Afghanistan’s fairy-tale begins at Lord’s
Afghanistan is ready for the “huge honour” of making their landmark Lord’s debut, officials said ahead of next week’s match, after a fairy-tale rise catapulted them into the elite club of Test nations last month.
The young side will be taking on the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), led by former New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum, in what officials hope will be an “historic” 50-overs match at the Home of Cricket on July 11.
Sri Lanka legend Kumar Sangakkara and West Indies great Shivnarine Chanderpaul, both of whom are playing domestic cricket in the United Kingdom, will also feature for the MCC.
The Afghan side includes Indian Premier League stars Mohammad Nabi and teenage leg-spinner Rashid Khan, who took 17 wickets in his debut this year. Nabi was previously on the MCC Young Cricketers scheme.
Other players include captain Asghar Stanikzai, Noor Ali Zadran, Javed Ahmadi, Nasir Jamal, Samiullah Shenwari, Afsar Zazai, Shafiqullah Shafaq, Rahmat Shah, Gulbadin Naib, Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran and Farid Malik.
Both Afghanistan and Ireland were confirmed as full members at an International Cricket Council (ICC) meeting during its annual conference in London late June and will be eligible to play five-day Test cricket, widely regarded as the sport’s supreme format.
“It will be a huge honour and experience for the team, as we will be playing for the first time there (at Lord’s),” an Afghanistan Cricket Board spokesperson told AFP on Thursday.
Walking onto the pitch at Lord’s will cap a dizzying rise for cricket-mad Afghanistan. Many Afghans’ first contact with the game only took place during the 1980s and 1990s, in Pakistani refugee camps sheltering millions who fled the Soviet invasion.
The game struggled in the late 1990s under the regime of the hardline Islamist Taliban, who viewed sports as a distraction from religious duties.
But it has become hugely popular in the country since the Taliban were toppled in a US-led invasion in 2001.
Recent successes, particularly in last year’s ICC World Twenty20 where Afghanistan defeated eventual champions West Indies in the group stage, have further raised the country’s profile. -AFP