As a writer I wanted to ask them about the war. I wanted to hear stories that would shock, sadden and startle. But as a stranger among this happy-go-lucky group I sensed that such questions would be awkward and inappropriate. The truth is that right now they have other thoughts at the front of their minds. Like how they will bowl to Gautam Gambhir and where they will find four pairs of boots for their quartet of fast bowlers to wear in the tournament.
Afghanistan play India on Saturday and some days later South Africa. Strictly speaking, if one includes all the nations that have been playing international cricket, their rise has been the biggest. From zero cricket two years ago to ODI status and a spot in the World T20 2010, that has been their achievement. Even Bangladesh or Zimbabwe have had such improvements in their game.
Andy Bull gives this story about their opening batsman Sadiq:
Sadiq has a confidence which sums up the attitude of his team. When I asked him about the prospect of facing Dale Steyn in the first over of their second group match against South Africa, he grinned and said: “I played against Shoaib Akhtar in a warm-up match last year. Very fast. Very, very fast. First over he bowled me two short balls,” he broke stride to mime leaning back to play a pull shot. “I hit them both to the boundary, bang, bang. One of them went on to the roof. Then I told him: ‘this is not club cricket’. I am a very good batsman, very quick reflexes.”
I think they will be entertaining and knowing the resilience of the people from that mountainous country, they are going make it difficult for India and South Africa. For the India match, my loyalties are divided. For the South Africa match, I am with Afghanistan.