Hamid Hassan, the Afghanistan fast bowler, has tried to defuse the tension surrounding his side's match against the United States today, pointing out it is just a game of cricket, not war. This afternoon's World Twenty20 qualifier clash has been greeted by an anticipation rarely seen at a level of cricket which is played mainly by part-time players.
It is hardly surprising, given the political significance of a meeting between these two nations on the sports field. With a place at the World Twenty20 at stake for the finalists of this competition, the two sides have prefered to focus on the sporting, rather than political, significance. "Although some people may think there may be extra importance for the players in taking on the USA, for us it is just another game," said Hassan, writing in The National today.
"Most of the people at home are only interested in Afghanistan qualifying for the World Twenty20 so they want us to win all of our matches, not just [this] game." The sport took hold in Afghanistan through conflict. Hassan's parents fled bombs in Jalalabad when he was six and became refugees across the border in Pakistan. It was in the refugee camps of Pes-hawar where cricket first became popular among displaced Afghans during the Soviet invasion.
A number of their players are now professionals in Pakistani first-class cricket and the national team are one of the best limited-overs sides on the international scene. "Through my own playing career I have already had the chance to travel to places I never dreamed of going to when I was growing up as a child," added Hassan, who exhibits his patriotism by playing with Afghan flags painted on his face.
Hassan added three wickets in the 14-run victory over Scotland in the capital to the two he took a day earlier in beating Ireland. The two wins mean Afghanistan have virtually sealed their place in the Super Four stage, which starts tomorrow. The US, however, must win to stand any chance of progressing after a 78-run loss to the Irish. Meanwhile, the UAE became the first team to qualify for the competition's Super Four stage after they overhauled the Netherlands' target of 165 to win by six wickets in Dubai yesterday.They will play Canada in a dead rubber today. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org