By: Guest Blogger Adarsh.     Twitter: @shah_adarsh

In and around the early to mid 90s, the Taliban had risen to prominence taking advantage of the infighting, cronyism and the civil war. Pushing their own agendas on people with force was not uncommon. It was an everyday occurrence to see major and horrific Human Rights violations against civilians. To name but a few – military attacks on civilians, murders, forced labor in hellish conditions, kidnappings against any opposing voice (never to be found again) and looting people at will….

Flipping the coin on the other side at the same time, wind was gathering dust along its way to create a tornado which until now has kept on rising…  and amongst the displaced Afghans within refugee camps in Peshawar, Pakistan this strange game of bat and ball called cricket was watched and played with ever growing passion.  (point to be noted that there is some evidence that the ruling classes of Afghanistan had played some cricket with stationed British troops in the 1830’s as per Samuel Begg’s Sketch – The English National Game: The Ruler and Princes of Afghanistan playing Cricket. Evidently this faded away with the normal –  the public not having a clue about the game)

Can any of us actually even imagine playing school or pub cricket where our dressing room is a shelled out shop, flip-flops being a luxury instead of boots, muddy patches as pitches, sticks as bats and taped up rags as balls? Well… some of these Afghan lads who became international stars started off that way!! 

As recently as in May 2018, Sadiq the former captain was playing in a local match where violence struck again in the form of a suicide bomber with 3 deaths and several injuries, and during that time he was helping carry the injured to cars and ambulances. 

However let’s put aside this doom and gloom and let me highlight the positives..

  • Cricket success has brought a common ground within people in a country where there are many tribes, clans and castes who traditionally didn’t all see eye to eye. 
  • Superstar players like Rashid and Nabi play in T20 leagues around the world and made a decent living.  They have both launched charitable foundations to assist Afghan children with issues related to health, nutrition and education.
  • Self-confidence galore despite all this adversity. Even when they were playing in division 5 and 6 of world cricket against the likes of Jersey, Japan. Samoa and the Cook Islands, they came across as arrogant to even whisper their belief that they were going to make the World Cup at some point. 
  • No strangers to success, in 2017 Afghanistan was awarded full test member status with a historical 1st win against the Emerald Isle of Ireland in spring 2019.   Playing in test “whites” must have made all those players feel that they had finally “made” it with a place on the take with the big boys in the world of cricket.   
  • This upward trajectory of achievements are tremendous. In 20 years they have achieved so much what other teams would have taken 40 years to achieve. 
  • Their success in last year’s Asia Cup cannot be taken lightly. Beating Bangladesh & Sri Lanka and reaching the Super 4 Stage taking on with mighty India whilst loosing to Pakistan. 
  • I was there on 18th June 2019 at Old Trafford Manchester, for their match against the creators of cricket and 2019 World Cup hosts, England.  Despite loosing by a huge margin of 150 runs- the fans clearly loved it and were soaking it all up.  They added vibrancy and noise to the already lovely atmosphere. On the day England were just too good, but the Afghan team added all the right ingredients for a good game all round. 

As famous American author Octavia Butler has said, “In order to rise from its own ashes, a phoenix first must burn.” Well perhaps no other current cricketing nation has been through so much to come out the other end now as the darlings of world cricket…  

Ahhh… The Romance of Cricket……

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