From a Cricinfo piece by George Dobell, about the one day cricket international between Afghanistan and Pakistan, played in the United Arab Emirates yesterday:
A spokesman for the Taliban contacted the Afghanistan Cricket Board on the morning of the game to wish the team well and assure them they would be remembered in their prayers.
Pakistan won at a canter, but the Afghans did not disgrace themselves, in their first ODI against a top ranked, Full Member, test playing nation.
Afghan minister of finance Dr Omar Zakhilwal:
“The event appears to have united the entire country. … There is nothing that can touch cricket in popularity or as a force for good in Afghanistan. There is absolutely nothing else that mobilises our society in the same way. Not politics, political events or reconstruction.”
Cricket, says Dobell, is booming in Afghanistan:
Not only is the international team now full time, but there are league teams in 28 of the 34 provinces …
However, Dobell goes on to report that:
… the sport will be made compulsory as part of the school curriculum.
And you get the definite feeling that Dobell thinks that’s good. I am a rabid cricket fan, but I say that nothing puts many people off a sport more completely than being made to play it against their will. For sport, read: anything.
I remember school contemporaries who would have preferred being in the Taliban to playing bloody cricket.