Recently we heard another politically charged statement about Afghan cricket. This time it came from the British Ambassador to Afghanistan Sir William Patey. He praised the Afghan cricketers' achievements in a blog (for which we thank him) and wrote “It is tremendously important that the rest of the world, not just coalition partners, see the positive side to Afghanistan, like that projected by the Afghan cricket team.”

This comes as another politically charged statement made by a partner in the coalition in Afghanistan after the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier this year that “If we are searching for a model of how to meet tough international challenges with skill, dedication and teamwork, we need only look to the Afghan national cricket team". Mr. William goes further and says, “Their success demonstrates that, far from being a lost cause, the people of Afghanistan have the spirit and dedication to overcome the obstacles facing them”.

If Afghan cricket is this important that it gives high hopes to the international community to think of Afghanistan being “far from being a lost cause”, the question is how much this community (that has gone to Afghanistan to bring security, stability, and prosperity as Sir William Patey puts it) have contributed or will contribute to Afghan cricket?

The international community understands the important role of cricket in bringing security and stability to Afghanistan. It understands that if the Afghanistan Cricket Board is supported to build proper facilities in all 34 provinces, it can attract hundreds of thousand young boys and girls to play cricket instead of picking arms. It understands and sees that Afghanistan is the only affiliate member of the International Cricket Council (a status not only below full membership, but also associate membership) that attracts tens of thousands spectators inside and outside of Afghanistan when it plays matches. It understands that a proper cricket ground can be built with less than 250 thousand USD. Building two grounds in each province means spending 17 million USD in all 34 provinces and one ground in each province means less than 8.5 million USD. Comparing this to billions of dollars wasted on unsuccessful projects in Afghanistan is minimal, but look at the benefit the international community can get from this small investment!

Hundreds of thousands Afghan youths will play sport; their hopes to have prosperity will be kept alive. Its contribution to the nation building exercise will be increased. The desire for peace instead of war will spread across youth and their families. A good example is the recently held cricket tournament in the volatile province of Paktia where 32 teams (480 players) decided to name their tournament “Peace Trophy”. We were astonished with the names of participating teams such as University, Abdulshakoor Rashad (an Afghan Philosopher), Unity, Afghan, Khyber, Pakhtunkhwa, and Qoli Urdo (the Afghan Army). One could easily feel the sense of pride and the desire for peace and prosperity in these names.

The international community (including the British and US embassies) has supported the Afghan cricket on a small scale with cricket kits and cash contributions from time to time, but we are talking about proper support in the form of building facilities that can be built by the Afghanistan Cricket Board within 6 to 12 months all around Afghanistan for less than 8.5 million USD.

Only this sort of guanine contribution and efforts can make the prediction of Sir William Patey to play England in a test at Lords in “a couple of years” achievable. Only building proper facilities for Afghan cricketers can implement coach Rashid Latif's plan to get test status for Afghanistan in two years time. Otherwise why would the International Cricket Council even raise Afghanistan's membership from affiliate to associate, which Afghanistan has to get before applying for full membership?

The proud international community talks too much about the successful story of Afghan cricket, at times only for political consumption, but now is the time they route some of its funds towards building proper cricket facilities for the Afghanistan Cricket Board so it can achieve its dream of “Test status” and the international community its dream of “security, stability, and prosperity”.

Article reproduced by kind permission of The Cricket Post