What comes into your mind when you think of Afghanistan?
War. The Taliban. Poverty.
No matter what your opinion may be of the Islamic state, it may be time add another word to the list.
The Afghanistan national cricket team is on the precipice of achieving one of the most incredible feats in the history of sport. They are merely one match away from qualifying for the 2011 Cricket World Cup.
The eyes of the cricket world are firmly focused on South Africa as the Indian Premier League is set to commence this weekend on foreign shores. Sadly, many of those gazing in awe at the stars of the Twenty20 game are blind to the beauty of what has been happening on the cricket pitches of South Africa this past week.
Cricket in Afghanistan dates back to 1839, when the game is reported to have been played by British troops in Kabul. However, unlike many other countries influenced by British sport, the vast majority of Afghan people didn’t take to the game.
For over a hundred years the game remained dormant in Afghanistan. In fact, it wasn’t until the early 1990’s that the game became a relatively popular activity for Afghan people.
Afghan refugees, who had found sanctuary in neighbouring Pakistan, learned to play the game. Whilst still residing in the squalor of their refugee camps they formed the Afghanistan Cricket Federation in 1995.
The seeds had been sown. However, cricket in Afghanistan was cast aside in 1996 when the Taliban came into power, since they prohibited all sports.
As the world welcomed a new millennium, the Taliban had a change of heart. Cricket, in 2000, became the first sport, and only, sport to be approved by the fundamentalist regime.
Afghans were now free to play cricket when and where they wanted, but the good news didn’t end there. Just one year later, Afghanistan was bestowed with the honour of affiliate membership of the International Cricket Council.
Since then they have toured Pakistan, playing numerous teams from the second tier of Pakistan’s domestic league, as well as trekking around the home of cricket, England.
Wins were scarce, but that didn’t matter.
In 2007 they got their hands on some silverware, well, they had to share the ACC Twenty20 Cup with Oman after a tie in the final, but still, a trophy is a trophy.
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