Never a team to do things by halves, especially when the cameras are trained upon them, the Afghanistan national team are staking their future as cricketers on the ICC World Cricket League Division 5, taking place in Jersey at the end of the month.

If they finish in the top two, they move up the ladder and take on Fiji, Hong Kong, Italy and Tanzania in Division 4, where a top two finish gets them to Division 3. Their goal is the 2011 World Cup. "If we don't get there, we have no future," says Raees Ahmadzai, one of the senior members of the team in ‘Out of the Ashes’, a documentary being filmed by an English crew who are following them on their quest.

Afghanistan’s coach Taj Malik leads the cheers as
his team clinch another victory, Kuwait 2007

The Afghans play with a passion unmatched by any Associate team in Asia, all of them have had the benefit of playing for clubs in Pakistan, some have played in Sri Lanka (and trained with England during last year’s tour), two have already played for the MCC. To a man, cricket is all they have, cricket is all they know. They may not make it all the way to the 2011 World Cup but non-qualification would set them back years. Their coach for the past five years, Taj Malik, who has a better grasp of cricket than geography, says of the forthcoming World Cricket League clash in the (English) Channel Island of Jersey, “This is do or die. I will put myself in the Atlantic if we lose."

They start as favourites but in the past teams who play percentage cricket have beaten the passionate Afghans. They don’t need to play any better, they need to think better. If they do, they really could go all the way to the World Cup in 2011.

Related: Afghanistan

Filed May 12, 2008