Thursday, September 6, 2018
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The rise of Afghan cricket: From defying the Taliban to the Big Bash

In 1999, as Steve Waugh's Australian side celebrated winning the World Cup final at Lord's, Afghanistan's few cricketers played in hiding as the game remained banned by the Taliban.

Less than two decades later, Afghan players Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi have been recruited as the star Big Bash League imports for the Adelaide Strikers and Melbourne Renegades.

Nabi said it marked a staggering rise for Afghanistan cricket.

"That was my dream that I would play one day in the Big Bash and this dream came true," the 33-year-old said.

"There was nothing at all, no proper grounds in Afghanistan when we first started cricket there."

Aghanistan's Mohammad Nabi bowls against England at the World Twenty20

Former first class cricketer Morteza Ali was born and raised in Afghanistan, but fled the country when he was 16. Now based in Melbourne, he described the hurdles faced by Afghan cricketers.

"In Afghanistan we were not allowed to play sports under the Taliban regime," he said.

"We did not have any equipment to play anywhere. There was only one tennis ball, so we would never imagine we could play hard ball cricket."

The national team was granted affiliate membership by the International Cricket Council in 2001 and topped the World Cricket League's fifth division at its first attempt.

The winning continued as the side qualified for the 2015 World Cup, followed by victories over the West Indies, Zimbabwe and Ireland.

Afghanistan celebrates a wicket during and ODI against Ireland.

In June last year Afghanistan officially became the 11th Test playing nation, while Nabi and Khan broke new ground by being recruited by BBL teams.

Nabi said the news made a big impact back home.

"They're very excited and everybody watches the Big Bash in Afghanistan, everyone is supporting me and Rashid," he said.

"In Afghanistan, cricket is the one thing to bring happiness on the faces of everybody."

The next chapter for Afghanistan is the country's first Test match against India likely to be held in 2018.

Nabi and Khan will then turn their sights to a Test against Australia.

Original Article

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