Friday 4 October 2013

Afghanistan - The New Messengers of Sport

The Manuka Oval in the capital city of Australia will be part of a certain country’s history. The seventh match of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup which will be played on Feb 18th 2015 features Bangladesh with another Asian team. No, it is not India neither Pakistan nor Srilanka, the three strong pillars of Asian cricket.

Not so long ago, this country was at unrest and it still is due to conflicts of different nature and security being at the top of this. However, when it comes to cricket they have made significant progress and now they are making their debut at the World stage. Welcome to the 50 over World Cup bandwagon ‘Afghanistan’.
They had earlier qualified for T20 World Cup in 2010 and repeated the feat in 2012.This had inspired a lot of youngsters to take up sport in the post Taliban era. I hope this news acts as a catalyst to the population of Afghanistan and more so with the youngsters.

Cricket and its origins in Afghan provinces date back to the time when British rule was prevalent in the mid 19th century. Unlike India and Pakistan, the legacy of cricket in Afghan regions was short lived and was not until the end of previous millennium, a cricket board had been formed.  While sports having been placed under ‘ban’ while Taliban was ruling, cricket escaped with such ban and was to be the only exception sport.
This act of deliberate omission by Taliban was crucial for the development of sport; it paved the way for the national team to become a member of International Cricket Council (2001) and subsequently with Asian Cricket Council (2003). In twelve years time, they have progressed and sky is the limit for the future.

The fraternity of the sporting world must celebrate what Afghanistan has achieved. To put up a team of individuals of different mindsets is never easy especially when you have to constantly worry about your life. No International matches are currently played in Afghanistan due to ongoing security issues. They have a domestic championship which involves a tournament taken part by little more than twenty provinces. They play their home international matches at Sharjah, United Arab Emirates and bulk of their cricket stadiums in Afghanistan are under construction. The Afghanistan Cricket Board has big plans to build a stadium in every province of the country and hope to see international cricket return to their home territory. They are currently placed 12th out of 14 teams which would participate in the multi-country tournament.

In a political world which is judged by one’s passport, such heroics from the people of a country will go a long way in changing the image of the country. In the recently published list by Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index (a global ranking of countries based on the freedom of travel of their citizens) Afghanistan was placed at the bottom of the list (93rd) with a score of 28, meaning the Afghani citizens can travel to only 28 countries without a visa. And now, they will be travelling to Australia and New Zealand to play the signature event of cricket, with a visa of course.

The last paragraph had nothing to do with cricket or sports in general, atleast they are not related directly. However, repeated performances on the sporting world will ensure a youth giving him/her to imbibe the qualities of their heroes and thereby give a chance to them for a much peaceful future. I believe you don’t need great plans to make a sports project work in conflict affected areas; all you need is an opportunity to provide the basic infrastructure to play and life of such players will be automatically taken care. That to me is the power of having Sports in one’s life. It is not about being the best in the world, it is all about making an effort to be the best one can become. Sports are one such medium in life. Today, Afghanistan has become the new messengers of the sports industry.

Catch more on the background of growth of cricket in Afghanistan through this documentary

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