From Bullets To Bats: How Cricket Is Changing The Lives Of Afghanistan’s Youth

Posted on March 25, 2016 in Society

By Tanmay Kishore Panda:

Cricket - England v Afghanistan - World Twenty20 cricket tournament - New Delhi, India, 23/03/2016. Afghanistan's players celebrate the dismissal of England's Jos Buttler. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi - RTSBUD2
Image credit: Reuters/Adnan Abidi.

Why do most Indians get horrified when someone talks about Afghanistan?

Like other countries, Afghanistan also has a topological existence on Earth’s surface. Then why does everyone avoid thinking about it?

Is it because of the inability of its government in curbing the menace of gunshots and blasts everywhere or is just because it’s a Muslim nation?

It’s not that only bullets play with the lives of the citizens of Afghanistan. The game of cricket has now climbed in importance in Afghanistan. Cricket became very popular among Afghan refugees in Pakistan during the 1990s. It was in 1995 that the Afghanistan Cricket Federation was formed there. The Taliban had initially banned cricket. But the game started to open up its feathers and the Afghanistan Cricket Federation was elected as an affiliate member of the ICC in 1996. Allah Dad Noori, a former refugee who helped form the Afghanistan Cricket Federation, must now be elated due to the fact that Afghanistan cricket has now won the love of the world audience. There are a lot of people in Afghanistan who don’t know how to hold a gun but have proficiency in holding a bat!

So, the time has come to accept the dictum, “Like your fingers, not all are the same.”

It is a fact that bullets flit even faster than a rumour in Afghanistan, but people in the rest of the world should, at least, understand the plight of the Afghan commoners.

In the bustling streets of its cities, there is also a serene milieu free from all worries. Along the cool sequestered vale of life, the citizens keep the tone of their day noiseless. They have chosen an ideal pursuit to free themselves from being prisoners to the ravages that surround them. And the pursuit is a sport which the world calls the gentlemen’s game – cricket. Not only the commoners, the soldiers serving in their army have now taken to cricket as well.

The country is in the middle of a cricket revolution and the Afghan youngsters are willing to swap rifles for bats and grenades for balls. It was a clear victory for Noori and his band of cricketers, as this game is beginning to become a culture!

The national team was formed in 2001, which played in the 2009 World Cup Qualifier after giving a good performance in the World Cricket League. In February 2010, the Afghan Cricket team qualified for the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 which was indeed the team’s first major tournament. In 2010, they also won their first Intercontinental Cup after defeating Scotland in the final match.

Afghanistan also got selected for 2012 ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka as the runner up of the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier. On February 25, 2015, Afghanistan’s victory against Scotland was it’s first triumph in a Cricket World Cup match.

Thanks to the stubborn enthusiasm of their former coach, Taj Malik, the national team scaled many new heights.

Afghanistan cricket boomed thanks to the performances by former skipper Mohammad Nabi, Dawlat Zadran and Shapoor Zadran among others.

The national team has also qualified for the ICC World Twenty20 2016 in group B being coached by the legendary former skipper of Pakistan, Inzamam-ul-Haq.

The game of cricket sprawled as a drug and proliferated in the nation and made its people imperturbable to the menace of terrorism. Playing this sport and harnessing their abilities for it created adhesive like bonds between the commoners.

Imagine coming from a country that was only known for war, terrorism and Taliban. How awesome it must be to be an Afghan and to be proud of your countrymen who are breaking stereotypes about their country on the international stage. Although until now the country’s achievement in cricket globally is nascent, but one must salute the sportsman’s spirit of the Afghans.

It is unlikely that anyone would plan a honeymoon trip to Afghanistan. But sitting thousands of miles away from Afghanistan, we can’t just imagine the whole of Afghanistan to be just a war zone. No, it has become a cricket zone now.

The question is not about the victory of any one country over another. It’s the victory of a sport that can unite countries. Instead of playing with the blood of someone by shooting or blasting him, it’s always better to play cricket with him. It feels good!

From AK-47 to Kookaburra, one thing was surely set up: some semblance of peace.