“You can’t have proper cricket without proper grounds.” Check. Afghanistan’s working on them and will have six across the country by the start of the 2011 season. “Perfect preparation makes for perfect performance.” Check. Afghanistan’s already started trialling teenagers in anticipation of the 2012 U/19 World Cup. “You can’t play properly unless you play by the rules.” Check. Afghanistan’s just completed a Level I Umpiring Course, its first after four and a half years.

The previous two Umpiring Courses in Afghanistan (in 2005 and 2006) were made up of national players in the main, many of whom were in their infancy in the game. That generation went on to be Asian Cricket Council champions in 50-over cricket, and 20-over cricket and play in the ICC World Twenty20. Cricket activity in the country was then largely confined to those players and their few teams, now thanks to their inspiration and example, cricket has spread to many parts of Afghanistan, in numbers which demand attention, management and support.

The first generation, training, earlier this year

Afghanistan Cricket Board CEO Hamid Shinwari says, “cricket in Afghanistan is experiencing a huge increase in participation and interest and we are committed to developing the necessary capacity to ensure that the game reaches elite international levels.”

In a significant sign of cultural and cricketing advances three of the 29 participants were women in the six-day long cricket umpiring course held in Kabul. ACC Resource Person Mahboob Shah (Umpire in 28 Tests and 32 ODIs) conducted the course and after its conclusion said, “many of the umpires in the workshop have talent and only need more experience. It is good that the ACB is working on their development.” The course was held in Urdu and English with the intensity of the final day’s practical leading Mahboob Shah to say “I had not experienced this kind of a serious cricket match staged in other countries for purposes of trialling umpires.”

Picture by Leslie Knott

Three NGOS in Afghanistan (UNICEF, Afghan Connection and AYCSO) are working to support women’s’ cricket in the country and Afghanistan will be sending its first ever women’s team to the ACC Twenty20 in February 2011.

“Our strong commitment to the development of women’ s cricket means that it was very important that three young women participated in the umpiring workshop,” said Mr. Shinwari said, “they are already the leaders of the women’s cricket movement and this training will increase their ability to develop and promote the women’s game.”

10,000 fans in Kuwait in 2006. 1,000,000 more in Afghanistan in 2016

“The fact of the matter is that for cricket to succeed and be the game it can be, in being a place where parents can know their children are engaged in a healthy activity, where rules and discipline are being maintained, where they can play in as safe conditions as possible – all this has to happen in a well-connected way. Many countries have one element but not the others, it is good to see Afghanistan making a fresh start in this. There is a long way to go yet and as the game grows so will the challenges,” says ACC Development Manager Bandula Warnapura.

Afghanistan’s cricket has succeeded in the past almost in spite of its limitations, take those away it could do significantly well for many years to come.

Asian Cricket Council Development Program
Afghanistan Cricket Profile
Afghanistan’s Domestic Development

Filed November 2nd, 2010