Afghanistan's star cricketer Mohammad Nabi is set to play for Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL-10 Photograph: (WION)
Cricket has unified Afghanistan with local players making their presence felt in the international cricket arena
It is hard to imagine a childhood with no playground in it. However, there are innumerable kids worldwide who are deprived of a ball or, for that matter, a cricket bat to play with. One's life is far from normal if, as a teenager, you witnessed bombings, gunfights and battlefields right round the corner of your home. Where does one go if, the government cannot provide even the basic amenities? How does one survive amidst bloodshed?
In the end, it all comes down to picking sides, the right or the wrong.
But then, among the ashes rise individuals who are similar in their grit to a Superman or, maybe, a Batman. The Afghan cricketers who have been making their presence felt in the international arena of cricket, have been bringing smiles, harmony and, most of all, unity in the war-struck nation.
"Cricket is not just a sport for Afghanistan anymore, it is a lot more. It has helped bring peace and harmony back in our country. Even the opposition party leaders sit with the ruling party members and watch our matches. In the last few years, we are winning on a consistent basis. When we lose or win matches our fans stand by us. And in the coming years, you will see that Afghanistan cricket team will be a force to reckon with," Shir Agha Hamkar, Afghanistan cricket team manager pointed out.
Just like the superheroes of our age, these men dressed in blue and red jersey also flaunt weapons. Their weapons are not AK-47s or those fancy high-end gadgets but a cricket ball and a cricket bat. And, what counts as their battlefield is not a piece of territory along the Line Of Control but a cricket pitch, measuring 22 yards. Their challenge is to outplay the opposition and not outrun them. Their victories are often numbered in runs and wickets and not in treaties or surrenders.
For these Afghan cricketers, the dream of playing the game would not have been possible without the help of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). In December 2015, the BCCI and the Afghanistan Cricket Board got into an agreement to help the boys from the faraway nation; Afghan cricketers got the permission to use the Greater Noida Sports Complex as their home ground. Since then it has been a joyous ride for the Afghan sportsmen, defeating the likes of West Indies, Zimbabwe and Ireland at major events.
Speaking about the stadium, the cricketers found no fault: "This is such a good facility. We have all that is required to improve our game. The sports complex is nice, the people are nice. There are a lot of students and families from Afghanistan here in Delhi, and they come out in support of us, which is so heartening to see,'' Mohammad Nabi, the star player from Afghanistan told WION.
At the recently concluded Indian Premier League auction, Nabi and Rashid Khan have been roped in by the champion team, Sunrisers Hyderabad. "Playing at the IPL will be like a dream come true for me and Nabi. Not just for us but for our brothers back home as well. This will only open the doors for other Afghan cricketers to make it to the IPL," Rashid Khan said.
The men dressed in blue and red have won 11 consecutive T20s and that's a record. They last beat Ireland in a T20 series, winning all the 3 matches. The Afghan dream has been sown in by these momentous players. The dreams of these heroes have begun to take wings already. These players might not have beaten teams like India or Australia on a cricket field but they sure do know how to win hearts.
For now, all that we can say is, dream on boys, and keep that Afghan flying high.