Strife-torn Afghanistan find succour in cricket team's success
Strife-torn Afghanistan qualified for its maiden ICC World Cup after beating Kenya by seven wickets to finish second in the World Cricket League Championship in Sharjah.
Deciding to field first after winning the toss, Afghanistan dismissed Kenya for 93 in 43.3 overs and then overhauled the target in 20.5 overs, with seven wickets to spare.
The victory meant Afghanistan finished with 19 points -- five behind champions Ireland, which had already qualified for ICC's flagship event to be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand in 2015.
The architects of Afghanistan's victory were left-arm spinner Hamza Hotak, captain Mohammad Nabi and Hashmatullah Shaidi. Hotak was the pick of bowlers with figures of 10-1-19-3, while Nabi scored 46 not out and Shaidi 13 not out.
Image: Afghanistan fans celebrate their teams victory
It's a fascinating journey for Afghanistan
The pair of Nabi and Shaidi put on 62 for the fourth wicket, after Shem Ngoche had taken two wickets in five balls to reduce Afghanistan to 34 for three.
By virtue of finishing second in the World Cricket League Championship, Afghanistan earned a place in Pool A that includes co-hosts Australia and New Zealand, as well as Bangladesh, England, Sri Lanka and Qualifier 3.
Afghanistan will play its opening match in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 against Bangladesh at Manuka Oval, Canberra, on February 18 while its other matches will be against Sri Lanka (February 22, Dunedin), Qualifier 3 (February 26, Dunedin), Australia (March 4, Perth), New Zealand (March 8, Napier) and England (March 13, Sydney).
From a country torn by war to a rising cricket-playing nation, it’s a fascinating journey for Afghanistan, who became an Affiliate member of the ICC in 2001 when they travelled to Pakistan for their first tour.
Image: Afghanistan players celebrate their success
Afghanistan nearly qualified for the 2011 World Cup
After languishing in the fifth division of the World Cricket League in 2008, Afghanistan nearly qualified for the 2011 World Cup, but their failure to get past Canada and surpass Kenya's net run-rate in the World Cup qualifiers, put paid to their hopes.
However, their performance prompted the ICC to granted them ODI status, valid until this year.
In the last few years, Afghanistan not only featured in the last two editions of the ICC's World Twenty20 in 2010 and 2012 but also played ODIs against two Test-playing nations -- Pakistan and Australia.
Though they lost both the ODI matches, performances of their players like Hamid Hassan and Mohammad Nabi have been appreciated. Their journey into a cricket nation was well-documented in the documentary based on their rise in cricket, Out of the Ashes, produced a few years ago.
Image: Mohammad Nabi of Afghanistan celebrates a wicket
Afghanistan also took care of things off-field
Along with their performance on field, Afghanistan also took care of things off-field as their cricket board restructured its organisation to provide better leadership and find qualified staff to run cricket administration.
They are currently developing their domestic cricket infrastructure, and signed a two-year deal with the Pakistan Cricket Board for the development of Afghanistan cricket ahead of the 2015 World Cup.
The ICC has played a big role in the uplift of Afghanistan cricket and in April this year, granted US $422,000 as part of the targeted assistance programme.
In June Afghanistan were granted associate membership of the ICC, making it the eighth Asian nation and the 38th overall to get the status.
Looking at the immense progress shown by the war-torn country, the ACC had last year sent the nomination request and the decision to grant Afghanistan the status was taken by the ICC at its annual conference. It joined Hong Kong (1969), Kuwait (2005), Malaysia (1967), Nepal (1996), Singapore (1974), Thailand (2005) and UAE (1990) as ICC Associates from the Asian region.
Image: Afghanistan's Samiullah Shenwari celebrates the dismissal of Kenya's batsman Ragheb Aga