Wednesday 18 June 2014 

Afghanistan Are Minnows No More

Afghanistan cricket is making great progress; a win against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup 2014 was another big stride
Afghanistan cricket is making great progress; a win against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup 2014 was another big stride
© REUTERS / Action Images
 

Writing from Afghanistan, Anthony Pearson says it is time to drop the 'minnows' tag that has so often been associated with the likes of Afghanistan, Ireland and other emerging teams.

'Minnows' are small freshwater fish. The word has been regularly used by the media to describe cricket’s new and low performance countries, usually Affiliate and Associate Members of the International Cricket Council. 

Afghanistan has been given the title many times during its progress in the game over the last 10 years.

Perhaps now is the time for the media to drop it and move on.

Cricket Australia's former Test cricketer and current national talent manager, Greg Chappell, said to reporters that Australia's 37-run loss to Afghanistan at the Under-19 World Cup in Abu Dhabi earlier this year wasn't "a case of the sky falling in" for Australia.

The young Afghan team’s defeat of Australia and later Sri Lanka was followed two weeks later with the full team's defeat of Bangladesh in the Asia Cup.

Perhaps they weren’t 'sky falling in' events, but they were important victories for Afghanistan against full member, Test cricket-playing nations with long histories in the game.

Only 14 years ago there was little or no formal cricket in Afghanistan. Now, it appears, "the sky is the limit".

Since Afghan cricket’s entry into the ICC under the Taliban government and the fall of the Taliban, the country has experienced a rollercoaster ride upwards in the growth and development of the game.

The remarkable part is that this has taken place despite the backdrop of violence and insurgency in the country.

This "dream-come-true" story has become legendary, if a little clichéd.

The determination, against all odds, of those development years has borne fruit over the past 12 months in significant achievements for Afghanistan cricket with the participation of the Under-19 team in the World Cup 2014, the national yeam’s participation in the ICC World Twenty20 2014 and qualification for the 2015 World Cup.

Along with Ireland, it is at the top of Associate cricket.

Afghanistan cricket has clearly reached a new high.It is becoming recognised as a significant presence in international cricket.

It’s time for the media to drop the  “minnow” tag.

In addition, in June 2013 Afghanistan was raised to the status of an Associate Member of the ICC.  Along with Ireland, it is at the top of Associate cricket.

Afghanistan cricket has clearly reached a new high. It is becoming recognised as a significant presence in international cricket.

It’s time for the media to drop the “minnow” tag.

Greg Chappell’s comments downplaying the Australian Under-19 loss to Afghanistan included recognition of the skill of the Afghans.

"It was always going to be a challenge because we knew they'd have five spin bowlers who are all fairly experienced" he said. 

"It wasn't as big a shock to us as it might be to people reading it from a distance. But Afghanistan cricket is a lot stronger than people understand."

Commentators during Afghanistan’s matches in the Asia Cup and ICC WT20 - wins and losses - were generous in their praise of the Afghan team, especially of the bowlers.

The national team clearly needs to improve their batting.

Captain Mohammad Nabi, following Afghanistan’s loss to India in the Asia Cup said: "We have not come here to win the Asia Cup or the World T20.

"We are here to perform and learn something from the Test-playing nations. We have done a good job, having won against Bangladesh.

"It's a good sign for Afghanistan cricket. We are just missing good middle-order batsmen. We will work hard and learn."

The new Australian head coach of the Afghanistan National Cricket Academy, Peter Anderson, says of the National Team:

“They are only a few years away from Test cricket and with good preparation and coaching they will be a competitive presence."

The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) is aware of the deficiencies and is working to find the much-needed experience of playing against Full Member teams.

The construction of the Afghanistan National Cricket Academy, funded last year by the ICC’s TAPP programme, will go a long way in forming a stronger foundation for high performance on the international scene.

Many of the young men from Afghanistan, Australia and Sri Lanka who met in the U19 World Cup 2014 will meet again and again in coming years as members of their national teams. Clearly, Afghanistan will not be seen as 'minnow' in their midst.

Afghanistan has provided numerous surprises during its fast rise in the cricket world and is likely to continue to do so with the innate skill and dogged determination of its young Afghan cricketers.

Watch out as those skills are further honed.

The future is looking very bright for Afghanistan cricket.

© Cricket World 2014