From refugee camp to World Cup: The Afghanistan cricket story
October 8, 2013
He first learned to play cricket in a refugee camp, with a ball he made from cloth.
The only stumps he had were his own shoes.
This was Nowroz Mangal, a man exiled to Pakistan from his home: Afghanistan.
It was in Pakistan where Afghans like Mangal first learned the game, following the migration of thousands from their native land after the Russian invasion in the 1980s. These Afghan refugees imitated their Pakistani neighbours, taking up cricket and using concrete strips in the refugee camps as a pitch.
In Afghanistan, a country devastated by what can seem perpetual conflict and hardship, cricket has emerged as a means by which people have recovered national pride and which for some even a route away from violence.
Mangal, now 28, was spotted by Taj Malik, the founder of the Afghanistan team and their first coach.
They decided to give him a shot at making their fledgling team.
Not only did he succeed in being picked, but years later and Mangal would go on to become the captain of the Afghanistan National Cricket Team himself.
And as of last week, for the first time, he has led his country to qualification for the ICC Cricket World Cup.
The Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan until 2001 notoriously outlawed cricket along with sport of any kind.
Cricket was, for some reason, the only sport the regime looked kindly toward, and authorised its being played in 2000.
In just 13 years since then the country sees its national team qualify for the biggest competition in world cricket and can look forward to them going up against the likes of England, Australia and Pakistan when the tournament is held in 2015.