Sport The Irresistible Rise of Afghanistan’s Cricket Team

15:09  13 june  2018
15:09  13 june  2018 Source:   msn.com

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DEHRADUN, India — On Thursday, Afghanistan ’ s national cricket team will play India in a Test match, a form of the game — taking place over five seven-hour days — reserved for a select group of nations.

And although the team lost against the likes of England, Sri Lanka and South Africa, more significant is the fact that the fledgling team beat Scotland, Zimbabwe and of course, the West Indies. The rise of the Afghan cricket team is even more impressive given how quickly it has progressed.

a group of people posing for the camera: Afghan cricket player, Rashid Khan (R), captain Asghar Stanikzai (C) and teammates during an event to celebrate the Afghan national team qualification to the 2019 cricket World Cup in Kabul in March. © Wakil Kohsar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Afghan cricket player, Rashid Khan (R), captain Asghar Stanikzai (C) and teammates during an event to celebrate the Afghan national team qualification to the 2019 cricket World Cup in Kabul in March.

DEHRADUN, India — On Thursday, Afghanistan’s national cricket team will play India in a Test match, a form of the game — taking place over five seven-hour days — reserved for a select group of nations. In cricket’s near 150-year history of international fixtures, only 11 countries have competed at that level; Afghanistan becomes the 12th.

The achievement marks another high point in a remarkable ascent: Emerging from refugee camps in Pakistan and only officially formed in 1995, Afghanistan’s cricket team has surmounted obstacles unknown to most athletes — terrorism, displacement, war — and with flair and panache that have won admirers the world over.

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Afghanistan . And although the team lost against the likes of England, Sri Lanka and South Africa, more significant is the fact that the fledgling team beat Scotland, Zimbabwe and of course, the West Indies. The rise of the Afghan cricket team is even more impressive given how quickly it has

Refugees from Afghanistan ’ s war with what was then the Soviet Union learned the sport in camps in Pakistan and brought it with them when they returned. And yet, the team , fueled by passion for the game and determination to succeed, rose rapidly through the World Cricket League.

Of all the success stories created by Afghanistan’s extraordinary rise, none is more striking than that of Rashid Khan, a 19-year-old leg spinner who may be the most famous Afghan alive. Sides across the globe compete aggressively for his services; this year he became the youngest man ever to be ranked best bowler in the world. To watch him is a celebration: TVs are set up in open spaces so that Afghans can watch him as a community, in open rebellion against the terrorists who scatter communities in fear. In a country where not long ago the mere act of playing cricket was taboo, Mr. Khan is the face of hope.

But hope is fragile. On May 19, while Mr. Khan was playing in the Indian Premier League, back in his home city of Jalalabad, in the eastern province of Nangarhar, a midnight cricket game was underway. Begun so late to allow players to fast during Ramadan, the match dragged Afghans back to brutal reality. Terrorists set off three bombs in quick succession, killing at least eight and injuring close to 50 people. One of Mr. Khan’s Afghanistan teammates, Karim Sadiq, carried the wounded to makeshift ambulances.

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That this devastated nation should be able to field a cricket team at all, let alone one as successful as this, is an unbelievable achievement. The amazing story of the rise and rise of Afghanistan cricket .

The incredible rise of Afghanistan ' s national team , which was established amid war in 2002, has helped. “We [started playing] cricket for nothing,” fast bowler Hamid Hassan told NBC News. “ [We had] no money, no cricket clothes, no bats, no stuff, no nothing.

HARARE, ZIMBABWE - MARCH 25: The victorious Afghanistan team after winning The ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier Final between The West Indies and Afghanistan at The Harare Sports Club on March 25, 2018 in Harare, Zimbabwe. (Photo by Julian Herbert-IDI/IDI via Getty Images) © Getty HARARE, ZIMBABWE - MARCH 25: The victorious Afghanistan team after winning The ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier Final between The West Indies and Afghanistan at The Harare Sports Club on March 25, 2018 in Harare, Zimbabwe. (Photo by Julian Herbert-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)

Though the attack was shocking, cricket and conflict have long been connected in Afghanistan: It was the war with the Soviet Union that forced Afghans into the Pakistani refugee camps where they were introduced to the game. This provenance created the impression for some that cricket was a foreign import. But the successes of recent years — and the carousel of homegrown heroes like Mr. Khan — have forged widespread affection for the national team.

When I visited Afghanistan in late 2014, Mohammad Nabi, then the national team’s captain, showed me a clip on his phone: People hung from billboards lining the Kabul International Stadium to watch a domestic match, the ground overflowing. I met the father of a young cricketer, Fareed Ahmad, in the outskirts of Jalalabad; he carried a gun and a cellphone, the latter to show people how well his son had bowled in an Under-19 match.

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Afghanistan ’ s rise remains one of the most heart-warming and happiest in cricket . Now, Nabi is the man who embodies this team ’s phenomenal rise . “You play cricket a lot in refugee camps,” he told reporters when he first arrived in Australia this month for the World Cup.

Anderson, the ICC' s global development manager, has hailed the rise of Afghanistan cricket as "a shining example" and praised the team ' s remarkable ability to "overcome every challenge that has confronted them".

It is a testament to how quickly these cricketers have developed that even their fathers don’t know much about the sport. During the prime of their lives, all they could do was keep their families alive. Most fled to relative safety, before setting off to work in Dubai. Not all of them succeeded, but when the survivors returned they found the war had turned their beautiful home into a wasteland. Olive fields were now just a desert. Buildings were debris. Some of today’s international cricketers’ first changing rooms were felled aircrafts, their playing fields muddy and their first shoes flip-flops.

HARARE, ZIMBABWE - MARCH 25: The victorious Afghanistan team after winning The ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier Final between The West Indies and Afghanistan at The Harare Sports Club on March 25, 2018 in Harare, Zimbabwe. (Photo by Julian Herbert-IDI/IDI via Getty Images) © Getty HARARE, ZIMBABWE - MARCH 25: The victorious Afghanistan team after winning The ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier Final between The West Indies and Afghanistan at The Harare Sports Club on March 25, 2018 in Harare, Zimbabwe. (Photo by Julian Herbert-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)

Yet they marched on. In 1995, practically no one in Afghanistan knew what cricket was; by 2015, the national team was at the World Cup. In 20 years the country’s cricketers had achieved what other teams take 50 years to do — and in the process they became the darlings of world cricket. A fast bowler wore war paint, another let his long hair bounce as he ran in to bowl, their batsmen hit with abandon, they argued animatedly with one another on the field, and when they celebrated, the world celebrated with them. They were pure drama.

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The rise of cricket in Afghanistan has been the sport’ s finest development since the ICC imposed two umpires from neutral countries in every Test match and thereby removed the allegations of racism.

The team triumphed in both formats on their second visit to Zimbabwe.

The 2015 World Cup was supposed to be a watershed moment. For once Afghanistan was not only about drugs and terror. And yet, in 2017, Shapoor Zadran, the tall left-arm fast bowler who hit the winning runs in their first-ever World Cup victory, was attacked by terrorists, and not for the first time. Four years previously, Mr. Nabi’s father had been kidnapped.

Perhaps that’s why Afghanistan cricketers recognize a larger purpose to their existence. Every time they go on to the field, they remind themselves of the difficult lives back home and vow to give their fellow Afghans reason to celebrate.

Most of them avoid talking about their struggles in the refugee camps; not all of them are happy talking about the terrorism. Instead they want to talk about cricket, especially the historic Test match. For the past week, as they have prepared in faraway Dehradun, a congested Indian town in the foothills of the Himalayas, they were fasting: no food or drink between quarter past three in the morning to quarter past seven in the evening. Keeping the demands of the format in mind, they stopped observing the fast two days before the Test.

It’s not the easiest way to approach a grueling sporting encounter, but then nothing has been easy for Afghanistan’s cricketers. In their own quiet and joyful way, they are refusing to back down.

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This is a book will appeal to book lovers, arm chair travelers, sports enthusiasts and especially cricketers . The remarkable rise of the Afghan cricket team . A journey that, if it were not true, would cause people to shake their heads in disbelief.

18-year-old Afghan national team player, Rashid Khan, was in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, playing for Afghanistan in a One Day International series on 20 February 2017, when bidding for the Indian Premier League (1) began. The IPL is the biggest, richest cricket league in the world

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Source: http://uk.pressfrom.com/news/sport/-263797-the-irresistible-rise-of-afghanistan-s-cricket-team/

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