The national cricket team of Afghanistan is one of the most exciting prospects in Asian cricket, and one has made its mark on the biggest stage. Afghanistan have batted above their weight for many years, but these days they are a revered side that no one looks forward to playing, particularly those outside the top ten.
Afghanistan are a non-Test team, but one that has been ranked in the world top ten on previous occasions. This makes them one of, if not the most formidable non-Test side. They cemented this status in 2015 when they became the first non-Test team to win an ODI series against a Test team, which they achieved when they beat Zimbabwe, who they then moved ahead of in the ICC world rankings.
Despite its history of top performances and big rankings, Afghanistan only gained ICC associate status in 2013, prior to which it had an affiliate status since 2001. Cricket in Afghanistan goes back much further than that though, and the first recorded match in the country was between a Kabul-based team and a British army team, which took place in 1839.
In the latter part of the twentieth century Afghanistan was a troubled country, and not one in which sport was not allowed to thrive as it should. This is because the Taliban banned cricket and other sports, sending many sportsmen and sportswomen into hiding, and sending others into refuge. However, Afghan refugees living in Pakistan began to develop a love for the sport and in 1995 they formed the Afghanistan Cricket Board.
Much of Afghanistan’s early years were spent in Pakistan and they remain closely connected with the country. They played tournaments in the country and across Asia during the early years of the 21st century, and in 2006 they toured England, winning a total of six matches against English county sides.
Since then, Afghanistan has developed even more as an international cricket team, earning ODI status and ICC associate membership, and winning a few tournaments as well.
Former captain Mohammad Nabi has helped Afghanistan through many ODIs and tournaments in recent years, while Shenwari, Stanikzai and Mangal have also been a big part of Afghanistan’s success. Nabi has the record for the most ODI runs, and is also second on the list for most wickets, just behind Dawlat Zadran. You can also find Nabi on the list for the highest ODI scores, and his name is also up there for the most T20I runs and T20I wickets.
This makes Nabi a living legend, but there are several Afghanistan players who are assured legendary status, and there are also several breakthrough players as well. This is not a team that is carried by just one or two star players, which is why many are predicting that the Afghanistan cricket team have a very bright future ahead of them.
Afghanistan won their first big tournament in 2007, tying with Oman in the final of the ACC Twenty20 Cup. In 2011 they had one of their best years and most notable performances to date in the Cricket World Cup Qualifier. They didn’t make it through to the big event, but came close enough to be rewarded with One-Day-International status. And when you consider that they have claimed ODI victories against the likes of Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Kenya, Netherlands and Scotland, this status has been a great lift to Afghanistan cricket.
Afghanistan also have a strong Twenty20 International record, and one that includes several victories against Zimbabwe. However, they have not advanced far in the ICC World Twenty20, failing to make it beyond the first round. They have faired better in the ICC Intercontinental Cup, with a winners medal and a runners-up medal, and they have been declared champions of Division Three, Division Four and Division Five, before finishing as the Championship runners-up during 2011 to 2013.
Afghanistan have also claimed a silver medal in the Asian Games, and have won the ACC Premier League, the ACC Trophy and several ACC Twenty20 Cups, which they have an almost flawless record in.
Although the Afghanistan national team was only recently formed, cricket is the most popular sport in the country and the one that gets the most TV viewers. It is also played more than any other sport, which means there is no shortage of future stars waiting in the wings.
This popularity has even extended to the woman’s game, and in 2010 the Afghanistan national woman’s team was formed. They played their first major tournament 2 years later and were declared the champions ahead of 5 other teams.