From Refugees to the MCG

October 11, 2013 at 1:53 pm Leave a comment

Prior to his team’s back to back games against Kenya in Sharjah Afghanistan cricket coach Kabir Khan backed his team to seal direct qualification for the 2015 World cup. If Afghanistan lost either of these two matches the UAE would qualify in their place and they would have to head to New Zealand for a second round of qualifiers.

When Khan took over Afghanistan had won just two of their opening eight matches. They needed to win all of their remaining matches to qualify for the World Cup.

Last week they achieved that goal and it really is a rags to riches story.

It is believed that the first Afghans learned the game in Pakistani refugee camps, having fled the Soviet invasion in 1979. Sport was completely banned under the strict Islamic fundamentalist rule of the Taliban, between 1996 and 2001.  Pitches and arenas were more likely to host an execution than a training session or a match for any sporting team. However as the Taliban lost its grip, sporting teams and events began to grow

Twelve years ago, the Afghanistan cricket team didn’t officially exist. A few Afghan expats started a team in Pakistan and applied for accreditation to the ICC (International Cricket Council). Only in 2001 did Afghanistan became an ICC associate member; an associate membership meaning that it was recognized as an established sport in the country, nothing more. Seven years later in 2008, the team played its first matches in division five of the ICC’s global league. They played Japan.

They won the league and that gave them a chance of qualifying for the 2011 World Cup. Which they were unable to do. However the team did well enough in the qualifiers to be granted the status of an international one-day team.

They went on to qualify for the world Twenty20 tournament, in 2010 and again in 2012.

Now though, Afghanistan with its triumph over Kenya by seven wickets at the recent World Cricket League Championship in Sharjah, has to won the right to play at the 2015 World Cup. They will be part of a group that includes co-hosts Australia and New Zealand, as well as Bangladesh, England and Sri Lanka. It will not be easy but for a team that has come so far in so short a time, they have proved that they are up for any challenge.

 

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