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The journey of Afghanistan Cricket

Afghanistan started its cricket journey back in 1995 and the journey of Afghanistan as a cricket nation comes from a background of war and terrorism. The attitude of Afghanistan players when they play always makes them stand apart. 

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Last updated: 29.05.2019
Afghanistan cricket Federation | Sports Social Blog

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Afghanistan registered their maiden test win two weeks back when they beat Ireland by seven wickets in Dehradun. This was just their second test match and they declared themselves as one of the potential powerhouses in years to come. They are the 12th test nation and awarded ‘test status’ only in June 2017 alongside Ireland. Their first test match was against mighty India. Although they lost the match in Bangalore in 2018, they did announce their appearance well.

The Journey

The journey of Afghanistan as a cricket nation coming from a background of war and terrorism has been incredible till date. The attitude of Afghanistan players always portrays that they are not here only to participate. They are very much interested in the win and give their best shots for the same.

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When Afghanistan started its journey back in 1995, nobody could fathom what impact they would have in a few years time in world cricket. The Afghanistan Cricket Board was formed in 1995. But it did take time for Afghanistan to take that leap. In 2001 they became an affiliate member of International Cricket Council. In 2006 they finished third in the ACC Trophy defeating Nepal in the play-off. The in 2008 they won the Division Five of the World Cricket League. Then a roller coaster journey started for Afghanistan.

In the same year, they went on to win the Division Four of the same league. The next year they won the Division three and although they failed to qualify for the 2011 World Cup, they earned their ODI status. The same year saw them playing their first ODI against Scotland in the ICC Qualifier 5th place playoff. They won the match by 89 runs. In 2012 they played their first ODI against a full member cricket nation, Pakistan. For consistency and gradual improvement they were rewarded with the Associate Member status in the next year after Hong Kong (1969), Kuwait (2005), Malaysia (1967), Nepal (1996), Singapore (1974), Thailand (2005) and UAE (1990). The next year saw them qualify for the 2015 World Cup.

Then came the historic moment when Afghanistan won their first World Cup match ever. They beat Scotland in Dunedin to register their first ever victory in a World Cup match. This match transformed ODI cricket in Afghanistan. This the breakthrough required for them. Since then it has been a remarkable ODI journey for Afghanistan. Till date out of 111 ODI matches, Afghanistan has won 57 matches and lost 50.

Since then it was just a matter of time for the new ‘cricket crazy nation’ to acquire the test status in 2017. Yes, there have been other countries that fought well to make their mark in the cricket circuit.

But for Afghanistan, it was a different business altogether.


The Struggle That Matter

Afghanistan is infamous for its dealing with terrorism and war. It was the war between the Soviet Union and the Mujahidden that destroyed Afghanistan. But the war at home ironically contributed to their rise in cricket. Many players, who had to spend time in refugee camps across the border near Pakistan, polished their cricketing skills at those camps.

Samiullah Shenwari, a veteran all-rounder of Afghanistan team used to play with a taped tennis ball at a refugee camp and didn’t use a hard cricket ball till he turned 18.  Nawroz Khan’s story is also similar. He used to play cricket in the refugee camps and continued after returning to his country. Karim Sadiq was so much into cricket that he used to work in a factor at night play cricket during the daytime. The face of Afghanistan Cricket, Rashid Khan was forced to flee to Pakistan with his family. Post the war they came back when things became normal once again. Well, at least it looked normal.

Probably the experienced all-rounder Mohammad Nabi was the luckiest one in the lot. During his tender age of growing up, He became familiar with a very unprofessional format of cricket. The version involved sticks, pieces of cardboard and paper balls. Few British tourists spotted his talent after he was included into a local team. Finally, he was awarded a cricket scholarship in Britain.

Afghanistan is still dealing with the same problems. Shapoor Zafran was attacked in 2017. Nabi’s father was kidnapped in 2013. These kind of issues are still very much existent in Afghan life. But Afghans have still managed to live life; cricket has been a real help in their quest of ‘survival’.


The Help That Matter

It was Indian cricket administrator Jagmohan Dalmiya who, as ICC President in 2000, helped Bangladesh become the 10th nation to be given Test starts. India provided training grounds and free facilities to Nepal to prepare for the World Cup Qualifiers in 2015 after their country was devastated by earthquakes.

In 2015, the BCCI offered the Shaheed Vijay Singh Pathik Sports Complex in Greater Noida as a temporary “home-ground” to the team. Due to the ongoing security concerns, Afghanistan does not play their home matches in their own country. They lack the international standard of facilities as well. As a result, the Indian cricket board has offered them to play ‘home’ matches in India. In 2018 Afghan cricket found a new official home ground at Dehradun and they even hosted a three day T20 series against Bangladesh at Dehradun. They played their maiden test in Bangalore against India. The first test victory also came in India for Afghanistan.

BCCI also pledged Afghan cricket to send junior teams to play India. The vision is to support the growth, assist with facilities and provide proper coaching. Indian Government has contributed around $2 billion to development programs in Afghanistan, with more to follow. BCCI is just following the footsteps by helping in the progress of Afghan cricket. Afghan cricketers’ inclusion in the Indian Premier League is another example of the same. Rashid Khan and Mohammed Nabi are now popular faces in world cricket. They do have separate and dedicated fan bases in IPL. IPL, being the richest cricket leagues in the world has helped a lot in their popularity and recognition as cricketers.

Being said that, we must not forget how talented Rashid Khan and Mohammed Nabi are. All of the Afghan players have been through a long journey. They have struggled in life, but never ignored their passion of playing cricket. This spirit has been the USP of Afghanistan cricket. Their zeal of playing cricket has been the sole factor of what they have earned till date in cricket.  BCCI has added some assistance to give wings to their never-ending enthusiasm.

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