Making of the Afghan Cricket Team in the refugee camps of Pakistan
Even though the roots of cricket go back to the 1800’s in Afghanistan, when it was played by British soldiers in Kabul, the game didn’t catch on at that time. Later, the long-war affected every sector in Afghanistan, including sports.
If you hail from a country which was war torn, had no government for the first half of your lives, I guess it couldn’t get tougher for you to choose a sporting profession and something which the Taliban had prohibited the Afghan people from doing. In the fight for survival to even think of sports is deemed as betrayal. Despite the Taliban, deaths, bombs and poverty, a few boys, Taj, Karim and Raees, teenagers or younger, decided they wanted to be cricketers. They planned to form the Afghanistan Cricket Board, field a national team and win the World Cup. When you understand their background this was nothing short of a miracle.
They’d been inspired by crackly television images of Pakistan winning the 1992 World Cup, when they beat New Zealand and England in the semifinal and final.
All along the way they have met with various roadblocks- But they stayed undeterred, most staying as refugees in refugee camps in Pakistan. The craze that cricket has in Pakistan induced them into getting closer to the game. Eventually most of them learnt the game, its technicalities, do’s and don’ts in those refugee camps.
What the refugees in Kacha Garhi faced was indeed a world away. Their parents forbade them to play – they were required to work all day for a pittance to help sustain their families.
But they snuck around and persevered. They fashioned a bat from tree bark and played with a tape wrapped tennis ball. The tape helps the ball skid of the pitch and also makes it act a bit similar to the expensive leather balls which these kids could never access.
Amazingly they improved enough to be able to play in a league competition in Peshawar, again without their parents’ knowledge. They were joined by a few others, notably Allah Dad.
They were among some of the young cricket visionaries, who faced a lot of danger taking their game back home, negotiating with the Afghanistan Olympic Committee and then the Taliban, which initially banned cricket.The cricketers eventually received a dispensation to play, but only if they wore full Afghan attire, grew their beards out and prayed five times a day.They wanted to hold trials, but couldn’t find a suitable venue – the stadium in Kabul was used for weekly public floggings, amputations and other punishment.
Amazingly, cricket gradually took hold and the tiny pool of cricketers grew.
The Afghanistan Cricket Board was formed in 1995 and become an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2001 and member of the Asian Cricket Council in 2003.
Afghanistan Ranked 19th in International T-20 cricket as of 7 January 2017 ahead of full members Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
With the game Afghan people have found a reason to unite, forget all the problems, stress and pressures. To live, breathe, throw their arms in the air, celebrate, wave their national flag with that much more pride, walk in front of any other cricket playing nation and proudly announce being an Afghanistan cricket team fan.
This is the story of true determination, to keep going despite the road blocks and not let your present determine your future. A passion for sports performance- JAZBA.