Last week my twitter timeline was abuzz with excitement over Afghanistan’s qualification into the 2015 cricket world cup. Renowned simpleton Harsha Bhogle led the cheerleading charge and had this to say:
a very moving story waiting to happen. if afghanistan beat keny, they make it to #cwc2015 just pause and imagine what it will mean to them
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) October 3, 2013
What I don’t understand yet is why anyone other than a native of Afghanistan should be happy about this? While the rise of a country from sporting irrelevance to world cup level competence is charming, doesn’t the country’s meteoric rise speak more about the lack of quality and talent on other Associate member nations than it does about anything the <a href=”http://www.afghancricket.af/”>Afghanistan cricket board</a> did? FYI The cricket board’s website does not even load on most browsers.
On the geopolitical front, Afghanistan is one of the world’s most dangerous, corrupt and undemocratic nations. It is also a poor nation with a violent tortured history with a population whose core identity is far more tribal than national. It is also a poor country that will depend entirely on its neighboring superpowers to help with any level of financial support.
It is exactly the sort of country that cricket does not need right now. Is there any way an international team outside of Pakistan or Bangladesh would dare tour Afghanistan in the next decade? Is there any country outside of Pakistan and Bangladesh who would dare play Afghanistan at a neutral venue? Is there any way Afghanistan cricket can have any leverage over the undemocratic events at the ICC when their source of any revenue and growth lays in the hands of its bigger, more established and powerful neighbors? The faster Afghanistan cricket gets better, the better it is for the Board for control of cricket in India (BCCI) as there is now one more cricket board which will vote and do things as the BCCI wishes.
Ireland, Scotland, The United States, Netherlands, Hong Kong and Canada are all associate members too. If any or all of them had the kind of success Afghanistan have had, cricket will move towards a better place. It would behoove the game to grow in vibrant democracies unencumbered by political turmoil thus opening up new and free fan-bases and marketplaces to a game badly in need of those. If the BCCI’s unilateral clout is going to have to be taken on, the path involves finding England and Australia newer large allies and populations; not a tiny undemocratic state that will use the sport as distraction from its various misdeeds and flaws.
Kudos to the cricketers, administrators and fans of Afghanistan who have helped create the most shocking David vs. Goliath story west of Oakland, California. Kudos to the belief that underdogs can win. Kudos to those who possess or identify flair and skill among the ugliness and violence. But please no cheers for the fans of the sport of cricket. There is very little good and a lot of bad that comes with Afghanistan’s entry into the cricket mainstage.