April 13, 2009

Recommended reading

Tales of an Afghan, the Basin, and a poet

Sambit Bal
Raees Ahmadzai of Afghanistan awaits his turn to bat, April 2009
Raees Ahmadzai - not a sportsman trained in the art of replying to the media but one who was direct, honest, witty and generous  © Leslie Knott

It's not unusual for sport to provide cheer at times of misery. The rise of its cricket team has been one of most uplifting stories to have emerged from Afghanistan in recent times. Will Luke, who went to South Africa to cover the ICC World Cup Qualifiers, brought us the extraordinary story of Raees Ahmadzai.

As with many good stories, this one just happened. Will spotted Raees in the press box adjacent to the one he was in, chatting to the lone Afghan journalist at the tournament, an ardent cricket fan, who works for the BBC's Pashtun service. "So I seized my chance," Will says, "not knowing who he was. Fortunately he spoke eloquent English and, even more fortunately, he knew and loved Cricinfo."

The piece wrote itself. "There wasn't much cricket chat, and perhaps that helped me. I was talking to a human being instead of a sportsman trained in the art of replying to the media, which is nothing short of a disease spreading through the modern game.

"Afghanistan had already lost two, maybe three, wickets and he was due in at No. 6, but he didn't care. Instead, he made sure I was spelling Kacha Gari correctly, and scribbled other notes down. He was as keen as I was to tell his story, and in modern sports journalism how often does that come about?"

Halfway through the interview, Will even had a title in his head - "Cloth for balls, shoes for stumps". The piece took about an hour to write the next morning. "He was direct, honest, witty and generous. The piece was all there, already written. A stroke of luck really."

We are glad we sent Will out there. Thanks to Martin Willamson for arguing the case.

Sidharth Monga was in terrific form throughout India¹s tour of New Zealand. He was both prolific and able, every once in while, to produce a piece that was off-the beaten track. He also sent in diaries through the series, which provided glimpses into a touring cricket writer's life. Before he went missing in New Zealand, he sent us this one.

Out of nowhere, South Africa has landed two high-profile cricket tournaments. Peter Roebuck, now a part-time resident of the country, writes that South Africa won because it had the interest and the infrastructure, the space and the desire. But while the gains for South Africa have been substantial, he argues, the cost to the game, and the world, has been high.

I am amazed that Suresh Menon has managed keep his excellent column on cricket literature running for as long as he has. That's because he has not only read every cricket book worth reading, but even the more obscure ones. His latest is about Edmund Blunden, the English poet, one of many men of letters to have had a more than passing acquaintance with cricket.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Vikram Maingi on (June 17, 2009, 5:48 GMT)

Afghanistan got a much better coverage (by Cricinfo) vis-a-vis the other upcoming associate nations.

Posted by anwar khan zadran,london on (April 15, 2009, 16:14 GMT)

thanks for cricinfo.com is the best helpul with afghans cricke team .we proud of our cricket team

Posted by an afghan on (April 14, 2009, 21:02 GMT)

thanks sambit

Posted by hashim on (April 13, 2009, 11:18 GMT)

First of all thanx to sambit nd cricinfo....for supporting Afghans and afghan cricket team......hope Afghanistan will do more better to reach World cup 2011 inshallah.......nd Mr.Sambit in Afghanistan you will find thousands of the stories like this one of heroic people but hidden.......Long live Afghan Cricket team....ameen

Posted by Spinghar Safi on (April 13, 2009, 8:48 GMT)

I really thank Cricinfo for covering Afghan cricket news and writing beautiful aricles about Afghan cricket team. Thanks alot Sambit!

Posted by Omer Wahedyar on (April 13, 2009, 7:03 GMT)

I proud of my dear Afghan players, which till don’t have any ground for practice or race, but they beat Ireland which is an European country and have every things. Tal di wi Afghanistan, aw sar lwari di wi zamoz Atal lobghari

Posted by Yogesh on (April 13, 2009, 4:38 GMT)

Sambit, I think may be you could have mentioned Sriram Dayanand's "Ubuntu" in your INBOX too. I thought it was an excellent article. Keep going.

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Sambit Bal
Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.

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