Afghan, Cricket, foreign aid, Shadi Khan Saif

The morning practice session is underway in the Kabul cricket stadium.

Mohibullah Orya Khail joined the national squad just couple of months ago.

“I am happy and proud to have made it to the national squad at the age of 19.”

With a dream of playing for his country he travels hundreds of miles to come and train in Kabul.

As Cricket Board spokesman Farid Hotak points out the facilities have dramatically improved.

“A decade ago there were just tents in the open ground here, now we have an indoor academy, a nice hostel for the players with all sorts of facilities, international-standard cricket ground and capacity to entertain thousands of people here.”

The game is almost like a religion in neighboring Pakistan and India.

But in Afghanistan it’s only a decade old.

The game was brought to the country by Afghan refugees when they returned home from Pakistan.

The Chief Executive of the Afghanistan Cricket, Noor Muhamamd Murrad says cricket fits with the conservative culture.

“Afghanistan is an Islamic country and the dress-code of this game allows parents to let their sons and daughters to go out and play it.”

But like most sectors of Afghan life—the development of cricket has been possible because of foreign aid. 

The India government recently gave one million dollars to build a stadium in the war-torn province of Kandahar near the Pakistan's border.

India aid in Afghanistan is a highly sensitive.

Pakistan is concern about growing Indian influence nears the western border it shares with Afghanistan.

Ahmad Mehboob is head of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency.

“India is playing a very important role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and reconstruction which means more influence, more contacts with the government and people and that is something that makes Pakistani government, establishment and the spy agencies all very nervous.”

Presidential advisor to the Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Shahzada Raees down plays these concerns.

He says Afghanistan welcomes financial support from all of it’s neighbors.

“India has given us aid to build a cricket stadium, we hope that Pakistan and Iran will also give similar aid to us.  We hope that they can put aside their hostilities and create positive competition through sport.”

For young cricket hopefuls like Orya Khail it’s not important where the money comes from.

“Obviously there is a need for more cricket grounds and academies so that we can hunt more talent for the national squad.”

The national team is focusing on preparing a tough squad to take part in the Cricket World Cup to be held in Australia next year.

Impressive performance there would make the locals fans cheer.

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