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Bombs and bullets can't stop Afghan cricketers

By Cui Jia (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-11-25 11:28
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Bombs and bullets can't stop Afghan cricketers
Afghanistan's Mohammad Shahzad plays a reverse sweep during the match against Hong Kong on Wednesday. Afghanistan defeated Hong Kong by eight wickets. [Photo/ China Daily]

Guangzhou - Cricketers from war-torn Afghanistan have their hearts set on winning the first-ever Asian Games cricket tournament after they outclassed Hong Kong by eight wickets to reach the semifinals on Wednesday.

"We are here to win the gold medal. We want people to know that besides violence and fighting, Afghanistan also has a good cricket team," said vice captain Karim Khan Sadeq.

Their victory cued up a clash with Pakistan for a place in Thursday's final.

"We are confident we can take down Pakistan, because it didn't send its best team and we are at our peak. Nobody wants to miss the opportunity to win this (historic medal) for our country," said Sadeq.

Afghanistan has already had a taste of success by defeating Nepal to win the Asian Cricket Council Trophy Elite on April 9, which boosted its fan base.

"Our matches are being broadcast live in Afghanistan, so there must be one million students missing school today," quipped Sadeq. "We won't let them down."

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Cricket became popular in Afghanistan in early 2002, when Afghan refugees who had lived in Pakistan returned home and brought the sport with them. The governing Taliban originally banned sports, but cricket was made an exception in 2000.

"We had no choice but to train in Pakistan before 2004 because of the war, which has lasted for about 30 years. We hate the war so much because it brings everything to a halt," said bowler Merwais Ashraf.

"Our priority then was not to get our heads blown off by bombs. Now the Taliban has gone we can fully concentrate on training at home, although there are still random bomb attacks," he said.

More importantly, the recent match in Guangzhou showed the world the never-say-die spirit of the people of Afghanistan, said Ashraf.

Cricket, the only sport in Afghanistan that has experienced a degree of success, seems to have a promising future in the country, which is now busy nurturing a talented young generation.

"We have the support of the International Cricket Council and some private non-governmental organizations. In a few years, cricket will experience more development," said Ashraf.

In Wednesday's second match, Sri Lanka sneaked into the men's semifinals with a tense two-wicket victory over Nepal. Sri Lanka will take on Bangladesh in the second semifinal on Thursday.

"It was too close for comfort and the victory was not convincing enough. We lost eight wickets, but we should have finished the match with a maximum of two wickets lost," said Sri Lanka captain Jehan Mubarak.


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