December 15, 2005

Afghanistan

Surviving the Taliban

Martin Williamson
Afghan men wearing white shalwar kameez play cricket on a newly-laid pitch outside Kabul Stadium, Afghanistan, December 15, 2005
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Cricket was the sport of refugees and survived war and the rule of the Taliban. Azam Khan tells Peter Frawley of Afghan cricket's bright future. But the problems they faced were considerable:

One day in August 2001, during an inter-provincial tournament in Kabul, the Taliban's vice and virtue police turned up at a game in their 4x4 pick-up vehicles and some other cars surrounded the ground. We had forgotten to go to prayer. All the players and spectators were dispersed. Some people were arrested, including two players. They were imprisoned for about a week and missed the rest of the matches.

On another occasion, the then president of the Afghanistan Olympic Committee, Maulawi Qalamuddin, told us that the Taliban Grand Council wanted to ban cricket, which they considered to be an American game. We managed to convince the Taliban that cricket was not American and that it was in fact very similar to thope danda.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Williamson
Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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