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Afghan spirits high despite rain at Lord's

Spectator goes wild with excitement as he invades the pitch to get a photo with Asghar Stanikzai of Afghanistan during the MCC v Afghanistan cricket match at Lord's Cricket Ground on July 11, 2017 in London, England. (Photo: Getty Images)
by Phillip Barker, Olympic historian

LONDON, 14 July, 2017 – Rain prevented a result in Afghanistan’s match against Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) at Lord’s Cricket Ground but the atmosphere generated by a crowd of over 5.000 was not dampened by the weather. It was the first time that the Afghans had appeared at Lord’s.

MCC included Pakistan’s Misbah Ul Haq and New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum in their line up, but were restricted to 217 for 6 in their 40 overs. Only five overs were possible in the Afghan reply before a continuous downpour brought proceedings to a halt.

“It has been my dream to play at this Lord’s. We have been waiting to play at this ground. It is something special,” said 18 year old Afghan player Rashid Khan who has already made a name for himself in the Indian Premier League (IPL)

“Everyone wants to play test cricket, we are looking forward to playing it as soon as possible. There is big hope when the team go abroad to play,” he said. “The guys are working hard, we have a great deal of talent coming from the Under 19s, its very bright, we don’t have as many facilities as we need,” said Rashid.

‘’We have a very good structure with youth teams. These are the feeders for the national team. If your base is strong then the national team is strong. We have players who are knocking on the doors so it is good to see a lot of youngsters coming up. You can tell them to work hard, they don’t take a step backwards,” said head coach Lalchand Rajput.

The International Cricket Council accorded full member status to Afghanistan in June along with Ireland. It means both nations may now play test cricket, the traditional five day format which is considered the pinnacle of International cricket.

“This idea was hatched before Afghanistan became a test nation, so it is serendipity that they became a full member which added more context to the game. It was a great success, scuppered by the weather a little bit,” said MCC Head of Cricket John Stephenson. “We think it is a really positive move forward, there is such a passion and talent and it can only be a good thing for the game.”

With the support of MCC President Matthew Fleming, the Afghan Connect charity founded by Dr. Sarah Fane has helped cricket develop in Afghan schools .They have coached over 4,500 children, built 100 cricket pitches and set up tournaments across 22 provinces.

A team talk for Afghanistan against the backdrop of historic Lord's pavilion (Photo: Philip Barker)

“Cricket has completely transformed life in Afghanistan, it has given huge amounts of joy’’ said Dr. Fane.

No arrangements have yet been made for a test match involving Afghanistan but security considerations mean they are forced to play ‘home’ matches in Greater Noida, some 1000 km away in India.

“We know we will not be able to play at home for at least three years so we have to adjust ourselves,” said Rashid.

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