Afghan out to prove they are no one-hit wonders

LONDON - Afghanistan and its people have not had much to cheer about in the past 30 years but one bright spot has come from a surprising source - their cricket team.

By (AFP)

Published: Sun 7 Feb 2010, 12:02 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 2:29 AM

Mainly trained in neighbouring Pakistan they came within one place of reaching the 2011 World Cup finals and now they enter the fray next week in Dubai attempting to qualify for April’s Twenty20 finals which will be in the West Indies.

Their Pakistani coach Kabir Khan told ‘The Times’ that he and his team-mates were determined to prove that far from the close shave in the World Cup qualifiers being a one-off, that they were a rising force in the one day game.

“People back home expect a lot more,” said 35-year-old Kabir, who guided his side to victories over more highly-ranked teams such as Ireland, Bermuda and Scotland.

“We have to prove it was no fluke.”

The squad is made up of some Afghanistan-born players, though others were born in refugee camps across the border in Pakistan and one, 25-year-old batsman Raees Ahmadzai, revealed he only got to know about the game when Imran Khan-led Pakistan beat England in the 1992 World Cup final in Australia.

However, he preferred one of the England team as his role model as he told ‘The Times’.

“I wanted to be Alec Stewart. I couldn’t pronounce the other names.”

Kabir, who was a classy pace bowler in his day but played just four tests taking nine wickets and 10-one day internationals where he took 12 wickets as he was competing against greats such as Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, is cautiously optimistic that Afghanistan can be one of the two teams to progress to the finals.

Afghanistan have been drawn in Group A along with Ireland, Scotland and, perhaps ironically in a political sense, the United States.

The ousted Taleban government permitted cricket from 2000 because, according to Kabir, “it was the only sport that they accepted, because it had intervals for prayer breaks.”

On the team’s prospects, Kabir says: “We’re not looking too far ahead, but we have a good chance of qualifying.”

“We need more facilities if we are to progress. We have only one turf pitch, in Kabul.

“But I don’t blame the government - they have other things to sort out,” he said with masterful understatement.

The government is increasingly paying attention to the team’s stunning exploits on the international stage, but there is still some way to go to explain to President Hamid Karzai the finer points of the sport, Kabir revealed.

“When I last saw him (Karzai), he asked me to explain the BMW rule,” said Kabir.

“I said that the first thing he needed to know was that it was called LBW.”

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