Dreams of greatness inspire ambitious Afghans

Fri Oct 25, 2013 9:43am EDT
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By Sudipto Ganguly

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Surrounded by thousands of makeshift tents in the dusty refugee camp he called home, not even in his wildest dreams could Mohammad Nabi have believed that his decision to while away the hours with a miniature cricket bat would lead him to play in the 2015 World Cup.

Like most of his team mates, Nabi got the first taste of the sport while living in a refugee camp in Peshawar, after his parents had fled Afghanistan while the country was ravaged by the Soviet war.

With no access to television or other forms of entertainment in the camps, a simple game involving a bat and a ball seemed to be the obvious option for the children to spend time.

"I picked up cricket on the streets in Pakistan. We used to play with tennis balls," Nabi, who captained the team during the qualification campaign, told Reuters.

Cricket gained prominence in Afghanistan as the refugees started returning to the country in the 1990s.

But the idea of rubbing shoulders with top players such as Younus Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq or Michael Clarke in the sport's most prestigious and glamorous tournament would still have been a far-fetched dream.

After all it was only in June this year that the International Cricket Council, the world governing body of the sport, granted Afghanistan Associate status, which is the second tier of membership behind the 10 test-playing nations.

But the lack of pedigree or facilities did not stop cricket's greenhorns from beating Kenya in Sharjah this month to qualify for their maiden 50-over World Cup.   Continued...

Afghan cricket team captain Mohammad Nabi Esa Khil (C) holds the ACC Cup after the team's arrival in Kabul, in this October 12, 2013 file photo, following Afghanistan's qualification for the 2015 Cricket World Cup. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/Files