Afghan girls play cricket
How far would you go to follow your dreams? Can your passion survive against death threats, curses and abandonment? Most of us would choose social acceptance over personal ambition. A few girls in Afghanistan however, choose to defy conventions and go against the currents, prepared to risk their lives to follow their love of cricket.
Most cricket fans know the heart-warming story of Afghanistan men's cricket team and their dream journey from the depths of darkness to competing in the 2012 T20 World Cup. But few have heard the equally inspiring tale of their female counterparts.
War and instability were the biggest challenges faced by men's cricket team. But the challenges surrounding the young female cricketers in Afghanistan are even more fundamental. Their own society remains their biggest enemy. Even with more than thirty years of civil war behind them, these women continue to fight a war against their countrymen. Their demand is simple. They just want to play cricket.
Women’s sports participation in Afghanistan has increased since the 2001 fall of the hardline Islamist Taliban and the budding female cricketers are no exception. In and around Kabul, hundreds of young women reportedly play cricket and travel miles every day to reach the training grounds.
Although the Afghan cricket board has taken a lot of effort to encourage more women to join the game, their participation in any sport remains frowned upon.
The women's national cricket team was officially formed in 2010 and they were even set to feature in the 2011 T20 event in Kuwait. However, they were forced to pull out due to strong opposition from the clergy and the conservative elements in the Afghan society. Even today, these girls often have to train behind closed doors to stay away from the scorching glares of the public.
Despite the adversities, these young women keep coming back to their makeshift pitches purely due to their love for the game and their desire to become superstars.
Cricket in Afghanistan: A remarkable story
Be it the men’s team or the women’s, the story of cricket in Afghanistan in recent years has been truly remarkable for obvious reasons. If the three-decade long internal war wasn’t enough, in 2001, the country was bombarded by the US following the September 11 attacks. The fact that the national cricket team was born during these times of violence and bloodshed, makes their story even more special.
The biggest chunk of the world’s cricket followers resides in Asia. Considering the social and economic challenges faced by majority of the countries in the region, it’s astonishing to see the die-hard fan following and the massive turn ups to the games. Perhaps it is the sport that brings solace during times of distress. And perhaps that’s what explains the common man’s love for cricket in Afghanistan.
Irrespective of their performance during the T20 World Cup, the Afghan cricket team’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric. Their impressive performances in the 2009 qualifiers earned them a place in the 2010 World T20, their first major tournament. Later that year, they beat Scotland in the final of the Intercontinental Cup to win their first big tournament. In 2012, they came close to beating India in the T20 World Cup and their whole-hearted effort won the hearts of fans across the globe.
Within years of its birth, Afghanistan cricket has become a legendary tale. The present generation of Afghan cricketers have shown that above money, fame and politics lays the passion for sports.
So, how far would you go to pursue your passion?