Shamik Das

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Look out for the Afghans!


THOUGH they failed to produce any shocks at the World Twenty20 last month - beaten comprehensively by India and South Africa - and missed out on the 2011 World Cup, Afghanistan looks set to be the next cricketing nation to emerge.

In last year’s qualifying tournament, they finished a creditable sixth, narrowly losing out to Canada, Kenya, Holland and winners Ireland - a performance good enough for them to be granted full one day international status.

The war-torn nation, which is painfully, slowly, but surely on the road to normalisation, thanks in part to British troops and our former prime minister Tony Blair, is using sport as a means to heal. Where Iraq, the other nation recently liberated by western troops, had football - reaching the semi-finals of the 2004 Olympic Games, beating Portugal en route - so Afghanistan has cricket.

And the reason for my random highlighting of this fact? A net session at Regent’s today, five hours’ worth, for the final part of which we were joined by a 17-year-old Afghan (that’s 17 by Asian date-counting standards!) and boy could this boy play!

As Peter Roebuck explained so eloquently in a recent Cricinfo article titled ‘Cricket in the world’:

“Our sport must embrace the environment it belongs to, engage with it, and move with the times. Cricket’s primary task over the last 30 or so years has been to move beyond its historic and geographic confines and to take its place in a broader, more difficult, less governable and much richer world...

“Geography offers hope. Cricket’s attempt to spread beyond its small picket of committed nations is commendable. Only then will it mature into an international sport and escape its colonial confines. Of course, the attempt might fail. Is hardly to be expected that Test cricket will suddenly be embraced by the newcomers. But the ICC is right to try.

“Moreover Twenty20 provides the vehicle. It has all the ingredients it needs to attract converts. And the benefits of a widening game would be wide, wresting the game from its colonial and post-colonial limitations.

“All the more reason to welcome the breakthroughs in Afghanistan, Nepal, Argentina and other countries with so much to offer. Cricket cannot keep talking to itself but rather must start fresh conversations.

“Rugby has been better blessed, with the rise of the Italians and Romanians offering hope. Cricket needs that same involvement.”

It’s time for the whole world to play up, play up and play the game.

The Rise Of Cricket In Afghanistan
Afghanistan Cricket board homepage


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