Jamaican Bob Sled Team V3.0
by Ravi Verma, Fri Apr 03, 2009 at 12:21:57 PM EDT
I could have (should have) called my diary "Cricket in the Hindukush", or something... It is not really about the Jamaican Bob Sledding team (which, as you may recall, shot to fame during the 1996 Olympics).
This diary is about the Afghan Cricket Team, which has been making a fair amount of news recently
Cricket was brought to Afghanistan by the Afghan refugees who grew up in the dusty camps around Pakistan (where cricket is the rage). They have no facilities worth mentioning in their homeland (so they trained in Pakistan), and are playing solely for the pride and for enthusiasm
From the BBC:
Coach Kabir Khan (a former Pakistani player) said that despite the lack of infrastructure, the team's success overseas had inspired youngsters back home to take up the sport.
"They want to play it no matter what's happening over there," he said.
Mr Khan said that several of the bigger provinces in Afghanistan are involved in cricket and there are more than 200 registered clubs.
"The problem is facilities, there are not enough facilities over there. For the facilities they bank on either Pakistan, India or Sri Lanka and things are getting tighter over there as well so obviously you don't know what's going to happen in the future."
The Afghans have progressed quite well, I must say. They began their journey as a member of the lowest ranked division, and have progressively moved up. They are attempting to qualify for Crickets "World Cup", which is held every 4 years. Their journey has included victories in the English Channel Island of Jersey, in Tanzania and then Argentina.
They are currently participating in the World Cup Qualifiers being hosted by South Africa. Based on paper, they are not supposed to make it past the final 8 stage, but they have just won a match....they defeated Bermuda (yes, they play cricket in Bermudas too, I suppose). This is rather shocking because Bermuda did manage to qualify for the World Cup last time.
And, consistent with the emerging "new media" jazziness shown by all young people, one of the Afghan cricket team members is also a blogger. You can find his blog hosted here
Now, you may be wondering why this should matter to anyone ? It is because cricket is the way wars are defused... at least in South Asia. Some examples.
General Musharraf visited India to watch a cricket match on April 16, 2005
Is General Musharraf coming to watch cricket or is he using the trip to talk diplomacy?
General Musharraf is essentially coming here to watch cricket. He will arrive in New Delhi on April 16 and watch the match the next day. Once he is here I think he would find time for diplomacy and discuss matters of bilateral importance to India and Pakistan informally, if not by sitting across the table.
Sitting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Foreign Minister Natwar Singh he would indeed be talking about how to move forward. But I am not involved at the moment with that part of his visit.
Gen. Musharraf met Prime Minister Singh, and achieved nothing tangible (beyond a declaration that they would work for peace).
Perhaps the most famous incident of cricket diplomacy was initiated by another Pakistani dictator: Gen Zia-ul Haq in 1987. At the time, India and Pakistan were on the verge of war. Noone knew why the war clouds had formed... perhaps it was because India suspected Pakistan of being on the verge of being nuclear-armed (a correct assessment, as it turns out). In any case, the Pakistan cricket team happened to be touring India at the time, and Zia called the Indian Prime Minister (Rajiv Gandhi), and expressed an interest in watching the next game. India was, of course, unable to say no. Reportedly, PM Gandhi asked Gen Haq as to how many seats he would need, and Gen Haq inquired as to how many were available... and PM Gandhi replied "wel, 30 thousand...of course" (30 thousand being the stadium capacity). General Haq came, he saw... and he prevented India from conquering.
So, let us cheer on the Afghans in South Africa.