Where can I start to describe the joy I feel at the World Cup cricket match between Afghanistan and New Zealand tomorrow?
I would say that for me it is the most important match in the whole history of World Cup Cricket since I first heard the first ever WC ODI in Kathmadu, listening with a Kashmiri carpet merchant, in 1975.
A David Warner push manages to evade Samiullah Shenwari, Australia v Afghanistan, World Cup 2015, Group A, Perth, March 4, 2015
I first travelled to the then fabled Afghanistan in 1976 and I journeyed through that peaceful country for 6 months working for the Red Cross on an earthquake and later, a flood relief operation at a time when it was such a peaceful country. Then I lived there for 3 years from 1993-96, during a period of anarchy and bloodshed. I saw so much suffering and death, and over four million people displaced to neighbouring countries.
This was the time the Taliban was born and came to power. The Taliban’s never liked sport, but eventually agreed that cricket was an acceptable game. Then from 2000 to 2006, I visited Afghanistan on a regular basis and saw cricket becoming an important game in the country.
Who wins today is not important. For a country that has been penalised and picked on, by its geographical location for many centuries, Afghanistan cricketers and nearly the whole nation, are celebrating this opportunity to be competing for the first time in the ICC Cricket World Cup. Afghanistan also competes at a top level in handball, football, wrestling and water polo.
Over the past decades most photographs coming out of Afghanistan are of soldiers holding semiautomatic weapons, but in recent weeks, we are seeing delightful photographs of Afghan cricketer holding cricket bats, or going for spectacular catches, or bowling.
With a new Government in Afghanistan, and a cricket team that are doing well, let’s hope and pray Afghanistan is on the cusp on a new, positive era in its history, where sport will replace the Kalashnikov culture
Nowroz Mangal hits out, Australia v Afghanistan, World Cup 2015, Group A, Perth, March 4, 2015
I attach a documentary made by Ross Stevens for TVNZ in 1996. This shows why I love Afghanistan.