Thursday, 1 November 2012

Cricket's gateway to Central Asia

In the recent World T20 world, one team really impressed and surprised everybody. Not many could imagine that a country which has been under war for more than 30 years could perform so well. Afghanistan with it's battery of pacers and swashbuckling batsman impressed the whole world and perhaps is taking all the right steps towards becoming a good team.

When I heard about Afghanistan team playing against a local Peshawar club I could never imagined that one day, Australia would agree to play an ODI against the same team and surprisingly many players were part of both the teams. Afghans learned cricket when they were in refugee camps in Pakistan. Many of the Pakistani stars were Pashtun's like Imran Khan, the largest ethnic group of Afghanistan and it became very attractive to Afghans. When in 1992 a Pashtun Imran Khan lead Pakistan to World Cup victory this has an immediate connect and liking for the game. Thus the game entered Afghanistan

Afghanistan cricketers not surprisingly belonged to only one group Pashtuns, and the other Ethnic groups were not represented such as Tajiks, Hazara, Uzbek or Turkmen. This was not surprising since mostly Pashtuns came to Pakistan while others went to other countries like Tajikistan, Iran etc which were not cricket country.

However overtime things began to change. The game of Cricket became a proud symbol of representing Afghanistan. Now besides Pashtun the other ethnic groups also started to relate to the game. Teams and Clubs were there in almost all the states. Cricket truly has started to become a national game. The U-19 team for first time had youngsters across the ethnic groups.

It is a matter of time when, we will soon have a composite team in Afghanistan. This has already started to sow the seeds of Cricket possibly becoming a major sport in many other countries. Afghanistan shares ethnic group across borders. Pashtun are spread across Afghanistan and Pakistan, Tajiks across Tajikistan and Afghanistan, Uzbek similarly across Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, Hazara share religion with Iran, Turkmen with Turkmenistan and finally Baloch across Afghanistan, Pakistan & Iran.
Afghanistan and it's location in Central Asia

With the Afghan's having relations across many borders, with the game engrossed in the nation, it would mean that sooner or later seeing the passion with their relatives across the borders the game is bound to spread in the Central Asian nations of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and in the Middle East country of Iran.

This means that like the Geopolitical Strategic importance of Afghanistan, similarly it is of the same importance to ICC. With Central Asia playing cricket, it would draw interest in many other areas like former Soviet nations and many more middle east populations. But that is a thought too far for this time. The Central Asian countries have shown their mark in many sports and these athletic people surely can make some great cricket teams.

So Afghanistan becomes a really important nation for Afghanistan. Not only ICC can establish Cricket as a game which will bring peace to Afghanistan, by helping the country, but it naturally helps many more countries come to fold of cricket. Let's hope to see a cracking cricket team of Tajikistan or Iran playing a cricket match against India in near future.