Afghanistan news

Jubilant Afghanistan seek tougher opponents

Umar Farooq

October 5, 2013

Comments: 51 | Text size: A | A

People celebrate Afghanistan's World-Cup qualification, Kabul, October 4, 2013
Thousands turned up at the cricket ground in Kabul to cheer their team against Kenya © Afghanistan Cricket Board
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Noor Mohammad Murad, the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) chief executive, has hailed his team's achievement of qualifying for the 2015 World Cup as a great moment in the country's history, and said that it was the start of a new journey during which he wanted Afghanistan to be compared with Full Member nations. Afghanistan secured their passage to Australia and New Zealand by beating Kenya 2-0 in the World Cricket League Championship in Sharjah.

"It is a great moment in the history of Afghanistan," Noor Mohammad told ESPNcricinfo. "We have been waiting for this so long and these moments are not only huge for our cricket but for the entire nation. We have brought happiness to the faces of 30 million people back home, and it's a proud moment for us that we became the reason to unite the nation.

Player reactions after sealing World Cup spot

  • Mohammad Nabi: "It is a very popular game in Afghanistan now, as you can see by the fact parliamentarians came to support us. This was the most important game in our cricketing lives. Knowing [that] if we won we would qualify for the World Cup meant so much to us. When I hit the winning shot I was so happy because we had qualified for the World Cup and this was the biggest achievement in my life."
  • Kabir Khan, coach: "We were in a pressure cooker until today. It has gone now. The pressure cooker has opened and we are just where we wanted to be and I am really happy. This is one of the golden days of my life. I think I'm a tough person. I don't get emotional, people can't read my face when the pressure is on, but this is one of the few days when I have some tears in my eyes."
  • Samiullah Shenwari: "We hoped we could go to the last World Cup but we missed it. Through hard work and more hard work we reached this day, and we managed to do it. This is thanks to all the prayers of our country, for our families' support, and we are so thankful. This is the best day of my life. For the first time in our history Afghanistan will be playing at the World Cup. This is a big day for our country."

"Our journey doesn't end here. It's a start of another phase and a new journey. We are not going to relax, we have a lot to do ahead of us. We have beaten all the Associate countries comprehensively and now we have set our sights at the next level to play Full Member [nations]. We want to be compared with the Full Member countries, and not at the Associate level. We want to rise more and more, and seek tougher opponents to play us."

About 3000 fans packed the field at Kabul's only cricket stadium to watch the match against Kenya on a big screen, with noisy chants and dancing marking each boundary the Afghanistan batsmen hit. AFP reported that celebratory gunfire rang through the air in Kabul and the eastern city of Jalalabad. Large crowds also celebrated in the southern city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement, where police had issued strict warnings before the game that people should not celebrate by firing guns in the air.

"With cricket, we can change the face of the country and change the perception about us," Noor Mohammad said. "Around 75% [of the] population resides in mountains, but cricket bought them on the ground as a unit and they cheered for one cause. Our youngsters are thinking ahead of the war and changing things around them. Winning the World Cup berth can innovate the youth and help them transform their mind-set."

Qualifying for the World Cup has given Afghanistan a massive financial boost. They will receive $1 million from the ICC as preparation fee for the tournament, in addition to the $422,000 awarded in April as part of the ICC's Targeted Assistance and Performance Programme. In 2014, the top Associate and Affiliate Members - including Afghanistan - will also receive approximately $750,000 through the ICC Development Funding Policy.

"We have a plan in place on a daily basis ahead of the World Cup, with the ACB guarding against complacency," Noor Mohammad said. "We have specific plans for the development, skill building and improvement of the fitness of our players. We are not going to take a back seat, ensuring that things move forward with consistency."

"Apart from the common man in the country, cricket is being taken beyond just a game. The political figures in the country are taking a keen interest, with his highness, Hamid Karzai [President of Afghanistan], calling me personally on the success."

Afghanistan will be part of Pool A in the 2015 World Cup, alongside Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, England and Sri Lanka. It has been a remarkable journey, one that began in the ICC World Cricket League Division 5 in 2008. In 2010, Afghanistan qualified for the World Twenty20 in West Indies after they beat UAE in the qualifier. They then finished second to Ireland in the qualifiers in 2012 to play the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.

Earlier this year, the ACB had signed a deal with the PCB with a view to develop their national players within the well-established Pakistan cricket infrastructure. Noor Mohammad hailed the support of Pakistan, but lamented the lack of response from India and Bangladesh.

"We have been writing [to the BCB] for the last one-and-a-half years to play us, but they are not responding positively," he said said. "We are not expecting India to play us, but they can offer us the support through an exchange program for our U-19s, and can help in their development.

"They are our neighbours and have a bigger cricketing history than us. We have seen the example of England supporting Ireland and Scotland, and South Africa helping the other African countries, but we are really disappointed to see the lack of practical support by India and Bangladesh."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (October 8, 2013, 8:35 GMT)

Afghanistan A or under 19 - whatever - is very strong for Kenya.

Posted by smudgeon on (October 7, 2013, 2:09 GMT)

I really want to see Afghanistan succeed, of course. I just hope their board have done their history on the Kenya debacle and are taking notes on the trials of other non-test teams. They really are a joy to watch, though - passionate about cricket, talented, and ambitious without being arrogant or overconfident. Looking forward to seeing how they do at the WC in 2015.

Posted by smudgeon on (October 7, 2013, 2:07 GMT)

Perhaps when Pakistan play their next series in the UAE, a tri-series limited-overs tournament including Afghanistan would be on the cards? I think, though, that their story and form will prick the ears of other nations. Another option would be, if decent sponsorship and funding can be found, some A tours for a couple of months at a time. Of course, the ugly truth is that Afghanistan is unlikely to play series or be invited to tour any of the "big three" because as amazing as the Afghan team is proving and improving, unless they can assist lining the pockets of CA, ECB and BCCI, they're batting with one hand behind their backs...

Posted by   on (October 6, 2013, 16:56 GMT)

Fr600@ Afghanistan A is playing vs Kenya today go and check the squad names First-class debuts Fazal Niazai, Hashmatullah Shaidi, M Nasim Baras, Rahmatullah Sahaq, Sayed Shirzad and Yamin Ahmadzai (Afghanistan) only two national player's are in the squad. Afghanistan is already in the final this only kind of practice match

Posted by fr600 on (October 6, 2013, 15:29 GMT)

Being too optimistic isn't a good thing. Look what happened today. This is cricket and it takes years sometimes decades to get to the top level. @rakon_me hoping is good but dreaming isn't.

Posted by huffpost on (October 6, 2013, 13:52 GMT)

Let me make a prediction..Afghanistan will beat Bangladesh in the 2015 World Cup ..mark my words.....

Posted by   on (October 6, 2013, 13:38 GMT)

its a good news to see that Afghanistan's success to enter the competition and wish them for further success.

Posted by fr600 on (October 6, 2013, 10:56 GMT)

Now associates are playing international first-class matches whereas full members like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh don't get to play tests.

Posted by Firdous.Ghani.Staniczai on (October 6, 2013, 7:27 GMT)

I am really grateful to all brilliant Afghan players! they really brought us unity and prosperity after a long time of war! We ask ICC to motivate the youngest Afghan team by giving them the chance to play with test playing nations!

Posted by   on (October 6, 2013, 7:19 GMT)

We are hopeful and believe that our team will Inshallah give a pleasure with their performance to world Cricket spectators and analyst in 2015 world cup, because the game which they had played recently against top associates had vast difference and was fully one sided. Mashallah our team reached to this stage in very short time compare to other teams.

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