By Zia Ur Rehman

May 2, 2014

KARACHI – The international community’s assistance in helping Afghanistan’s cricket team is proving to be fruitful as the side prepares for the 2015 World Cup.

The Afghans attended a two-week training session in Karachi before heading to the Malaysian-hosted ACC event, and Pakistan’s training apparently paid off.

The team recently won its first two matches in the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Premier League over Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates, May 1 and 2, respectively.

Preparing for the 2015 World Cup:  

Militancy, financial problems and lack of facilities are not stopping the Afghan team.

After exhibiting the potential to play against established cricket-playing nations in the Asia Cup, the team is preparing for the 2015 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup.

The ICC last October gave the team a US $1m (AFN 56.8m) grant after it qualified for the 2015 World Cup.

While the financial assistance is appreciated, Kabeer Khan, the team’s coach, understands that experience and training are the keys his side needs to win.

“Understanding the game’s finer points was the reason we went to Karachi,” team captain Muhammad Nabi told Central Asia Online. “We are in Pakistan to get maximum knowledge from Rashid Latif and Aamir Sohail, and both of them are carefully teaching us the skills we need to improve.”

“I am trying to make the Afghan cricket team competitive enough to play against the world’s best teams next year,” Sohail said.

Sports gain popularity: 

Sports in Afghanistan have been gaining popularity since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001.

The militant regime banned sports and used Kabul’s main stadium as a stage for public executions. But the Afghan government has since been working to promote sports.

When Afghan refugees returned to their homeland, the country formed a cricket team despite a lack of funding and facilities.

“The government and the Afghanistan Cricket Board are doing its best to promote sports,” Khan said. “Cricket is now a school subject in Afghanistan, so we have a strategy to bring young talent to the national team.”

The sport also is finding success with the country’s females.

“The government is making efforts to bring women into the structure of sports,” Suleman Hotak, a Kunduz-based sportswriter, told Central Asia Online.

Another sport, football, is finding its way into Afghans’ affections. In September, the Afghan football teamdefeated India in the South Asian Football Federation Championship final in Nepal.

For its work in developing grass-roots football, building infrastructure and nurturing a professional league, the Afghanistan Football Federation received the FIFA Fair Play Award last year.