The emergence of Afghan cricket
by Revatha Silva
Sri Lanka crashed out of the 14th Asia Cup in UAE on Monday, 17 September 2018. Cricket is often considered the national pastime and the most significant brand Sri Lanka can promote in the world stage. With the defeat, Sri Lanka’s cricket hit a new low.
SRI LANKA’S ODI RECORD IN LAST THREE YEARS
(SEPT. 18, 2015 – SEPT. 18, 2018)
(Played 66, Won 20, Lost 41, Tied 1, No Result 4, W/L Ratio 0.487)
7 Nov. 2015 – Win 3-match home series 3-0 against West Indies
5 Jan. 2016 – Lose 5-match away series 3-1 against New Zealand
18 Jan. 2016 – Win 2-match away series 2-0 against Ireland
2 July 2016 – Lose 5-match away series 3-0 against England
4 Sept. 2016 – Lose 5-match home series 4-1 against Australia
27 Nov. 2016 – Win Tri-series in Zimbabwe also involving West Indies
10 Feb. 2017 – Lose 5-match away series 5-0 against South Africa
1 April 2017 – Draw 3-match home series 1-1 against Bangladesh
12 June 2017 – Lose to Pakistan by 3 wkts. and eliminated from Champions Trophy (ICC Knockouts) 2017 first-round
10 July 2017 – Lose 5-match home series 3-2 against Zimbabwe
3 Sept. 2017 – Lose 5-match home series 5-0 against India
23 Oct. 2017 – Lose 5-match series in UAE 5-0 against Pakistan to record 12 consecutive ODI losses
17 Dec. 2017 – Lose 3-match away series 2-1 against India
27 Jan. 2018 – Win tri-series in Bangladesh also involving Zimbabwe
12 Aug. 2018 – Lose 5-match home series 3-2 against South Africa
17 Sept. 2018 – Lose to both Bangladesh and Afghanistan and eliminated from Asia Cup 2018 first-round in UAE
Sri Lanka, former world champions in both the ODI and T20I formats, were comprehensively outplayed by Afghanistan.
The Afghans are babes into the Test arena having gained the Full Member status of the International Cricket Council (ICC) only last year.
Pitiable cricketing history –
Afghanistan doesn’t have a deep-rooted cricketing history or cricket culture compared to what Sri Lanka has.
The British colonial rulers did not leave a lasting legacy of the game in Afghanistan. Influenced by the bordering Pakistan, cricket started becoming popular in Afghanistan less than 20 years ago mainly through their refugees who stayed in Pakistan.
Cricket was originally banned in Afghanistan by the Taliban who took control of most parts of the country since mid 1990s, imposing strict Sharia or Islamic law. In 2000, the Taliban eased the ban on cricket and the following year saw Afghanistan becoming an ICC affiliate.
Winning ODI status –
Afghanistan cricket is greatly influenced by Pakistan with emphasis being given to fast bowling, wrist-spin bowling and aggressive style of play.
Their first official tour to England was in 2006 where they performed well against some English county teams. Their first major tournament victory was recorded in 2007 when they shared the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Twenty20 Cup with Oman.
Then, aiming to qualify for the 2011 World Cup, they climbed up the World Cricket League (WCL) ladder winning its Division III tournament in 2009. By doing so they reached the World Cup Qualifiers yet failed to enter the 2011 World Cup.
But Afghanistan could earn ODI status from the ICC the same year, in 2009. They played their first ODI in April 2009 against Scotland and won by 89 runs.
Their first-ever First Class match too was held the same year, against a Zimbabwean XI.
ICC Associate Membership –
Afghanistan received ICC Associate Membership on 27 June 2013. The decision was taken on the ICC’s annual meeting on 26 June 2013 in London with the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) CEO Dr. Noor Muhammad Murrad attending.
The nomination was made by the Asian Cricket Council based on the rapid development of cricket under former ACB CEO Dr. Hamid Sheenwari.
“Afghanistan is the only country that receives the Associate Membership in a short period of time in reward to the efforts Afghanistan made for the promotion of cricket,” Dr. Noor Muhammad said on their receiving of the ICC Associate Membership.
In major world tournaments –
They qualified to play in the last three ICC World Twenty20 tournaments; in 2012, 2014 and 2016. In 2016 they beat eventual champions West Indies and Zimbabwe to reach the tournament’s Super Ten stage.
In March 2014, they recorded their first-ever win against a Test nation. They beat Bangladesh in Fatullah in a 2014 Asia Cup match by 32 runs.
They got their maiden World Cup qualification in the 2015 edition, staged in Australia and New Zealand. There, Afghanistan beat Scotland to record their first win in a World Cup tournament.
In July 2016, ACB unveiled a strategic plan and set targets for Afghanistan cricket team to be a top-six ODI team by 2019 and a top-three team in both T20Is and ODIs by 2025.
In March 2017 Afghanistan hosted for the first time a full international series. That was against Ireland at their home ground, the Greater Noida Sports Complex Ground situated in Uttar Pradesh’s Gautam Budh Nagar district.
In June 2017, Afghanistan played their first full-series against a major Test playing country, West Indies and recorded an ODI win in Gross Islet.
Test status –
On 22 June 2017, the ICC awarded Afghanistan full Test status, along with Ireland.
In December 2017, the ICC confirmed that Afghanistan was scheduled to play their first Test against India.
On 14 and 15 January 2018, Afghanistan played their inaugural Test, against India in Bengaluru and were beaten by an innings and 262 runs.
Ajinkaya Rahane and Asghar Afghan captained India and Afghanistan respectively.
According to the ICC Future Tours Programme for 2019–23, Afghanistan are scheduled to play 13 Tests.
Against Sri Lanka-
Sri Lanka first played Afghanistan in an ODI in the 2014 Asia Cup in Dhaka and won it by 129 runs.
Then they met each other again in the 2015 ICC World Cup in Dunedin and Sri Lanka won by four wickets.
Monday’s game was only their third meeting in ODIs.
Mohammed Nabi and Asghar Afghan have been the Afghanistan skippers in their international appearances so far.
It’s notable that Angelo Mathews has skippered Sri Lanka on all three occasions the two teams have met so far.
In June 2016, Lalchand Rajput of India was named as head coach of Afghanistan’s national team, replacing Pakistan’s Inzamam ul Haq.
But his contract was ended by the Afghan board in August 2017 and was later replaced by Phil Simmons who is their present coach.