I had blogged about Afghanistan’s dream run in cricket over the last one year and how they are now in the Super Eights of the ICC World Cricket League (The top four teams qualify for the 2011 World Cup).
A good friend from Boston, Sanjeev Naik and me, have been tracking Afghanistan over the course of the tournament. We have been shameless, publicly rooting for them. However, their dream of making it to the World Cup may be over has they have virtually no chance of making it to the top four (they might just end up fifth or sixth in the Super 8).
We have uncovered a few links and some fascinating stories about the Afghan journey.
Out of the Ashes
Leslie Knott, Tim Albone and Lucy Martens are producing a documentary on the entire Afghanistan journey. The film is called “Out of the Ashes”. It started in May 2008 at the Division 5 tournament in Jersey (one of the Channel Islands). Afghanistan won that tournament receiving the prize from Geoffrey Boycott himself. Then they won Division 4 in Tanzania, Division 3 in Argentina and qualified for the ICC World Cricket League (in effect Division 2).
From the story written by Leslie on Cricinfo (link courtesy Sanjeev), a few quotes
One Briton, a Canadian, a girl from Germany, and 11 Afghanistan cricketers: it’s an odd mix, but that is what it took to make Out of the Ashes, a documentary following the Afghanistan team on their quest for World Cup qualification.
“Not only are we going to bring the cup back from Jersey in Division Five,” declared Taj Malik, the first coach of the team, in May 2008, “but we are also going to the World Cup.” It was a far-fetched statement. Afghanistan have no pitch and only a handful of ramshackle batting cages. There is a bowling machine, but power is intermittent at best in Kabul.
The players are all gentlemen. Ahmad Shah, the former left-arm spinner and now assistant coach, makes sure we have been served lunch before he eats. They also have an eye for beauty, and covet flowers, especially roses.
The website of the production team has a trailer of the documentary but in Apple Quicktime format. I didn’t have the patience to download the plug-in and watch it. However, I went through the photographs and this photo gives you an idea of how even with the worst facilities they have had their success just on the basis of their spirit. (Even smallest cricket grounds in Mumbai have much better turf conditions)
Hamid Hassan is their star bowler. He learnt his reverse swing from Freddie Flintoff, smashed Monty Panesar’s helmet with a 152kph ball and writes a blog on Cricinfo. Will Luke goes almost teary eyed as he writes about him in an article in Cricinfo:
For a young man, he has already achieved the sort of dreams that many of his peers in Afghanistan might dismiss as outlandishly ambitious. Even foolish. Not only has he visited Europe and stayed in “lovely, lovely” Britain, he has reached cricketing nirvana by playing at Lord’s. His aspirations jut as high as the rocky peaks of Bati’Kot in the eastern province of Nangarhar, near Jalalabad, where he grew up.
Like all parents, Hamid’s only want what is best for their son. They may not know or care that he learned reverse swing from one of his heroes. And his mother would certainly be more alarmed than proud that one of her sons nearly broke toes of several opposing batsmen a couple of years ago.
“I want to be a future big international cricketer. I want the world to know me, to be famous. ‘Look, it’s Hamid,’ they might say.”
Great ambitions, this is one team I don’t mind having them play official international cricket. Cricket needs such teams that play with passion and pride.