In fewer than 20 years, cricket in Afghanistan has gone from being an ordinary sport to holding a special place in the hearts and minds of many people.
Afghanistan is currently preparing to take part in its second 50-over World Cup, set to take place in the UK from June, a remarkable achievement given that many of the players learned how to play the popular sport in barren refugee camps.
“These are amazing achievements for the Afghan nation. We are playing now on grounds where they had never heard of Afghanistan before,” he added.
The sport was imported by Afghan refugees who had lived in Pakistan in the 1990s after fleeing the Soviet invasion.
A ban by the Taliban on sport, including cricket and football, meant that many did not practise their favourite sport for fear of reprisals.
That came to an end in 2002 after the Taliban lifted the ban on cricket, making it the only sport approved by the armed group.
The Afghan Cricket Board now has five stadia in the country and a flourishing youth policy.
Assadullah Khan, a former national team player, credits the sport’s success to its ability to bridge social and political differences in a deeply-divided country still reeling from years of war.
“We started cricket in Taliban time. They love cricket and they also showed good support for cricket … So now, that is why we are here.”
Source: Al Jazeera