially exist in the country. It was suppressed, like most things, by the Taliban, although the religious rulers later relented on the grounds that the sport had frequent breaks in it for prayers. In 2008, Afghanistan entered the lowest rung of cricket’s international ladder, playing the likes of Japan and Vanuatu. Now they are one of the top 12 nations competing in the T-20 World Cup.

They are not easily cowed down. With no player above the age of 26, they have the fearlessness of youth. As South Africa’s captain Graeme Smith said when told that an Afghan batsman had declared himself unafraid of Dale Steyn, one of the world’s fastest bowlers: “I wouldn’t be either, if I had grown up in a war zone,” according to the New York Times.

Timothy Albone, who is writing a book on the Afghan cricket team to be published in 2011, recalls that the day the team qualified for the World Cup in a play-off in Dubai earlier this year, foreign troops launched another huge military operation in Helmand.

“While the armed push was the big news story across the world, in Afghanistan it was the cricket team that stole the headlines. Finally this nation had some heroes. In a country with so little hope and so few good-news stories, the cricket team are one and their nation is proud of them,” he writes in The Times.

Another military operation is imminent, this time in neighbouring Kandahar province, and one that is meant to decisively turn the tide against them in the nine-year war. The world will be watching the Marines’ advance into the heart of Taliban territory, but for thousands of Afghans the exploits of their cricketers in the far-off Caribbean islands will be a bigger story.

Comments

I am very proud of you guys…
Long live Afghanistan!!!
they say the great pleasure in life is doing what others say you can’t do!

Go Afghans Go!!!

Posted by Adisa Popalzai | Report as abusive
 

i think india shoud be alert from afghanis…

 

Proud of our team. They have proved that we should not be labeled as fighters, as that was never our fight, but the fight on the cricket ground is our fight and we are going to WIN.

Posted by Ghaznavi | Report as abusive
 

Afghan players will be the best in few years. Afghan cricket zindabaad.

Posted by Gangadeen Gaindamal | Report as abusive
 

Rajesh is absolutely correct. In Malaysia, a fatwa was issued against the practice of Yoga a Hindu art. Then why allow cricket a British Game. Can someone please enlighten me.

Posted by seema | Report as abusive
 

And if cricket is religion then Sachin is the undisputed GOD.

Posted by rajesh jogani | Report as abusive
 

We afghans proud on our Cricket team, they played very well against two top team like INDIA & South Africa in twenty20 world cup 2010 and we are sure one day our cricket team will become world’s no one team.

Long live Afghanistan and Afghanistan Cricket!!!

Posted by Massoud | Report as abusive
 

Proud of u guys,

Posted by Faisal Mangal | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •