Afghan cricketers set hearts on beating world

May 23rd, 2008 - 4:39 pm ICT by admin  

London, May 23 (ANI): Afghanistan’s national cricket team has packed its battered pads and bats to set out on the road to World Cup glory.
The players from the poorest cricketing nation on Earth are due today in the Channel Islands, the improbable venue for the opening shots in their struggle to join the world cricketing elite at the 2011 World Cup, to be held in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
It may sound improbable, but they are the favourites to win the tournament in Jersey, which marks the start of the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket League, reports The Telegraph.
Cricket had little following in Afghanistan before the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. But it arrived with returning refugees from Pakistan and has since gained enormous popularity. The Afghan national team has risen through the junior ranks of world cricket with astonishing speed, winning the Asia Cricket Council’s Twenty-20 Cup last year.
With a ferocious appetite for victory and new team shirts bearing the slogan “Proud To Be An Afghan”, the team must defeat cricketing powers such as the Bahamas, Botswana, Japan, Singapore and Jersey in order to progress.
“We have to win,” said their coach, Taj Malik, who has vowed to hurl himself into the Atlantic if they fail.
The team trains at a ramshackle set of concrete cricket nets next to the Kabul Olympic Stadium, famous as a venue for public executions under the Taliban.
While funding has come from both the MCC and the British Embassy, with the ICC covering the team’s air fares, the players will each be paid just 120 pounds for food and drink during the eight-day tour.
“It is not so bad, though I hear Europe is very expensive,” said Hamid Hassan, a fast bowler.
News that the competition was to be held in Jersey left the team initially perplexed.
The most enticing prospect for the Afghan players is a meeting with the United States at the semi-finals. (ANI)

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