Sports can inspire and unify a nation within, and unify people beyond national
boundaries as it helps to transcend the barriers of religion, politics and
ethnicity. The mark of a great sportsman is not just to win, but to inspire
others. Nowroz Mangal may provide that glimmer of light for a new generation of
cricketers in Afghanistan, no doubt many talents has already been lost through
the decades of conflict.
The story of Nowroz Mangal is an interesting one. Born in Kabul in 1984, was
forced to spent much of his early years in the refugee camps, in neighbouring
Pakistan with his family, fleeing from the Soviet invasion, and the subsequent
Civil War that followed the Soviet withdrawal. It was in the camps that Mangal,
like many of his teammates, was introduced to the game of cricket, this is no
surprise as Pakistan is a strong cricketing nation, the sport is very popular
amongst the masses. When the US Army put an end to the Taliban rule of
Afghanistan in 2001, Nowroz Mangal returned to the country. In the post Taliban
climate, the Afghanistan national cricket team was born.
The coach for Afghanistan, Taj Malik, noticed the talent in Nowroz Mangal,
and approached his father for permission; the father initially refused to agree
on the basis that the sport is not a way to make a steady living. And given the
post-Taliban climate in Afghanistan this was not surprising. However, eventually
the father conceded, and Nowroz Mangal made his debut for Afghanistan against
Nowshehra in 2001; and made his international debut for Afghanistan against
Oman, in 2004 for the ACC Trophy. During the tournament, Nowroz Mangal was
Afghanistan's leading run scorer with 271 runs, which enabled the team to
progress to the quarter-finals where they lost to Kuwait. That is a remarkable
achievement for a nascent cricket team, and no doubt the success was partially
due to the substantial contribution made by Mangal.
By 2007, Mangal was made captain of the national team. He took the team from
division 5 to division 1 in the World Cricket League, and a number of successes
in various other tournaments culminated in winning the 2010 ACC Trophy Elite. He
scored his maiden first-class century against Kenya in October 2010, making a
run of 168.
In November 2010, he was replaced as the captain of the team by the
all-rounder Mohammed Nabi. The performance of the team continued to improve
under the new captain, which included the astonishing victory over Pakistan in
the semi-final of the Asian games 20twenty. However, the team lost against
Bangladesh in the final.
Although relieved of the captaincy, Mangal Nowroz continued to play and led
the side to face Scotland in the final of the, 2009–10 ICC Intercontinental Cup
in December. Though it was the first time the team had taken part in the
Intercontinental Cup, they won the final, another remarkable victory,
considering that Afghanistan is a relatively new cricketing nation.
Mangal was again made the Captain in 2011 and the future of cricket is
uncertain. The ability to build on the success of the Afghan team rests on
political stability, which would facilitate for a new generation of cricketers
to emerge. For sure, if the radical Taliban takes control, the team is unlikely
to get any support if not banned.
Written by Yamin Zakaria exclusively for afghan-web.com
Published on May 12, 2012