Afghanistan and its “Love” for Cricket

Afghanistan, the south east region of world also got its cricket love from British troops who use to play cricket in Kabul since 1839. Though it appears that no long-lasting legacy of cricket was left by the British. In the 1990s, cricket became popular amongst the Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan, and the Afghanistan Cricket Board was formed there in 1995. They continued to play cricket on their return to their home country. Like all sports, cricket was originally banned by the Taliban, but cricket became an exception in 2000 (being the only sport in Afghanistan to be approved by the Taliban) and the Afghanistan Cricket Federation was elected as an affiliate member of the ICC the following year. The cricketing style, reflecting the background of development in refugee camps in Pakistan, is not unlike the style characteristic of Pakistani cricketing practice generally, the emphasis on fast bowling and wrist spin for example.

The rise of the Afghan cricket team is even more impressive given how quickly it has progressed. For the first time ever, Afghanistan qualified for the cricket World Cup last year and stood face to face, or rather wicket to wicket, with the world’s cricketing best. This is quite a feat given that it was only twenty years ago that Afghanistan formed a Cricket Federation (now known as the Afghanistan Cricket Board) — a majority of that time the country has seen the toppling of the Taliban government and the insurgency that has followed.

In 2008, Afghanistan began its cricketing journey on the world stage by entering the World Cricket League Division 5. In 2010, the country played in its first major international tournament, the World Twenty20. Two years later, Afghanistan was ranked as the top Associate nation with an ICC world ranking of 11 and went, along with Ireland, knocking on the ICC’s door with their quest for a Test status (the reserve of the cricketing greats).

 The Jewel of Afghanistan’s cricket team- Rashid Khan

The achievement marks another high point in a remarkable ascent: Emerging from refugee camps in Pakistan and only officially formed in 1995, Afghanistan’s cricket team has surmounted obstacles unknown to most athletes — terrorism, displacement, war — and with flair and panache that have won admirers the world over.

Of all the success stories created by Afghanistan’s extraordinary rise, none is more striking than that of Rashid Khan, a 19-year-old leg spinner who may be the most famous Afghan alive. Sides across the globe compete aggressively for his services; this year he became the youngest man ever to be ranked best bowler in the world. To watch him is a celebration: TVs are set up in open spaces so that Afghans can watch him as a community, in open rebellion against the terrorists who scatter communities in fear. In a country where not long ago, the mere act of playing cricket was taboo, Mr. Khan is the face of hope.

Rashid played in the 2017 Indian Premier League for Sunrisers Hyderabad. In June 2017, he took the best bowling figures for an associate nation in a One Day International (ODI) match. In February 2018, he became the youngest player to top the ICC Player Rankings for bowlers in ODIs. Later the same month, he also topped the ICC Player Rankings for bowlers in Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is). In September 2018, he became the number one player in the ICC’s all-rounder rankings, following his performance at the 2018 Asia Cup.

In March 2018, during the 2018 Cricket World Cup Qualifier, he captained Afghanistan for the first time in an ODI match. At the age of 19 years and 165 days, he became the youngest player to captain an international side. In the final of the Cricket World Cup Qualifier, against the West Indies, Khan became the fastest and youngest bowler to take 100 wickets in ODIs when he dismissed Shai Hope. He took 44 matches to take his 100th dismissal, breaking the previous record of 52 matches, set by Mitchell Starc of Australia. In June 2018, he became the fastest bowler, in terms of time, to take 50 wickets in T20Is. He reached the milestone in two years and 220 days, in the first T20I against Bangladesh.

Rashid Khan was born in 1998 in Nangarhar, eastern Afghanistan. He hails from Jalalabad, and has ten siblings.When he was still young, his family fled the Afghan war and lived in Pakistan for “a few years”.They later returned to Afghanistan, resuming their normal life and Rashid continued his schooling.Rashid grew up playing cricket with his brothers and idolized Pakistani all-rounder Shahid Afridi, from whom he stylized his bowling action.

Early & T20 Cricket Career of Khan:

On 7 December 2016 he made his first-class debut for Afghanistan against England Lions in Abu Dhabi, taking 4 for 48 and 8 for 74 and scoring 25 not out and 52.

In February 2017, he was bought by Sunrisers Hyderabad for the 2017 Indian Premier League (IPL) for 4 crores.He was also amongst the two first ever Afghan players to be selected for the IPL.The following month, he was bought by Guyana Amazon Warriors for $60,000 to play in the 2017 Caribbean Premier League (CPL). In September 2017, he took a hat-trick for Guyana Amazon Warriors, the first hat-trick in the history of the CPL.

He made his IPL debut in the opening fixture of the 2017 tournament, taking two wickets, as the Sunrisers Hyderabad won the match by 35 runs.He finished the tournament as the sixth-highest wicket-taker with 17 wickets from 14 matches.

In September 2017, he signed with Adelaide Strikers to play in the 2017–18 Big Bash League, he later went on to win the 2017–18 Big Bash League. In November 2017, he was selected to play for the Quetta Gladiators in 2018 Pakistan Super League players draft. In January 2018, he was bought by the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the 2018 IPL auction.The following month, he was signed by Sussex County Cricket Club to play in the NatWest t20 Blast in England.

On 5 May 2018, during the 2018 Indian Premier League, Khan played in his 100th Twenty20 match. He took two wickets, affected a run out, and was named the man of the match.

In September 2018, he was named as the Icon Player for Kabul’s squad in the first edition of the Afghanistan Premier League tournament.

Indian Premier League and Afghans

For the first time in the 10-year history of the IPL, there will be 4 players from the country of Afghanistan representing various franchises in the tournament. All the four players are promising cricketers and will be very valuable to their respective teams as they begin their campaign in IPL 2018. Afghanistan is currently a full-fledged member of the ICC. The Afghanistan Cricket Board would be ecstatic that their players are getting the recognition they deserve on a platform as big as this. India is playing a Test match against Afghanistan for the first time ever on June 14 in Bengaluru and this could be the beginning of better things to come for Afghanistan Cricket.

  • Rashid Khan (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
  • Zahir Khan Pakteen (Rajasthan Royals)
  • Mohammad Nabi (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
  • Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Kings XI Punjab)

Sports relationship between India- Afghanistan

India has played its part in the Afghanistan cricket story. In 2015, the BCCI offered the Shaheed Vijay Singh Pathik Sports Complex in Greater Noida as a temporary “home-ground” to the team.
Afghanistan even “hosted” a three-day T20 series against Bangladesh at Dehradun.“All teams touring India will play one cricket match against Afghanistan for which arrangements have been made,” BCCI acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary had said last month.Former players Lalchand Rajput and Manoj Prabhakar have coached the Afghanistan team, the latter as bowling coach.

In an attempt to further strengthen the relations between the two countries, BCCI has invited Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani to watch the team play its first test match. Clearly, cricket diplomacy seems to be on the fast-track between the countries.


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