Cricket flourishes in war-ravaged AfghanistanMarch 31st, 2009 - 9:02 pm ICT by IANS
Dubai, March 31 (IANS) Cricket has returned from wilderness to war-ravaged Afghanistan, and the national team is now on the last leg to seal a place in the 2011 World Cup.
To qualify for the 2011 quadrennial event, Afghanistan must reach the semi-finals of the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup qualifying tournament, which begins in South Africa Wednesday. Afghanistan play their first match against Denmark.
The competition is tough as only four of the 12 teams will qualify for the Word Cup. Ireland, Scotland, Canada, Oman, Namibia, Uganda, Kenya, Netherlands, Bermuda, and the UAE are the other teams in the 19-day event.
While finishing in the top four is the main aim, the top six teams will win ODI status for the next four years at least as well as book a place in the World Twenty20 Qualifier. They will also gain automatic qualification for the ICC Intercontinental Cup 2009-10, which starts in May.
Cricket was banned in Afghanistan by the Taliban and has only grown in popularity over the past five years despite the lack of facilities such as grass.
“It would be unbelievable when you think where we have come from,” said fast bowler Hameed Hasan, who spent two years on the MCC ground staff.
“And Insallah we will make it.”
So far Afghanistan has beaten teams such as the Cayman Islands, Uganda and Japan besides winning the qualifying tournaments in Jersey, Tanzania and Argentina.
Many of the Afghan team are based in Pakistan, mainly around the tribal areas of Peshawar that have caused so many problems for the western security services.
The links with Pakistan have bothered the International Cricket Council, too. They threw Afghanistan’s best batsman, Riffatullah Momand, out of the squad as he was not eligible to play for the country. Momand is a regular in Pakistani first-class cricketer.
That move will be a blow to a team bowled out for 88 at the weekend in a warm-up match against Ireland, one of the teams expected to go through to the World Cup proper.
There will be 54 matches played in eight venues in the final qualification round.
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Tags: automatic qualification, batsman, dubai, flourishes, ground staff, hasan, icc world cup, intercontinental cup, international cricket council, ireland scotland, odi, peshawar, quadrennial event, security services, semi finals, taliban, tribal areas, uae, wilderness, word cup