MCC send Fleming to Afghanistan
Matthew Fleming, the former Kent and England allrounder, will travel to Afghanistan this week to try to identify ways in which Marylebone Cricket Club can help to further develop the sport in the region.
Fleming, who sits on the main MCC Committee, is being sent by the club to investigate how MCC can strengthen its links with cricket in Afghanistan in accordance with its worldwide remit to help promote the game.
The MCC-Afghanistan relationship began with an historic fixture between the two sides in Mumbai in March 2006, where an MCC team led by former England captain, Mike Gatting, were thrashed by 179 runs. Two members of that successful Afghan team - Hamid Hassan and Mohammad Nabi - subsequently spent time at Lord's as MCC Young Cricketers. In 2007, Hassan - a fast bowler - made history when he became the first Afghan cricketer to play at Lord's, for MCC against Europe.
Speaking ahead of his trip, Fleming said: "Having enjoyed playing cricket for England in Pakistan and Bangladesh, I know the passion that exists for cricket in the region. I'm looking forward to seeing for myself how cricket in Afghanistan is developing, and how MCC can help with this process.
"With my experience in the Armed Forces [he served as an officer in the Royal Green Jackets], I am all too aware of the effects a conflict has on a country's people. If the sport can help to become a positive, motivating factor for the increasingly cricket-loving population of Afghanistan, that can only be a good thing."
MCC's secretary & chief executive, Keith Bradshaw, said: "Developing cricket worldwide is a core remit of MCC, and it's one we take very seriously. Matthew is the perfect ambassador for us to send out to Afghanistan. With his knowledge of the region, and of course his cricketing experience, he'll be able to investigate the ways in which the club can demonstrably help to develop cricket in the country."
Fleming's visit to Afghanistan has been co-ordinated by Nick Lockwood, Counter Narcotics and Rule of Law, at the British Embassy in Kabul. The four-day trip will culminate on Sunday, November 18, with a visit to the National Training Camp at the Afghanistan National Cricket Academy.
The sport's popularity in Afghanistan has surged since many of the refugees who fled from the country in the early 1980s, after the Soviet invasion, started to return from Pakistan - where they saw the game and started to play and follow it.
Will Luke is assistant editor of ESPNcricinfo