From Refugees to World Cup – Afghanistan
To celebrate the upcoming world cup in 2014 we decided to spend 2013 paying homage to the incredible diversity of the places around the world that play cricket!
We begin 2013 by looking closely at a nation that seems to have rocketed through the cricketing ranks – Afghanistan.
Afghanistan became an Affiliate Member of the ICC in 2001 (Affiliate nations are places where cricket is played in the spirit of the laws of cricket) before being promoted to Associate status to compete against the likes of Ireland and Scotland in June 2013.
The world’s cricketing media really began to take notice of Afghanistan’s rise through the ranks when they defeated Ireland in the final of the World T20 Qualifiers in 2010. Since that time they have featured in the finals of almost every tournament they have participated in, with most recently being runners-up to Ireland in the World T20 Qualifiers on 30th November 2013.
It may seem that Afghanistan’s cricket rise has happened overnight, and to a large extent it has on the field but the country has a longer cricketing history than you might think.
There are many tales of British soldiers playing cricket in the region during the age of Empire and one must simply look at a map to see the proximity of Afghanistan to the cricketing meccas of Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. However unlike these Test playing nations cricket in Afghanistan was not allowed to flourish with all sport being banned by the Taliban. In the year 2000 the Taliban lifted its ban on cricket, making it the only legally recognised sport in the country.
Very quickly cricket became popular across the country. This was especially prevalent in communities where refugees returned from hiding in Pakistan. It was whilst they were refugees in the neighbouring country that they developed an appetite for the sport, indeed a large number of the country’s currently contracted players have spent time in refugee camps.
Afghanistan is currently the topped ranked non-Test playing Asian cricketing nation and is fiercely competing against constant rivals Ireland to be promoted to Test status at some point in the future.
As a result of their second place in the qualifier tournament at the end of 2013 Afghanistan have qualified to compete in their first World Cup and will travel south at the start of 2015 to do battle against the Test-playing nations of the world.
Belinda McMartin, Assistant Curator, Bradman Museum