Afghan Cricket


Afghan Youth robbed!

Afghan Youth robbed!

The sight of the brooding Shapoor Zadran running in to bowl was enough to captivate me and kept me hooked for the good 15-20 remaining minutes of yesterday’s Dr. M.A. Shah Night Trophy Twenty20 game.

Zadran, an opening bowler for Afghanistan’s international team, I thought had been inducted into one of the local club teams as an overseas player which made for an interesting concept. But upon close observation I noticed that the jerseys of the team in beige actually read ‘Afghan Youth.’ It was Korangi Al- Fatah and Dr. M.A. Shah Trophy’s first international club team facing off. The idea seemed great, for it is mutually beneficial, and as the game progressed some of the other players in beige wore a more familiar look.

Who can forget the head-banded Hamid Hassan’s searing yorkers and clever slower balls for Afghanistan at the 2010 World Twenty20 Championship in the West Indies. He was typically menacing at the Asghar Ali Shah Stadium in Karachi and at one point fired in toe-crushers five times out of six. Kabul’s Sehwag was also on display. Nine of the eleven players in the Afghan Youth club side playing in the night trophy currently also represent the Afghan national side. The players are, for me, top draw in an event which is otherwise dull and produces low quality cricket. The visitors are mysterious, have tons of potential and a miracle considering how most aspects of social development have been ravaged by constant warring. The appeal doesn’t not grow stale no matter how many times one sees them in action.

They were perhaps the only reason why I watched yesterday’s Dr. M.A. Shah Trophy game, my first, which went into the wee hours of Saturday. Otherwise, I had little knowledge that the tournament had started.

Batting first Afghan Youth scored 116-7 from their 20 overs. In reply Korangi Al Fatah looked all set to cruise to victory until Zadran picked up two quick wickets to turn the balance.

But then came the defining moment. It can be called incompetence or a lack of professionalism while some might judge the situation with a little suspicion. With Hassan bowling his accurate fuller deliveries it seemed a wicket was on the cards at any moment as the batsmen looked for quick runs. 11 to win from 8 balls, Hassan traps the opposition skipper Malik Aftab Alam plumb in front. The umpires says not out and the ball runs away to the fine leg boundary. The batsman take a double of the last ball and Korangi all of a sudden require 5 from the final over. Now the umpire does something which was dimwit-ish to say the least. With two to win from three balls, the batsman taps the ball to mid-off, the fielder runs in and aims but finds the umpire in his way. The umpire, instead of running to the other side of the wicket to take his position in the potential run out situation had actually run directly in the line of sight of the fielder who had to hold his throw back until he found space around the umpire’s body. The throw obviously missed the stumps as Korangi stole another run and won the match. Sad, in more ways than one. Who’s certifying these umpires and what are the doing in the well-intentioned but according to me a poorly organised club tournament?

It was pleasing to see the Afghans not protesting the obvious mistakes by the umpire but tournament organizer Dr M.A Shah seriously needs to have a word with the officials. I will be following Afghan Youth’s remaining two matches against Malir Gymkhana today and Mullakatiar C.C tomorrow hope they would fare better. They are the only two games that I will watch simply for the novelty attached to them.

Cricket authorities on the national and club level need to realise high-profile tournaments will benefit no one if what happens on the field goes unaccountable for and is mediocre at best.

Taimur Sikander is a sports editor at Dawn.com.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the comments that follow do not necessarily reflect the views of the Dawn Media Group.

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