Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Caught Al Haq, Bowled Landmine.

For those who still persist in doubting the redeeming qualities of sport, and by extension triviality, in even the most dire or unrelentingly crushing conditions I humbly present a small piece that caught my eye in the current edition of The Economist:

"Pity the Umpire.
ON DUSTY patches of bomb-levelled wasteland, Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, echoes to the thwack of leather balls on willow cricket bats. Scarcely a football, Afghans' traditionally preferred orb, is to be seen. As a testament to the wars that have ruined the country, clearing space for urban cricket pitches, this is revealing: in recent years, some 3m Afghan refugees have come home from Pakistan, taking cricket, a game originally brought to the subcontinent by British invaders, into new territory.

The Afghan national cricket team was founded in 1995, after the withdrawal of the Soviet army had allowed the first wave of refugees to return home. A second wave soon followed, in the ranks of the Taliban. Raised in refugee camps in Pakistan, the Pushtun fanatics have an antipathy to bare-legged footballing that is well known. Their fondness for cricket is less so. Yet the Taliban's removal by America was a greater boost to the game, because it sent millions more cricket-playing refugees scurrying homewards, and brought the Indian-educated—and therefore cricket-mad—Hamid Karzai to power.

According to the Afghan cricket federation, the country has 360 registered clubs. Last month, it opened a cricket academy in Kabul. Next year, construction of a national cricket stadium is to start. The national team is improving: this year, at a tournament in Dubai, it beat Malaysia and Bahrain. At a competition in Nepal, the national youth team beat Brunei by a world-record margin.

Unused to success, Afghans enjoy these triumphs. One wasteland player, Mujeebullah Rahmani, beamed as he predicted that Afghanistan would soon beat England, the world's form team. Mr Karzai is also enthused: during an audience with the national team, he promised each member a Toyota off-road vehicle if they would only beat Pakistan.

I believe similar incentives were employed both with the current England cricket squad who prevailed over Australia this summer and at a rather agreeable private school in Brooklyn, New York.


Clokeeeey! said...

realistically, if they offered them cars for beating Bangladesh in the next 10 years, they might just achieve it.
Great story though, we all gotta start somewhere.

weasel said...

I see the rebuilding of the Australian touring side following similar lines. "Oi Ricky, if you hit fifty I'll give you a Holden Barina mate?"